For centuries in Florence, March 25th, not January Ist, was the start of the new year. The city didn't adopt the practise of starting the year on January 1st until 1750.
There is a large plaque in the Loggia dei Lanzi, which records the change. It had been decreed in November 1749 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco Stefano (r. 1737-65).
March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, the celebration of the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.
Florence abounds with images of the Annunciation, but the most famous one of all takes the form of a fresco and can be found in the church of Santissima Annunziata. (which is dedicated to the Madonna of the Annunciation).
According to legend, the fresco was painted in the 14th century by Frate Bartolomeo. It would, perhaps, be more accurate to say that the fresco was mostly painted by the good monk, for the face of the Madonna is said to have been completed by an angel while he was asleep. Divine intervention gave the image of the Annunciation miraculous powers and Santissima Annunziata soon became an important place of pilgrimage.
I cannot imagine there are many cities in the world where people stop to take photographs of traffic signs! But in Florence many of the traffic signs are rather more eye-catching than most, as they have been creatively 'modified' by Clet Abraham, a French artist, who lives in the city.
The ancient pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, one of the oldest in the world, has been pedalling pills, potions and powders for centuries.
The pharmacy is now part of the famous Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, which occupies buildings once belonging to the Dominican convent of the same name. The main sales room was once the medieval Cappella di San Niccolo. Nothing remains of the chapel's original decoration, but its small sacristy boasts a well-preserved set of 14th century frescoes.
The frescoes illustrate scenes from the Passion of Christ and were commissioned by the wealthy Acciaiuoli family. They were painted by Mariotto di Nardo (c.1365-1424) between 1385 and 1405.
A member of the family, Angelo Acciaiuoli, who was the bishop of Florence, appears in the scene of the Crucifixion, together with a rather grim-faced lion, a symbol of the family's coat of arms.
On March 6th, 1475, one of the greatest geniuses in the history of art was born. His name was Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. He is now known, simply, as Michelangelo.
‘I record that today, this 6th of March 1474*, a male child was born to me; I named him Michelagnolo; and he was born Monday morning four or five hours before dawn.’ So wrote Michelangelo's father, Ludovico.
Michelangelo died in Rome on February 14th 1564, less than a month before his eighty-ninth birthday. Although Michelangelo spent the last thirty years of life in Rome, he wanted his mortal remains to be buried in Florence. His body was duly returned, where it was interred in the church of Santa Croce.
*According to the Florentine calendar, when the new year started on March 25th.
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