The restoration site of the monumental “Porta dei Cornacchini” of the Cathedral of Florence has started
The legend of the Lions and the dream that became reality
On Monday 13 September 2021, the assembly work for the restoration site of the monumental fourteenth-century Porta dei Cornacchini, on the north side of the Cathedral of Florence, which will continue for two weeks, will begin. The restoration, which will end by the end of December 2021, is made possible by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore with the fundamental contribution of the CR Firenze Foundation and under the high supervision of the Superintendence of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the metropolitan city of Florence and the province of Pistoia and Prato.
The north side of the Cathedral of Florence, of which the Porta dei Cornacchini is part, is heavily degraded in the marble elements that cover it. Decay phenomena that also affect the Porta dei Cornacchini among these are: considerable deposits of superficial dirt of various kinds; black crusts with underlying phenomena of sulphation present mainly in areas not subjected to runoff of rainwater and worked, such as columns, shelves and capitals; partial loss of modeling in the areas subjected to rainwater washing.
The Porta dei Cornacchini, whose name derives from a family that owns some houses near the first stretch of via del Cocomero, the current via Ricasoli, is also known as Porta di Balla due to its proximity to the ancient city gate on the first walls of Florence, through which the bales of wool pass every day.
At the base of the portal are the statues of a lioness with cubs and a column-bearing lion, famous for the legend of "Anselmo and the dream", narrated in the fifteenth century by Giovanni Cavalcanti in his Florentine Histories. A certain Anselmo, who lived in Florence in the early fifteenth century, living in via del Cocomero, dreamed one night that a lion bit his hand and died of that bite. The next morning, leaving the house, he was very impressed by the dream, he agreed that on the Porta dei Cornacchini of the Duomo there were two sculpted lions. Then he decided to put his hand in the mouth of one of the two, saying to himself: "I want the dream to take its course, so that I come out of such a perverse imagination and I will be free from the sad announcement". Unfortunately, a scorpion had nestled inside the lion's mouth and stung Anselmo in a finger of his hand led him to death.
The first historical information that testifies to the existence of the Porta dei Cornacchini dates back to 4 January 1358 when, during the works for the construction of the Cathedral, a solution was studied to erect the external walls "without touching the door", which therefore already existed. The decorations of the portal seem to date back to three phases: the first framing dating back to 1342-48, the second in 1353-64 in which, under the direction of Francesco Talenti, the splayings, the archivolt and the cusp with the tondo at the center, and finally the last phase (around 1380) in which the column-bearing lions supporting the twisted columns and the tabernacle above the spire were positioned. The decorations of the door, testimony of the modernization of the Cathedral in the sense of “exasperated Gothicism”, were nevertheless carried out in successive phases.
The half-figure Blessing Christ, placed in the concave tondo of the pediment of the door, seems to date back to the period between 1359 and 1360. In a privileged position, inside the tympanum located above the portal, there are the Madonna and Child and, on the sides, the two adoring Angels who were placed in place of the statues of St. John the Evangelist and St. Barnabas originally planned for sides of the Virgin. The Madonna and Child, attributed to the Florentine sculptor Zanobi di Bartolo, while the Adoring Angels, to Simone Talenti son of Francesco.