A stone tree in Florence


We are in the centre of Florence, a maze of tiny narrow roads which cross and meet each other at irregular angles in typical style of an ancient roman city. It is often thought that Florence is city that is lacking in green spaces however enter the many old palaces and even churches of Florence and you will see that this is not true as beautiful hidden courtyards and secret gardens reveal themselves in all their splendour.

However, amongst the crowds of people who flock to Florence throughout the year to see the city’s spectacular array of architecture and gardens, very few of them know that the city is actually the home of a unique stone tree, which can be found right next to the much more famous Duomo, which is topped by the Brunelleschi’s spectacular pointed cupola, just a few steps from the Northern door of the Baptistery which was realised by Ghiberti and overtopped by Giovan Francesco Rustici’s bronze sculpture representing the Baptist preaching.

Here you will see a marble column which, surmounted by a cross, is actually the stone tree that we are talking about. Halfway up the marble column, you can see a tree made from wrought iron representing San Zanobi’s elm, a miraculous tree that used grow on this exact spot centuries ago. Zanobi, of the noble Girolami family, was born around 340 and in 380 became the bishop of Florence. He was a great man who was full of a Christian virtue which in turn earnt him the admiration of Saint Ambrogio. Saint Ambrogio wanted him to meet the Pope at all costs and following this meeting, the Pope was so impressed by Zanobi’s dedication to Christianity that he announced that he wanted San Zanobi to be appointed as head of the Florentine Church, much to the enthusiastic support of the local community and the delight of San Zanobi. Up until his death in 417, he was known as a prodigy of miracles including one particular incident where he actually resuscitated the young son of a french pilgrim. His tombstone, which is affixed onto one of the walls of Palazzo dei Visacci in Borgo Albiti actually serves as a testiment to this particular miracle.

It is therefore no wonder that he continued to be greatly admired by many after his death. On 26th January 426, the new Santa Reparata Cathedral was finally completed (the cathedral used stand on the spot where the famous Duomo now stands) and the body of San Zanobi, which had been inhumed in the San Lorenzo Church, was to be moved there that day. However, this huge event had attracted so many people keen to catch of glimpse of the casket containing the body of the saint that it was pushed against by the crowd of fanatical followers from every side, so much so that it went to hit the bark of an elm tree which was completely bare due to the winter season. Miraculously, as the casket approached the tree it suddenly became covered with leaves and flowers. A few years later, the miraculous tree died. In 431, the Florentines placed a marble column in the place where the tree had been which was destroyed by the flood of the Arno and was replaced by the column we see today in 1333.

Now, every year on the 26th January, the people of Florence decorate the tree with an abundance of colourful flowers in memory of this miraculous event where the little phenomenon renewed itself under the dull winter sky. Although many tourists flock to this event out of sheer curiosity, taking picture after picture of the curious tree, the majority of them do not understand the true meaning of these festivities. But has every trace of the original tree really been lost? Many believe that the dossal made by the Maestro del Bigallo, which features frescoes depicting scenes of San Zanobi’s life and which is now housed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, is actually made from the wood of the original tree.


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Commenti (2) | March 29, 2010

2 Responses to “A stone tree in Florence”

  1. Tracie Says:
    May 29th, 2011 at 06:24

    Hello, just doing some research for my website. Amazing the amount of information on the web. Looking for something else, but very nice site. Cya later.

  2. HQJrFk0pmkmuQ Says:
    November 12th, 2012 at 20:23

    This plot doesn

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