Dante, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo… Maybe in the city where the great were born, lived and created, some special microclimate?
Vokrug sveta went to Florence in the footsteps of the geniuses of the past and in search of the geniuses of the present.
At the entrance to the Basilica of Santa Croce, visitors are greeted by a monument to Dante Alighieri. And the queue. To get inside the church, at least five minutes, but you have to defend. So I join the string of tourists from different countries, waiting to admire the white marble facade of the majestic temple. From the inside, it seems even bigger and more majestic. Paintings by Giotto and Vasari, sculptures by Donatello and Rosselino…
But it is not so much the interior decoration and masterpieces of fine art that attract numerous visitors to the basilica, but the opportunity to touch the tombs of geniuses. Santa Croce is called the Temple of Italian Glory: here lie the ashes of prominent Florentines, world-renowned artists, scientists, poets, politicians – mostly of the Renaissance.
To the left of the entrance, behind the first altar, the tomb Galileo Galilei: on both sides of the sarcophagus with the bust of a scientist – two female figures, symbolizing Astronomy and Geometry. Opposite Galileo, in the right nave, rests Michelangelo Buonarroti. Allegorical Painting, Sculpture and Architecture mourn for him.
Going further, I find myself at the monumental tomb of Dante Alighieri. The sculpture of the poet himself sits on the sarcophagus in severe thought. The inscription on the pedestal: Onorate l’altissimo poeta (“Honor the highest poet”) is a line from Dante’s Inferno. Next to -marble figures of inconsolable Poetry and proud Italy.
– That's just the ashes of the author of the “Divine Comedy” are not here. This is a cenotaph, an “empty grave,” says the guide Olga Vypirailo, a specialist in Northern Italy, who became my “Virgil” in Florence.
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The poet died in a foreign land , in Ravenna, where his real grave is located. He had to leave his hometown: Dante was too indifferent citizen and was actively involved in political struggle.
A representative of the “White Guelphs”, he advocated the independence of Florence from both the emperor and the pope. But in 1301, supporters of the pope, the “black Guelphs,” seized power in Florence, and Dante, who had previously held an important post in the city council, was sentenced to exile. He was accused of bribery, extortion, obtaining illegal income, and at the same time pederasty. And they were faced with a choice: pay a huge fine or go into exile for life.
Dante left, but did not remain homeless. The rulers of many cities were glad to give shelter to the famous exile. He lived in Bologna, in Paris, in Verona, and spent the last years before his death in Ravenna. Under pain of death, Dante could not return to Florence, to the grave of his muse Beatrice, the Platonic love for which inspired the poet to great works – “New Life” and “Divine Comedy”.
– During Dante's lifetime, even “Comedy” was by no means appreciated by everyone,” says Olga. “The church elite condemned the poet for writing a work in the “vulgar” language, that is, in the folk Florentine dialect. And at the end of the 19th century, when Italy became a single republic, this dialect became the basis of the state language. It is spoken by modern Italians.
Today Florentines revere the “highest poet”. In 2008, the city's municipality even officially apologized for banishing Dante 700 years ago. Tour guides take tourists to the places associated with his name: to the house-museum of Dante on St. Margaret Street, to the church next door to him, where the same Beatrice is believed to be buried.
The Florentine authorities have been proving for more than a hundred years that they repent of the expulsion of their great countryman. Beginning in 1908, on the second Sunday of September (the month of Dante's death), the mayor of Florence sent a delegation to the mayor of Ravenna with a request to return the ashes of the poet home. And he brings a gift of selected olive oil to maintain the fire in the lamp of his tomb. However, the Ravenians are adamant about these Florentine “calls” and every time they refuse.
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At the same time, Florence does not even think of returning the remains of another of its geniuses – da Vinci, who died and is buried in France. Leonardo himself wished that his grave was in Amboise. But in the Basilica of Santa Croce, a memorial plate is also dedicated to him: “Leonardo da Vinci on the four hundredth anniversary of his death.”
– Da Vinci, who owes all of Florence? What kind of genius is he? – categorically declares 58-year-old Riccardo Squilloni, owner of the Papyrus (Papiro) storeon Tavolini street. Riccardo, a decorator of paper according to the old Florentine method, sells various gizmos from it: playing cards, envelopes, notebooks, diaries. – There are no geniuses. There were great personalities like Dante, but not geniuses. Here is your Dostoevsky, for example, a talented writer, but a gambler and a spendthrift. What kind of genius is he?
