One Door a Day: Architectural Detail in Florence, Italy

Florence holds some of the world’s most precious pieces of art: The David, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Primavera. But beyond the paintings and sculptures, Florence is the home of a deep and rich history that shows through its architecture. 

A friend of mine told me a story of a special exchange between her and her mother. Her mother had traveled to Florence previously and had been encaptured by a small but intricate piece of the city: its doors. Now, her daughter gets to experience the same fascination with the doors of Florence and create a unique connection with her mother. Every day, she takes a photo of her favorite door that she has seen and sends it to her mother. One door a day. 

Florence Doors and Their Knockers

Being the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence holds beautiful architecture; unique and compelling. As you venture the back alleyways of the Florence city center, as I have for the past couple of weeks, you begin to notice the doors and their knockers. Each door is a gateway into something unknown, reflected by their deep wood and intricate carves. But what really makes each door different from another is the knocker. 

As the interiors of Florence buildings began to be restored, the knockers were often one of the few pieces that were left in their original states. Each has a certain distinctive feature attached to it. Some are simple, circular ornaments to grab easily. Others are shaped with incredible detail. Depictions of animals, such as the lion’s head knocker, sprinkle the cobblestone streets. Other knockers around Florence are crafted to present humans: men, women, and children. Perhaps the most interesting form of knockers is the portrayals of spiritual or mythological beings. 

Behind the Carvings

Each door tells a story. That has been one of my favorite parts of exploring Florence. Walking around and seeing the knockers, I can’t help but wonder what the inspiration behind each individual one is. One of the most captivating comparisons is between these two knockers, formed in the shape of lion heads.

Two knockers found in the back streets of Florence. Same outline, but different underlying stories.

The first lion head looks almost frightened, while the latter looks completely relaxed. Though both knockers are depicted to be the same figure, the image is dissimilar. The first has the circular knocker placed in its mouth, while the other does not. Coincidence? Or by design?

Comparing these two knockers makes me wonder how the creators decide on their designs. Does each blueprint reflect the way they were feeling at that moment? It may not be possible to find out, which is both frustrating and fascinating. 

Details, Details, Details

Deeper intent aside, it is difficult not to appreciate the knockers for all of the detail that encompasses each one. Speaking as a person who is not particularly fluid in the language of art, I can say that there is one thing that bewilders me each time I think about it: the amount of determination and patience it took to carve each one of these knockers. There is a passion behind each knocker that is reflected through the intricacy and detail. It is almost hard to believe that a person took the time to produce each one. Here is one that displays a heavy amount of detail; one of the very favorites that I have seen.

This knocker shows the detail that is often seen in Florence.

So why does this friend of mine take the time to send her mother a picture of her favorite door and knocker every day? The unique artistry of each door and knocker creates an unexplainable connection between the two. That is what the architecture of Florence, Italy can do.

Erin Stanley is a student at University of Nebraska, Lincoln and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.

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