Mud Angels

This year will be the 40th anniversary of the Mud Angels of Florence. What are “Mud Angels” you may ask? Well they aren’t what but who. On the 3rd of November 1966, Florence experienced the unthinkable. After two days of heavy rain the banks of the Arno River burst sending torrents of water through the streets of the city. The water rose over 6 metres and engulfed many of the museums and galleries which housed invaluable works of art and literature. When news spread of the city’s dilemma, foreigners, students and locals rushed to the scene to brave the cold muddy waters to start a rescue mission, the likes the city had never seen. The first line began forming outside the Biblioteca Nazionale, where an estimated 500 people began passing one by one and hand to hand paintings, books and sculptures to safer grounds. Some were standing waist deep in freezing muddy water. Never had these works passed through so many hands. Soon the whole city were forming lines with just one mission , save as much as they could. The Florentines named these remarkable people “Mud Angels”.

When the waters subsided it is estimated over 1,400 pieces of artwork, 2 million books and numerous historic scientific and musical instruments were completely destroyed. Some of the works lost included frescoes by Botticelli, Pietro Lorenzetti, Simone Martini, and Paolo Uccello and Cimabue’s Crucifixion.

The Mud Angels, however, were responsible for rescuing over 14,000 pieces of art and 4 million books and manuscripts. But more importantly they saved Florence’s history for future generations to enjoy. This year Florence will be honouring all the “mud angels” on the 40th anniversary.

To find out more about the floods of Florence visit my website www.italianvista.com

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