While we are talking, tourists are gathering in the shop. Signor Riccardo arranges an advertising campaign: he effectively decorates a sheet of paper in front of their eyes. In a large tray filled with something like a paste, he randomly drips multi-colored acrylic paints. He levels the substance with a special knife, drives with a stick, then slides a sheet of paper over the surface, turns it to the admiring audience, and oppa! – the sheet is already covered with a beautiful multi-colored pattern.
— Brilliant! — the whisper of buyers is heard.
— A craft that everyone can learn, —Riccardo winks at me, —and a genius is a being with perfect qualities, god-like, unearthly. A person a priori cannot be one. Leonardo is also just a man, though a great one, I agree.
Da Vinci got into debt because he took payment for paintings in advance – you had to live on something – and then often did not finish the work. A researcher by nature, unhurried and thorough, he abandoned most of his undertakings as soon as he satisfied his creative curiosity. The customer was left without money and without a masterpiece. So it happened with the painting “The Adoration of the Magi”.
In the Uffizi Gallery, people are always crowded in front of an unfinished work. I observe: a brown-eyed girl in glasses, with her eyebrows drawn together in concentration, makes sketches from the picture with a simple pencil. On a sheet of paper – the face of the Virgin Mary. A guy of about 20, who also looks like a student, is scribbling something in his notebook. Spectators carefully look at the canvas, trying to think of something for the artist. And Leonardo himself lost interest in the picture, as soon as he managed to create a pyramidal composition: the Virgin & nbsp; – the top, and the Magi bowing to her feet – the ribs. Customers, Augustinian monks, waited ten years for the master to finish the canvas.
Due to the unreliability of da Vinci, the city authorities did not delegate him to the Vatican to paint the Sistine Chapel along with Michelangelo, Raphael and other Florentine artists. But, despite all the inconveniences of life with a debtor, contemporaries recognized the incomparable talent of Leonardo. Even the unfinished works of a genius are priceless for art.
It was not easy for contemporaries with Michelangelo either. He deliberately did not finish some of his sculptures so that the viewer could “finish” the image. Thanks to him, the style non finito, that is, unfinished, arose. Customers did not always like it, and they asked to finish it. Michelangelo objected furiously that he had finished – and that's it. He was forgiven – a genius after all.
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Clash of the Titans
“Da Vinci and Michelangelo are opposites in temperament: one is calm and confident, the other is impulsive and dissatisfied with himself,” says Olga. “Leonardo was 23 years older and treated the beginning Michelangelo condescendingly, which annoyed the latter. Their views on art did not coincide. In addition, the artists argued: what is more important – painting or sculpture? Michelangelo believed that painting is flat, and Leonardo that sculpture is rough. With their creativity, both proved that the discussion is inappropriate. Nevertheless, the geniuses were in contra and did not miss the opportunity to somehow prick each other.
At the Uffizi Gallery, in Piazza della Signoria, as always, it is full of tourists. A group of Japanese stands with their heads up at the copy of David. The original statue is in the Academy Gallery. From 1501 to 1504, Michelangelo removed this perfect male body from an old piece of marble that other sculptors had rejected because of flaws.
“David” was planned to be installed under the dome of the Duomo, but, thanks in large part to da Vinci, they changed their minds. Leonardo was on the expert committee and expressed the opinion that, due to excessive anatomical details, “David” had no place on top of the temple. Then the marble hero was installed on Signoria Square. And in 1910, a few years after the statue was moved to the Academy Gallery for the sake of greater safety, the current copy was put in its place.
The Palazzo Vecchio, the residence of all the heads of the city since the 14th century, also commemorates the battle between the two titans of art. In 1503, the then mayor of Florence, Pier Soderini, invited Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to paint two opposite walls of the Hall of Five Hundred, where the Great Council met. Leonardo undertook to depict the Battle of Anghiari in 1440 between Milan and Florence. And Michelangelo began to paint the victory of the Florentines over the Pisans at the Battle of Cascine in 1364. The creative duel of geniuses ended in a draw. Both abandoned their work, carried away by other projects. Only sketches of these frescoes, which are stored in various museums around the world, have come down to us. In Florence, they can be bought in the form of postcards in souvenir shops in front of the palace.
