The History of Urban Evolution on the European Square
Every morning, Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori wakes up amidst the noise of the city, and the strong aroma of coffee gushes out from the newly opened cafes, covering the space less than half the size of a football field in a short time. Vendors yawn and say good morning to each other as they set out their stalls with fruits, vegetables, spices, cheap T-shirts and more.
On a granite platform several meters high beside them, Giordano Bruno looked down at the world with melancholy eyes. His eyes crossed the white awning and the gray gravel road to the Vatican in the distance.
There are indeed two or three flower shops around the square, but the name of the Flower Square has nothing to do with them. Before 1456, it was still a meadow with flowers in full bloom. In 1600, when Bruno was engulfed by raging flames at the location of the granite platform, it was the execution ground of Rome, and the surrounding houses were where blacksmiths, tailors, weaponsmiths and other craftsmen gathered.
From grasslands, execution grounds, markets to tourist attractions, Fiori Square has silently fulfilled the due mission of a city square for thousands of years.
Many cities have squares like this. They are the business card of the city and a memory card of the collective memory of citizens.
Medieval European towns were very different from today. They were surrounded by thick stone walls, with limited space in the city, and the people who lived inside were like caged birds. Except for a few main roads, other streets are very narrow, and the 2-4 storey wooden houses usually have protruding balconies facing the street, blocking the street from sunlight. Life is especially difficult for the poor, and it is not uncommon for several families to share a house. Naturally, poor families cannot afford glass windows, and even shutters are too extravagant. They paste parchment on the windows with oiled and dried parchment, which can barely keep out the wind and rain, but also keeps the sun out. Even in the homes of wealthy merchants, the environment is not particularly comfortable, especially in winter, the fireplace is not only a heating appliance, but also the main light source. The room is filled with smoke and there is always a pungent smell.
It is conceivable that being a “nerd” in the Middle Ages was never comfortable, so as long as the weather is good, people are always outdoors, and they especially like to go to open and lively squares. On sunny days, the square becomes the beating heart of a town, where jugglers and clowns entertain the crowd, and bards play the harp and sing tales of ancient heroes. Children are having fun in the square, adults gather together to chat, play chess, and play cards. If it is a holiday, there will be grand religious parades and miracle plays with saints as the protagonists.
The squares of many towns are also markets. In the Middle Ages, most of the food, clothing and daily necessities were produced by families, so the market economy developed, and people traded with their own products. The specialties of some towns have also attracted many foreign merchants. For example, Flanders is famous for woolen cloth, Venice is rich in glass products, and the port of Genoa is a distribution center for Middle Eastern and Asian goods… These trading towns often have more than one square, there are Powerful businesses are all set up around the square, and of course there are also hotels for foreign merchants to stay.
Medieval squares are closely related to landmark buildings in the city. There is usually a square in front of palaces, churches, city halls and military camps. They are an extension of institutional power and have functional functions such as religious ceremonies, celebrations, and military parades. The squares in this period put more emphasis on the organic combination with the buildings and the harmony with the urban space, while integrating local characteristics into it.
The ancient city of Siena in Tuscany, Italy is one of the most important cities in medieval Europe. The Piazza del Field in the center of the old city is a representative work of the medieval square. Today’s Field Square was built in the 13th century when the “Party of Nine” was in power. At that time, Siena was an important financial center in Europe and was jointly managed by nine supreme consuls who were merchants and bankers. The “Party of Nine” represents the wealthy upper-class civilians rather than the rich and powerful, so they have a strong sense of public awareness in municipal construction. During their ruling period, they built city halls, field squares and other facilities, as well as investment in art, becoming civilian urban communes. symbol symbol.
The Field Square is built at the intersection of three ridges, and each ridge has a community. The place where the square is located logically becomes a public space for political gatherings, religious activities and festival celebrations. The city government of Siena has been planning the square since the middle of the 13th century. For example, a document in 1262 stipulated that the windows of the buildings around the square must be unified and no balconies should be built. The construction of the square began in 1297, and it took 13 years to complete. During this period, the city government had strict control over the construction details, and had precise requirements on the distance between each building and the square, creating a perfect shell-shaped square.
A church and a square are standard configurations in medieval towns. The Field Square is unique in that it is not attached to the church, but adjacent to the town hall. Siena is a small city, and it only takes 2 hours to walk through all the alleys in the old city. Due to the narrow terrain, the Field Square is not as grand as the squares in big cities, but it is a bit more elegant and refined. The red bricks paving the square are arranged in the pattern of “people” and are divided into 9 pieces by 8 radial beige travertines, symbolizing the 9 highest consuls. The city hall on the front of the square is a Gothic building, the ground floor is made of stone, and the upper floor is made of the same red bricks as the square, forming a consistent visual style. The front of the city hall is slightly concave, catering to the curvature of the square. The Mangia Tower on the east side is 102 meters high and is the second tallest non-church tower in Italy, second only to the bell tower in Cremona.
50 kilometers north of Siena is Florence. These two cities have been enemies since ancient times. It is said that before the construction of the Mangia Tower, the Siena people held their breath and built it higher than all the buildings in Florence. . After the completion of the Mangia Tower, the “Party of Nine” also issued a decree, strictly prohibiting noble families from building towers higher than it, in this way to declare the majesty of the municipal space and the prestige of the civilian government.
Opposite the city hall, at the other end of the square, a rectangular fountain looks like a sapphire inlaid on red coral. When the fountain was completed in 1419, the whole city celebrated with joy, so it was named the Joyful Fountain. Field Square is also the venue for two horse racing festivals in July and August every year. The horse racing festival is the biggest festival in Siena. Before the race, there are grand costume parades and juggling performances, which make this medieval city seem to go back in time for hundreds of years.
Throughout Europe, no medieval square is as well-preserved as Field Square, and perhaps only the Central Market Square in Krakow, Poland, is barely as famous. Covering an area of 3.79 hectares, this square is the largest surviving medieval square in Europe. It was once renamed Adolf Hitler Square by the German occupation forces during World War II.