The “Flash Pope”

The splendid Palazzo Corsi Salviati in Via Tornabuoni, now the site of the Banca Intesa, conceals a series of curious historical facts that are still relatively unknown to the general public.  These include the fact of having been built around a piazza, the apartments of the “Flash Pope”, a loggia which was moved from one corner to the other, and the room were the very first opera in the world was held, making this one of the most original buildings ever to be erected in Florentine Renaissance style.

The palazzo rises up over the foundations of three pre-existing medieval buildings that once belonged to the “Consorteria” of the Tornabuoni and Tornaquinci families; and in one of these Lucrezia Tornabuoni, Lorenzo il Magnifico’s mother, was born and spent her childhood.

The tree houses faced onto an internal piazza connected by two lanes to the adjacent main streets.  Commissioned by Giovanni Tornabuoni, famous architect Michelozzo Michelozzi took inspiration from this piazza to build the present day palazzo all around it, creating the splendid courtyard that can still be seen today on entering the offices of the Banca Intesa and from where you can also admire the large stairway leading up to the upper floor, all in pure renaissance style.

When Alessandro de’ Medici, Archbishop of Florence, became the owner of this palazzo, he transferred the city archbishopric here temporarily seeing that the old headquarters in Piazza San Giovanni had been devasted by fire and required extensive restructuring and renovation.  The Archbishop surrounded himself with renowned artists like Agostino Ciampelli and Lodovico Cardi, known as “Il Cigoli” for these buildings and redecorating operations.  Ciampelli was famous for having frescoed various halls to the theme of the Old Testament, whereas Il Cigoli, in his role as architect, had previously restructured a loggia located at the corner of the building facing onto Via de’ Ferravecchi (old irons) and Via de’ Belli Sporti (beautiful architectural projections), now Via Strozzi and Via Tornabuoni, known as “Canto a Tornaquinci.”  Alessandro de’ Medici’s rapid ecclesiastic ascent soon took him far from Florence.  On becoming cardinal he moved to Rome taking with him his faithful Ciampelli, and at the age of eighty, he was nominated Pope with the name of Leone XI.  However this was an extremely short-livedpontificate that lasted a mere 27 days (1-27 April 1605), so short in fact that he was called the “Flash Pope” by the people of that era.

In the meantime the palazzo had passed into the hands of the Corsi, an ancient Florentine family which boasted a history of priors and gonfaloniers of the republic.  Jacopo Corsi was certainly their most outstanding member.  A refined benefactor and great music lover, he was in the habit of holding gatherings in the palazzo hith a selection of the greatest poets and musicians of that time, like Claudio Monteverdi, Torquato Tasso, Ottavio Rinuccini, Jacopo Peri, and Giovanbattista Marino, who called themselves the Academy of Music.

It was precisely in the “Sala delle Muse” that the opera “Dafne” was first staged in 1594 to the music of Peri and the lyrics of Rinuccini.  This was the first melodramatic performance in the world and it was later held in a more systematic manner in the famous “Sala Bianca” of Palazzo Pitti. Today there is a plaque in Via dei Corsi in memory of this performance.

As far as the Ciogoli Loggia located in “Canto a Tornaquinci” is concerned, during the subsequent operations to enlarge Via de Ferravecchi, later called Via Strozzi, this side of the palazzo was set back a few meters leaving the loggia in an “awkward” position, almost in the middle of the intersection with Via Tornabuoni.  It was consequently pulled down stone by stone, and reassembled in the opposite corner of the palazzo, the one between Via Tornabuoni and Via dei Corsi, looking onto Piazza Antinori, where it can still be admired today.

Cigoli Loggia

Cigoli Loggia

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