Florence – Column of Justice

This 11 metre high column (or in Italian, the Colonna della Giustizia) is located at Piazza Santa Trinita and it has a much longer history than I realised at the time. It’s a Roman column that was at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, but which was given by Pope Pius IV to Cosimo I de’ Medici. This gift perhaps makes more sense when taking into account the Pope’s name before he took on the role, which was Giovanni Angelo Medici.

The move from Rome to Florence sounds a bloody nuisance, they could only move it a few hundred metres a day and it took well over a year to get the column to the city. I wonder whether a more practical present could have been offered than a 50-ton column, perhaps a flock of sheep or something. Or maybe just a book. When the column finally arrived in Florence in 1563, they were able to get it standing on the pedestal in just a few hours, although then they had to work out what they were going to put on top.

For just over a decade there was a wooden statue plonked on the top, although to be fair, it’s so high they could have got away with nearly anything. In 1580, a statue of Justice designed by Ammannati was installed, comprised of three fragments of Roman sculptures. Shortly after the statue was installed some boys were accused of stealing from a jewellers nearby and were banned from the Ponte Vecchio where the shop was located. The boys denied the theft, although they weren’t believed, but the thefts continued. A long time after, the stones were discovered on the scales of the statue on the top of the column, they had been stolen by magpies who liked the bright colours.

It’s an impressive column, but it’s perhaps a shame that they can’t reduce the traffic which goes by it. Although not on a main road, there were numerous vehicles driving down and the column deserves some more peaceful surroundings.