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p. 63

F. The Project for lifting up the Battistero of Florence and setting it on a basement.

Among the very few details Vasari gives as to the architectural studies of Leonardo, we read: "And among these models and designs there was one by way of which he showed several times to many ingenious citizens who then governed Florence, his readiness to lift up without ruining it, the church of San Giovanni in Florence (the Battistero, opposite the Duomo) in order to place under it the missing basement with steps; he supported his assertions with reasons so persuasive, that while he spoke the undertaking seemed feasable, although every one of his hearers, when he had departed, could see by himself the impossibility of so vast an undertaking."


In the MS. C. A. fol. 293, there are two sketches which possibly might have a bearing on this bold enterprise. We find there a plan of a circular or polygonal edifice surrounded by semicircular arches in an oblique position. These may be taken for the foundation of the steps and of the new platform. In the perspective elevation the same edifice, forming a polygon, is shown as lifted up and resting on a circle of inverted arches which rest on an other circle of arches in the ordinary position, but so placed that the inverted arches above rest on the spandrels of the lower range.

What seems to confirm the supposition that the lifting up of a building is here in question, is the indication of engines for winding up, such as jacks, and a rack and wheel. As the lifting apparatus represented on this sheet does not seem particularly applicable to an undertaking of such magnitude, we may consider it to be a first sketch or scheme for the engines to be used.


63:386 : This latter statement of Vasari's must be considered to be exaggerated. I may refer here to some data given by LIBRI, Histoire des sciences mathematiques en Italie (II, 216, 217): "On a cru dans ces derniers temps faire un miracle en mecanique en effectuant ce transport, et cependant des l'annee 1455, Gaspard Nadi et Aristote de Fioravantio avaient transporte, a une distance considerable, la tour de la Magione de Bologne, avec ses fondements, qui avait presque quatre-vingts pieds de haut. Le continuateur de la chronique de Pugliola dit que le trajet fut de 35 pieds et que durant le transport auquel le chroniqueur affirme avoir assiste, il arriva un accident grave qui fit pencher de trois pieds la tour pendant qu'elle etait suspendue, mais que cet accident fut promptement repare (Muratori, Scriptores rer. ital. Tom. XVIII, col. 717, 718). Alidosi a rapporte une note ou Nadi rend compte de ce transport avec une rare simplicite. D'apres cette note, on voit que les operations de ce genre n'etaient pas nouvelles. Celle-ci ne couta que 150 livres (monnaie d'alors) y compris le cadeau que le Legat fit aux deux mecaniciens. Dans la meme annee, Aristote redressa le clocher de Cento, qui penchait de plus de cinq pieds (Alidosi, instruttione p. 188-- Muratori, Scriptores rer. ital., tom. XXIII, col. 888.--Bossii, chronica Mediol., 1492, in-fol. ad ann. 1455). On ne concoit pas comment les historiens des beaux-arts ont pu negliger de tels hommes." J. P. R.

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