Michelangelo died in Rome, but, at the request of the relatives of the genius and the Florentine authorities, his body was transported to his homeland and buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Great people of Florence
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) – poet, author of The Divine Comedy.
< strong>Giotto (1267–1337) — artist, founder of the Italian school of painting.
Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374) — poet, humanist.
< strong>Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) —writer, poet, author of The Decameron.
Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) —architect, author of the Duomo dome.< br>Donatello (1386-1466) – sculptor, founder of the individualized sculptural portrait.
Cosimo de' Medici (1389-1464) – founder of the Medici dynasty, politician .
Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) —a leading art theorist of the Renaissance.
Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) – artist.
Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448-1494) – artist, one of the authors of the murals of the Sistine Chapel.
Lorenzo Medici the Magnificent (1449–1492) – head of the Florentine Republic in the Renaissance, patron of sciences and arts, poet.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) – artist, architect, scientist, inventor, writer.
Girolamo Savonarola(1452–1498) — monk, preacher and reformer.
Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512) —traveler, explorer of the New World.
Niccolò Machiavelli strong> (1469–1527) – thinker, philosopher, writer, politician.
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) – sculptor, painter, architect, poet.
Raphael (1483–1520) —painter, graphic artist and architect.
Benvenuto Cellini(1500–1571) – sculptor, jeweler, painter, warrior and musician.
Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) – painter, architect, founder of modern art history.
< strong>Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) —physicist, mechanic, astronomer, philosopher and mathematician.
Gioacchino Rossini (1792–1868) —composer, author 39 Oper.
Carlo Collodi (1826–1890) —writer and journalist, author of the fairy tale The Adventures of Pinocchio.
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Heroes of our time
“Would you like a joke about da Vinci and Michelangelo?” Assunta, an ice-cream vendor with the rare name Assunta, winks merrily in a cafe near Piazza De Peruzzi, while I enjoy a delicious sundae with caramel and salted peanuts. “One day they met in this very square , Leonardo picked up an iron rod lying on the pavement, bent it and says to Michelangelo, they say, try to straighten it. And he told him: “Why am I going to fix what you messed up!” & nbsp; – the ice cream girl laughs. & nbsp; – The owner of our cafe is also a genius: he determines by eye what is missing in ice cream. Tasty?
— Ciao, Assunta! —a gray fiat taxi stops at the open doors of the cafe, a driver of about 30 years old leans out of the window and waves his hand. —Signora, this is the most delicious ice cream in the city!  ;- he confirms the woman's words. To Piazza Duomo?
In a couple of minutes I already know that the taxi driver's name is Mattia and that he studied art history at the University of Florence.
– To make a career, you had to go to Milan, and I did not want to leave Florence. Here turned up a profitable opportunity to get a license to drive a taxi. Now I can admire my city from morning to evening.
— You have something to admire here! So many geniuses worked here! – I admire. – I wonder if there are great personalities in Florence now?
“I don’t know about the great ones, but there are definitely talented ones,” Mattia smiles. “A lot of celebrities come from here. Stylists Guccio Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, singer Emma Marrone, former Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi, rock musician Piero Pelu… No, I would not call them geniuses. A genius is ahead of its time, creating or discovering something still unknown, making the impossible possible! Arrivederci, signora! – an art taxi driver drops me off in front of the Duomo.
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And that's all -she's spinning
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the pride of Florence and one of its central works of art, to which the talent of most geniuses was applied Renaissance. The great architect Filippo Brunelleschi created the most ingenious dome in its design, and Leonardo da Vinci with his teacher Andrea del Verrocchio crowned it with a copper ball.
— Beautiful, — I turn to an artist who sells watercolors with views of Florence near the cathedral. — Probably, the locals have genius in their blood?
— Genius — you can say too! landscape painter. – A little ability to draw, that's all. After standing in line for half an hour at the Duomo, I find myself inside, under the dome. Throwing back my head and widening my eyes with delight, I look at the frescoes by Giorgio Vasari – stunning and terrifying at the same time scenes of the Last Judgment. I whisper under my breath: “Great.”
