The Miracle of the Flowering Tree
The first bishop of Florence, San Zanobi, presided during the fourth and fifth centuries. When he passed away, he was buried in full regalia in the Church of San Lorenzo, which happened to be outside of the city walls. Several years passed, and it was decided that San Zanobi’s tomb should be moved to the Cathedral of Santa Reparata. The funeral procession took place during a very cold December “and travelled down Borgo San Lorenzo, passing through the meadow that flanked the ancient walls inside the city.” Crowds of reverent townsfolk watched as the procession passed by the barren trees near the baptistery. Suddenly, the coffin, which was held on the shoulders of the pallbearers, brushed against an old elm tree, which burst into leaf and started blooming. After the miraculous event, Florentines came from all over the country to visit the site where they picked flowering twigs in the bishop’s honor and as a good omen. The San Zanobi column was built on the spot in 430. Every January 26 garlands and wreaths of flowers are placed on the base of the column to commemorate the miracle. The original column was destroyed during the flood of 1333 but was rebuilt with an inscription describing the event.
The San Zanobi column is located near the Duomo and Baptistery. There's no fee to see it. So be sure to check it out!
Dante and Beatrice’s Church
Though the little Church of Santa Margherita was “one of the most ancient and poorest churches” of Florence” it bore witness to the indirect “seeds” of love that Dante nurtured for Beatrice.” Every morning Beatrice Portinari, her mother Cecilia dè Caponsacchi, and her nurse Monna Tessa left their family home on Via del Corso and strolled to the nearby church of Santa Margherita to pray; and, every morning, Dante stood at the other end of the street to watch this young girl. He was so fascinated by her grace and beauty that he fell in love with her. “At the time…Dante and Beatrice were both only nine years old! The remains of Beatrice's faithful nurse Monna Tessa are still buried in the small church of Santa Margherita.” In front of the tomb that is said to hold Beatrice's remains, there is a basket filled with messages written by people asking Beatrice to protect their love.
The Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi may be visited from 8am-12:30pm and from 5pm-7pm. There is no entrance fee. It is located near the museum dedicated to Dante.
In Piazza della Signoria near the fountain with the “biancone” rests a round bronze plaque in the pavement that marks the exact spot where on May 23, 1498, Frà Girolamo Savonarola and two of his loyal co-brethren were burnt at the stake. “Legend has it that while the three condemned men, chained and dressed in plain tunics, walked barefoot, heads down…[near] Palazzo Vecchio, several young rascals who had hidden underneath the catwalk poked sticks up between the planks and prodded their feet, making them jump with pain! Under the heavy accusations of the heinously offended Pope, Savonarola and his two co-brethren were publicly degraded by the Bishop, symbolically denuded of their holy vestments, and hanged by the neck before being tied to the pyre." Their ashes were scattered in the Arno River.
Paolo Uccello’s Clock
For many years, Florence was a center for the nascent [clockmaking] industry. Many master clockmakers were born in Florence, and some of the famous Florentine artists also played a hand in the history of clockmaking. Filippo Brunelleschi created a clock for Palazzo dei Vicari in Scarperia.. Leonardo Da Vinci studied the mechanisms within clocks, and Galileo “proved the isochronisms of small oscillations.” Perhaps one of the most noteworthy examples is Paolo Uccello who painted the clock that hangs over the main doorway inside the Duomo. The original clock was designed in 1443 and has since been modified. The elaborately painted star design disguises the fact that there is only one actual clock hand. At the time, it was painted in what we consider an “anticlockwise” manner because the first hour of the day came after sunset so that the 24th hour would be at the same time as the evening Ave Maria. Also, with the clock designed in this manner, when the sun was at its peak it corresponded to the summit of the clockface. So, essentially, time was depicted by how many hours have passed since the sunset the day before. Despite the lack of chimes, Florentines measured their daily civic and religious life by this clock. In 1750, the clock was changed to accommodate the modern day 12-hour system and chimes were added. However in 1968, the clock was restored to its “original 24-hour format.” Each week, the clock has to be reset to correspond to the sunset. It's the only clock in the world that keeps "Italian time."
Historic Jewish Cemetery
Near the San Frediano Gateway and the city walls rests Florence’s Jewish cemetery, which was formed in 1777. Keeping with Jewish tradition, no images or photographs of the deceased may be found on the tombs. Although, “the tombs themselves are remarkably varied…[which] makes the cemetery so eclectic and interesting.” Inside the cemetery one can find simple gravestones and stelae as well as tombs in the form of sarcophagi and even an Egyptian pyramid. There is also a burial chapel designed as an elaborately decorated colonnaded kiosk and an Egyptian style burial chapel covered in shrubbery. Tall buildings surround the cemetery, and there is speculation that during the construction of the nearby nursery school some of the gravestones were damaged. In 1870, the cemetery was closed to the public; this decision was recently overruled and the public may now view the cemetery once a month. Its strange tombs, cypress-lined paths, and neglected appearance add to its charming portrayal of Jewish culture.
The cemetery may be visited on the first Sunday of the month from 10am-12pm or by reservation. The entrance fee is €3.00. For more information, visit the following link: http://www.jewisheurope.org/detail.asp?ID=145