Flowers at the base of the Column of Saint Zenobius, Florence

The Colonna di San Zanobi is a monumental marble column, surmounted by a cross above a crown of fire, located just north of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence.

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The column was placed to memorialize a miracle by the former Florentine Bishop, who had died circa 430. In the 9th-century, San Zenobi’s remains, held in an urn, were being transferred from the church of San Lorenzo to the then Cathedral of Santa Reparata (later enlarged and renamed as Santa Maria del Fiore or, il Duomo).

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It’s hard to believe today, but in the 9th century, the church of San Lorenzo was outside the fortified city walls of the town. The move was prompted because anything outside the city was was under threat of Hungarian invasions.

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As the remains were being moved, tradition holds they brushed against an elm tree that grew in the spot where the column now stands.  It happened in winter, when the tree of course was leafless.  However, by being brushed by the relics of the saint, the tree miraculously became leafy.

So every year I Fiorentini celebrate this miracle of San Zanobi on January 27, and decorate the base with flowers and greenery in his honor.  I happened to walk past the monument today, and the flowers are still fresh.  I wonder how many people even notice!

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It is not known when the column was erected, but it was in place by the year 1333. The column has a metal tree image affixed, which you can see in the photo below.

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