An extreme hail storm hit my beloved city of Florence on Friday, causing several museums to shut down while damage is assessed. It is estimated that there is overall damage of one and a half million euros.
There has been damage to some of the stained glass windows, flooding of some museum rooms, and damage to some of the trees and plants in the Boboli Gardens (the gardens that are adjacent to the old Medici Palace.)
I put this post up to talk a bit about how precious the art heritage is in Florence and throughout Italy and the world, and how easily it can be lost or destroyed.
This is by far not the first, nor the worst, damage that Mother Nature has wrought upon the beauty that is Florence.
In 1966 there was a horrible flooding of the Arno. This taken from Wikipedia:
“The 1966 Flood of the Arno River in Florence killed many people and damaged or destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books. It is considered the worst flood in the city’s history since 1557. With the combined effort of Italian citizens and foreign donors and committees, or angeli del fango (“Mud Angels”), many of these fine works have been restored. New methods in conservation were devised and restoration laboratories established. However, even decades later, much work remains to be done.
5,000 families were left homeless by the storm, and 6,000 stores were forced out of business. Approximately 600,000 tons of mud, rubble and sewage severely damaged or destroyed numerous collections of the written work and fine art for which Florence is famous. In fact, it is estimated that between 3 and 4 million books/manuscripts were damaged, as well as 14,000 movable works of art.”
I have seen in particular a beautiful crucifix from the 13th century by an artist named Cimabue, which was severely damaged by the 1966 flood.
What was once a magnificent work of art is now heavily damaged by the flood of November 1966. Housed in Santa Croce in Florence, the flood waters had risen higher than twenty feet, ripping most of the paint off of the over 700 year old Christ figure. The figure is so beautiful and yet so heartbreaking.
This is a photo of Cimabue’s crucifix taken before the 1966 flood:
This is a photo that I took of it after the damage:
The damage from Mother Nature is difficult enough to fathom, let alone the immense and even more senseless damage that has come from man.
At the end of the 15th century, a Dominican friar and priest named Savonarola led people of Florence to burn thousands of objects of art, clothing, books, etc. in what is known as the Bonfire of the Vanities. Much in Italy was lost to bombing in World War II and many frescoes, sculpture and architecture have been lost simply to changing tastes and “remodeling”.
My understanding of these events helps me to appreciate the art that I still am blessed to see when I am in Italy. It helps me to understand how precious it is and, like life, it can be taken from us at any moment.
Savor the beauty of both life and art!