An itinerary entirely devoted to the Florentine trade guilds that contributed so much to the city's wealth and prestige.
(by Horemhat, CC BY 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
The building is one of the best-preserved examples of Florentine tower houses and dates back to the 13th century when the Compiobbesi family built it. Following the victory of the Guelph faction in the Battle of Benevento, many Ghibelline families, including the Compiobbesi, had their property confiscated. In 1308 the building thus became the property of the Wool Guild, which established its headquarters there until the late eighteenth century. Today the Italian Dante Society resides there.
Despite the addition of numerous architectural variations, the palace largely retains its original appearance.
As a testimony to the past residence of Wool Art, it is possible to observe the association’s symbol, located in the facade on Calimala Street just above the shop windows. This coat of arms represents the Agnus Dei or the depiction of a lamb taken from Christian symbolism in which it represents Christ and his purity.
Inside the building are preserved a variety of 14th-century paintings depicting the stages of wool processing. These are the symbols of the city and the guilds, and even an Allegory of the proper exercise of justice.
The art of the wool was undoubtedly one of the city’s most influential and developed organisations between the 14th and 15th centuries. It has been estimated that during this period, it came to have a number of workers close to one-third of the population.
The guild management was entrusted to a Council of forty-eight members, to which were added two consuls drawn by lot who remained in office for only four months. Also assisting all the operations of the council and the consuls was an extensive bureaucratic apparatus consisting of officials, tax collectors and clerks.
The process of processing wool consisted of various operations. First, after obtaining the raw wool, one began by washing and drying the material, continued with the beating necessary to restore softness, and proceeded with carding to fray the flakes into threads of various lengths.
After these operations, a semi-finished product was obtained, ready for the production stage of the actual cloths, which was done by spinning, weaving and dyeing. The dyes were obtained from both plants and animals. The blue colour, for example, was obtained from the maceration of indigo roots, yellow from the reseda plant, and purple from the glands of some molluscs.
Finally, clothes produced in the city were branded with the words “from Florence” to ensure their authenticity and quality.
Curiously, a famous episode in Florentine history involving the guild is the Tumulto Dei Ciompi, one of the first European uprisings in which salaried workers demanded better economic treatment and more political space.