A clergyman in his forties looks at my stunned face with a smile and says:
– Yes, now geniuses capable of creating something like this cannot be found. There are still talented people, but there are no geniuses. Genius is from God. Michelangelo, Dante, da Vinci, Brunelleschi – they were all ascetic, spiritual personalities. The closer to the divine, the more talented. Like fire and sparks. When sparks are in the fire, they give light and warmth. But when they bounce far away, they turn into cold embers.
– What about Galileo? – I ask. – He was a brilliant scientist, but the church accused him of heresy.
– Inquisitors often interpreted the Bible as they please in order to manipulate people . Galileo himself believed that science and spirituality do not contradict each other.
1/8There are always crowds of tourists in the square in front of the Duomo
Thanks to 30 years of scientific work, the Florentine Galileo Galilei was convinced of the correctness of the Copernican doctrine of the movement of planets around the Sun. In 1633, the work of Galileo “Dialogue on the two main systems of the world” was recognized by the Inquisition as a book with “false teaching contrary to Holy Scripture”, and its author was sent to prison, the imprisonment in which was replaced by lifelong house arrest in a villa in Arcetri, near Florence, in fact, exile . Galileo died there. And Pope Urban VIII forbade the burial of the disgraced scientist in the family crypt in the Basilica of Santa Croce. Galileo was buried in a room at the end of the corridor leading from the transept to the sacristy of the temple.
In the 18th century, the ashes were nevertheless transferred to the main building of the basilica, but not entirely. In the process of reburial, the body lost three fingers, a tooth and a vertebra. The middle finger was taken away by the antiquary Anton Francesco Gori, a scholar and priest. Surprisingly, Galileo was rehabilitated only at the end of the 20th century, when Pope John Paul II officially recognized the mistake of the Inquisition.
On the Piazza Judges in Florence there is a museum of Galileo. Of course, the most “attractive” exhibit for visitors is the scientist's middle finger, which was donated to the museum by the collector who bought it. The finger points up to the sky, as if confirming the correctness of the genius. And at his tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce, guides quote a phrase that Galileo never uttered: “But still it spins.”
I leave the church for air. I feel like a diver: now I have surfaced from the distant past and suffocate from the present that has fallen on me. A red-haired girl with a backpack over her shoulders buried herself in a map of the city, unfolding it in front of her; pensioners read newspapers on the veranda of the bar; a group of English-speaking tourists with a guide hurries towards the basilica … The square in front of the church of Santa Croce is forced into the stands during the annual games of historical Florentine football, known since the Renaissance and very popular until now. Making my way through a narrow passageway between houses and bulky support facilities.
— Giovanni of the Reds (team name. — Ed.) — Striker genius! – flies to me from the doors of the drinking establishment. I involuntarily turn around and see a young barmaid chatting with a black sunglasses salesman.
– A football genius? – I chime in with a question.
— What a genius, — the salesman of Chinese Gucci shakes his head, smiling from the top of his mouth. — She likes his muscular torso.
The girl laughs approvingly.
Florence Square< /strong>102.32 km²
Population 367,000 (8th in Italy)
Population density 3,600 people/km²
Area of Italy 301,340 km² (71st in the world)
Population 58,853,000 people (25th place)
Population density 201 inhabitants/km²
ATTRACTIONS Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Basilica of Santa Croce, Dom -Dante Museum, Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio.
TRADITIONAL DISHESFlorentine steak, lampredotto (beef abomasum with vegetables), fried beef brains, zuccotto (ice-cream cake in the form of a dome).
TRADITIONAL DRINKS santo (“holy wine”, sweet grape).
SOUVENIRS small copy of the statue of David, Pinocchio figurine, Florentine paper.
Distance from Moscow to Florence ~ 2300 km (from 4 hours of flight excluding transfers)
Time is 2 hours behind Moscow in winter, 1 hour in summer
Visa “Schengen »
Photo: LAIF/VOSTOCK PHOTO, CUBO/LEGION-MEDIA (X2), LAIF, SIME/VOSTOCK PHOTO, HEMIS, CUBO/LEGION-MEDIA, LAIF/VOSTOCK PHOTO, REUTERS, CUBO/LEGION-MEDIA, REUTERS, AKG/EAST NEWS, GETTY IMAGES, LAIF/VOSTOCK PHOTO, © OPENSTREETMAP PARTICIPANTS
Material published in the magazine “Around the World” No. 9, September 2018, partially updated in May 2023