The secrets of Piazza Duomo

Many are the anecdotes and legends regarding the city of Florence, Piazza Duomo alone is the protagonist of several of these interesting stories. Today we'll tell about you some of them.

The fall of the Duomo’s golden sphere was indeed a shocking event.
We must start by saying that designing the golden sphere now standing on top Brunelleschi's Dome of was not an easy feat. They initially tried to make it using just one piece of metal but it simply didn't work out. The knowledge of an expert in metal work was required. The project was therefore assigned to Andrea del Verrocchio, skilled sculpture, painter and goldsmith, who wisely decided to weld together eight pieces of copper and subsequently gild them.
It was a success, the sphere was installed on top of the Dome in 1471 and it shone magnificently from afar.
However, what nobody had calculated, was that all that copper hanging 116 meters above the ground would inevitably attract lightnings!
Already in 1492 a thunderbolt had struck the lantern of the Duomo causing serious damage, but the real disaster occurred in 1601.

On the stormy night between January 26 and 27, another lightning struck traight though the golden sphere, which ruined to the ground damaging the marble lantern below. The ball shattered into a thousand pieces that scattered halfway through Via De' Servi and the people that had flooded the streets to see what had caused such a ruckus, were completely shocked at the sight of the remains of Verrocchio's sphere lying on the ground.
The sphere was immediately restored and put back in its place the following year, though this time they decided to put inside it a variety of religious relics to ward off another disaster. Maybe they worked, the sphere is still shining up there and we’re hoping it will stay that way for centuries to come.

As a reminder of the accident, a circular white marble plate set in the ground at the feet of the Duomo marks the exact spot on which the ball fell. Maybe you never even noticed it, but now that you know, go and see if you can spot it!

The Bull's head decorating one side of the cathedral tells us another kind of story.
It is said that the beautiful spous of a baker living in the proximity of piazza San Giovanni had an adulterous relationship with one of the master builders of the cathedral and that this affair caused scandal among the citizens.
It was decided that the two of them should stop seeing each other or face the exile. The lovers could do nothing but abide to this decision, but the master builder was feeling a little vendictive and decided to add a hidden message for the baker among the symbols of animals that decorated the cathedral: a bull's head that looked towards the baker's house and shop, with unmistakable allusion to his wife's cheating.
At least this is the story told among the Florentines, whose sense of humor is renowned.
In reality, many different animal heads can be seen on the walls of the Duomo and the reason they're there is much simpler: it's a tribute to the oxen, donkeys, mules and other animals that, along with the men, died to build this masterpiece of architecture that the whole world envy us.

One last story connected to piazza Duomo is worth a mention. It involves a priest and none other than the Devil himself.
You might have noticed that there is a spot in Piazza Duomo, near Via dello Studio, where the wind blows at all times. In winter it becomes so strong that it makes it hard for people to cross the square: hats fly off heads, skirts are lifed and bicycles trudge along.
That is no ordinary wind and the Florentines know it: legend has it that the Devil himself is behind this strange phenomenon.

According to this legend, one day - we do not know how many centuries ago - the Devil was prowling the streets of Florence looking for a soul to steal. At one point he spotted a priest and he immediately began to follow him. The priest realized he was being hunted down and quickened his pace, he turned the corner of Via del Corso into Via dello Studio and then broke into a run towards the cathedral. But of course one cannot outrun the Devil, so he decided he would try to outsmart him.
He faced Satan, and told him that he had won, that he was cornered and giving up, but asked him to show mercy and let him pray one last time before being damned forever.
Satan thought about it for a moment and then agreed to this deal, he let the priest enter the Duomo for his last pray and set to wait for his return. However, the cunning priest already had a plan and escaped through one of the other doors of the church.

The Devil waited and waited, and annoyed he begun to puff and grumble, relieving a slight breeze on the square. When he finally realized the priest had him fooled, the breeze tranformed into a strong wind that has not stopped blowing ever since.
So if while walking around the cathedral at some point a gust of wind makes you stagger, don't worry, as the Florentines say, it's the "rifrullo del Diavolo!" (the whirlwind of the Devil).

Now that you know these stories, we’re hoping that when you walk across Piazza Duomo that mysterious marble plaque set in the pavement won't look quite so out of place anymore; maybe you will pay more attention to the decorations on the multi-coloured marble walls, wondering what story hides behind each and every one of them; and perhaps you will smile if a gust of wind makes you stagger, thinking back to the poor Devil leaning on the wall of the cathedral waiting for the priest to come out and surrender his soul.

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