June 24 in Florence and Leonardo da Vinci

In the Codex Atlanticus (folio 673 recto) we find the last dated annotation from Leonardo da Vinci:

A 24 di giugno il dì di san Giovanni 1518 in Ambosa nel palazzo del Clu

(“On 24th of June St. John’s Day 1518 in Ambosa in the Palace of Clu”)

Leonardo’s last dated annotation, Codex Atlanticus, folio 673 recto

Château de Cloux at Amboise was the residence put at disposal of Leonardo by the king Francis I. Maybe Leonardo remembered St. John’s day, the patron saint of Florence, with a hint of nostalgia, given his distance from Florence in a foreign country.

St. John the Baptist was chosen as the patron saint of the city of Florence only after the conversion of the city to Christianity. Initially, the patron of the city was the god Mars, whose statue was placed at the beginning of the Ponte Vecchio. On August 23 406, the roman militias headed by Stilicho and the Florentines defeated the Ostrogoths of Radagaisus, during the Siege of Florence (Battle of Faesulae). According to the tradition, Florentines said it happened thanks to the miraculous intercession of Saint Reparata, bishop Zenobius of Florence decided to dedicate their first christian cathedral to Saint Reparata (now co-patroness of the city), and Florence started celebrating the day of the martyrdom of the saint (8 October).

The statue of Mars remained in the city until 1333, when a flood of the Arno destroyed it. Dante remembers the statue with these verses in the Commedia (Paradiso, XVI, 145-147)

Ma conveniesi a quella pietra scema
che guarda ’l ponte, che Fiorenza fesse
vittima ne la sua pace postrema

(“Thou near our city camest. But so was doom’d:
Florence! on that maim’d stone which guards the bridge
The victim, when thy peace departed, fell”)

During the period of Longobard domination (VI-VIII century) Saint John the Baptist was recognised as the patron saint of Florence, and the Baptistery named after him was consecrated in 1059. Though, the first celebrations on June 24 in honor of St. John the Baptist only started to took place in the XIII century.

Florentines celebrate June 24 with many events: flag throwing, a historical procession, a historical soccer match (known as Calcio Storico Fiorentino) between the finalist teams of Florence’s quartieri, played in Piazza Santa Croce, and the spectacular fireworks (called by the Florentines fochi).

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