The Loggia dei Lanzi is located in the Piazza della Signoria, near the Palazzo Vecchio.
This building is formally called the Loggia della Signoria, but is often referred to as the Loggia dei Lanzi because of the mercenary soldiers called “lanzichenecchi” that were stationed there in 1527 on their way to Rome.
Construction occurred between 1376 and 1382. The logde was meant to house the investiture of the Priors and other public items celebrating the Florentine Republic.
The Lodge symbolized the Republic and was adorned with the symbols of the Virtues, still present today on the facade.
As of the 16th century, with the birth of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, this building began to accommodate very famous works of art and became an open air gallery.
Two marble sculptures of lions guard this precious house of art, and most recently, have been accompanied by two policemen!
The Grand Duke Cosimo I wanted the statues in the Loggia to have not only an aesthetic significance, but also a political one.
The most famous work housed therein is the Perseus (Perseus Holding the Severed Head of Medusa) of Benvenuto Cellini, which depicts Perseus as holding the severed head of Medusa in victory.
This bronze statue, commissioned by Cosimo I, was supposed to represent the death of the republican institutions, through the swift cutting of Medusa’s head, and the end of civil strife, as symbolized by the snakes.
Cellini positioned this wonderful statue so as to look down upon the audience, as if to capture its attention.
Its pedestal is a masterpiece in itself, largely due to the fine workmanship of the small figures representing the myth of Perseus.
On account of his accuracy and detail-mindedness, Cellini was considered the most skilled Florentine goldsmith, and there is even a bust of him on the Ponte Vecchio.
One noteworthy mystery: there appears to be a human face on the back of Perseus’s head. This is thought to be Cellini’s self-portrait.
Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines (1579-1583) and Hercules fighting the centaur Nessus (1595-1600).
Other sculptures date from the Roman era, and the famous Rape of Polyxena by Pio Fedi dates to 1800.
On the right wall there is an inscription in Latin that recalls the adoption of the common calendar in Florence in 1750 (which begins on January 1). Before that time, the new year was celebrated on March 25.
Another inscription of 1863 recalls the stages of Italian unification.