Why are there so many lions in Piazza della Signoria?

The term Marzocco is derived from uncertain etymology, but from the Latin “martius” = Mars. Another explanation is that Marzocco is the contraction of the word Martocus, which means little Marte. The most famous of these representations is undoubtedly that of Donatello.

Dante is convinced that the city of Florence was originally dedicated to Mars. This is also mentioned in the Divine Comedy. The statue of the Roman god located near the Ponte Vecchio was overwhelmed by the flood of 1333.

 

In the fourteenth century – at least until the Black Death (plague) – next to the Palazzo Vecchio, on the Via della Ninna, the reign kept a true menagerie of lions, with thirty animals, so that the road was indeed called Via dei Leoni. 

In the Florentine Republic, the Marzocco or Marzucco was a lion symbol of the people’s power. The tradition of the totem animal in the Italian cities of the Middle Ages was very strong, especially in northern and central Italy (Pisa and Forlì had the eagle, Lucca the panther, Pistoia the bear, Florence the lion, Arezzo the horse, Siena the wolf and Venice the Lion); this identification is reflected in many citizen crests or in many totemistic weapons and animal groups; the habit of keeping and exposing specimens (of course, when it came to animals in nature) was considered a sign of power and wealth.

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