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HOME» Municipality» Noteworthy Rooms of Palazzo Vecchio» The Great Hall of the Five Hundred

The Great Hall of the Five Hundred

Il Salone dei Cinquecento (The Great Hall of the Five Hundred)

The great hall's origins date back to a room built at the end of the fifteenth century to accommodate the meetings of the Florentine Council previously held in the Sala dei Duecento. In 1494, the Florentines had banished the Medici from the city and, on the suggestion of Girolamo Savonarola, proclaimed a new Republic that called for increased participation of the government through the institution of a Great Council made up of more than 3,000 citizens. Even though the number was reduced to 1,000 representatives that met in two rotations of 500, the reform made it necessary to build a new hall able to accommodate the newly increased numbers. The room was modelled off the hall of the Republic of Venice's Upper Council. The “new hall”, built by Simone del Pollaiolo, with the cooperation of other architects, and already in use in 1496. It occupied the current space of the Salone, but was lower by some seven metres, with windows on all sides, an altar on the western wall and, on the opposite wall, a tribune for the Signoria, flanked by two doors that led to the “Segreto” (the room where ballots were counted), and to the “Specchio”, where the Republic's debtor's registers were kept. The use of the hall as a meeting room for the Council was brought to an end when the Medici re-entered the city in 1512, but was returned during the years of the second Republic, 1527 to 1530. Once the Medici returned to power, they debased the hall's role by using it as lodging for guards, until Cosimo I moved to Palazzo Vecchio in 1540 and transformed it into the magnificent room we see today. It was primarily used for the Duke's public ceremonies and centrepiece of the celebration of his glory. When the restructuring and redecoration of the room was complete, the ducal court had already begun its move to Palazzo Pitti. Cosimo's successors continued to use the hall for parties and solemn ceremonies and continued enrich it with ornamental decoration. Three centuries passed before the room regained its ancient function of parliamentary hall, when it hosted the 1848 meeting of the Tuscan Legislative Body. In 1859, it hosted the Assembly constituted after the fall of the Lorena Grandukes, and from 1865 to 1871 during the years that Florence was capital of the Kingdom of Italy, it was used as the Deputies' Chamber. The City of Florence wanted to return the magnificence of the Granducal period and make the hall an integral part of visits to the Palazzo Vecchio museum, while continuing to use it as seat for important ceremonies and events by recognizing its traditional role as centre of public Florentine life.

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