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Storia di Prato

The Green stone of Prato

From the hills and mountains of the surroundings, Prato took the stones for its architecture: the Alberese limestone, with its shades ranging from white to gray, came from the area of Figline, Retaia, Le Lastre, etc. or even from the bed of the Bisenzio river, whose calcareous pebbles were used for the medieval walls of the city. 

The name of Prato is mainly related to the serpentine of Monte Ferrato, a rock more often known as the "Green stone of Prato" which was mostly used in urban environment.
The charm of this stone, which has determinate its essentially ornamental function, lies mainly in its colour, which can touch the different shades of green, from light to almost black, or even submit streaks of yellow and green, which gave him the name "Ranocchiaia" (frog rock).

The oldest quarries are on Pian di Gello, on the eastern slope of Monte Piccoli, and only from there were once taken the stones. 
The artistic fortune of the Green stone of Prato coincides with the flowering of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany, and in particular the Florentine one. Among the inspiring criteria of these monuments is the imitation of the venerable architecture of the ancient Rome and of their precious marble decorations. 
And the buildings of Rome were not only white, but often they were enriched with polychrome marble coming from all of the territories of the empire: among them were frequently used the intense and vibrant green Thessalian marble known as "ancient green", and the green porphyry of Greece, precisely called "serpentine".
The serpentine of Prato appeared to our medieval civilization, which sought its roots in the classical world, like a stone with chrome and noble aspect that reminded to the ancient marbles.
Between the 11th and the 12th century in Florence there are monuments characterized by facing in white marble and green stone of Prato: the Baptistery, San Miniato, the unfinished facade of the Fiesolana Abbey

In Prato we find these two-tone effects at the access to the Emperor's Castle, the facade and the portals of the Cathedral, of San Francesco and San Niccolò. But it is in Florence where the serpentine continuous its fortune even in the Gothic period, in the side and apse of Santa Maria del Fiore and the bell tower of Giotto
In the Florentine architecture of the '400 you still find in the Romanesque monuments of marble and serpentine the classic inspiration that guided the culture of humanism: so the classicist Leon Battista Alberti proposes in the facade of Santa Maria Novella a parameter of marble inlay of ancient traditions.
In Prato we can find it in the facing of Santa Maria delle Carceri, which building was started in 1485 in the form of strict classicism.

The 16th century we find the realization of complex compositions of polychrome marbles, cut into irregular sections to form a composite drawings on the floor, wall panels, etc. 
It is the time for the archaeological marbles of the ancient world and the hard stones: the competition of many materials will see the "domestic" serpentine relegated to marginal roles.
It will be the Romantic 19th century that proposes it in the major monuments of Florence, inspired by the admired models of medieval architecture: the neo-Gothic facade of Santa Croce and especially the facade of Santa Maria del Fiore, opened in 1887.

Taken from the book "Pietre di Figline", (Stones of Figline)
Anna Maria Giusti "Il verde di Prato nella tradizione artistica della Toscana" (The Green of Prato in the artistic traditions of Tuscany)

Basilica di Santa Maria delle Carceri (esterno)
Chiesa di San Francesco (facciata)
Facciata del Duomo di Prato

Data ultima revisione dei contenuti della pagina: marted 17 marzo 2020

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