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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.

(decoration of a well in Montepulciano
showing the coat of arms of the Medici
family and the lion, symbol of Florence)

The Granduchy of Tuscany

Outside the former Papal State it is unlikely to find coats of arms of the Popes. The exception is due to Popes who built churches or palaces in their country of origin. Many Popes came from Tuscany and that explains why a few coats of arms can be found here. Tuscany was a State on its own, the Granduchy of Tuscany, and it was established by Cosimo de' Medici in the first half of the XVIth century. It lasted until 1859, the year the last Grand Duke Leopoldo II had to leave Florence. In 1860 Tuscany became part of the Kingdom of Italy. Two families (with an interval during Napoleon's times) reigned in Florence: the Medici until 1737 and after that the Hapsburg-Lorraine.


The Medici family played a significant role in the election of the Popes: three of them were Medici themselves and many others were elected because of the help of the Grand Duke, for example Pius IV who used the Medici's coat of arms. The great Medici Pope is with no doubt Leo X and in Florence in Via de' Bardi quite unexpectedly you find his coat of arms (previously in the church of S. Stefano Maggiore). His coat of arms with that of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici his cousin who became Pope Clement VII can be seen on the fašade of S. Paolino. Another coat of arms of Pope Leo X decorates the fašade of SS. Annunziata.

Pope Leo XI, Alessandro de' Medici was before his election Archbishop of Florence for 32 years and he rebuilt the Bishop's Palace in Piazza del Duomo. A gigantic coat of arms celebrates this fact. The three roses with the motto "Sic Florui" (I blossomed in this way) are a reference to the fact the Leo XI was pope for only a few days. Elected on April 1, 1605, he died on April 27. A similar symbol is on his tomb in St. Peter's (it is also the icon of a section of this website).

The Bishop's Palace courtyard hosts several coats of arms of the cardinals who lived there. It is puzzling to see here a coat of arms of Pius II, who was bishop in Siena (see picture above left).
Many Tuscan churches had no fašade (S. Lorenzo in Florence is an example). Both the Cathedrals of Florence and Arezzo did not have the fašade and they were given their current aspect in the second half of the XIXth century or at the beginning of the XXth century. The image above right shows the coat of arms of Pius IX on the fašade of Florence Cathedral and below right the coat of arms of Pius X on the fašade of Arezzo Cathedral. To the left of these the coat of arms of the Italian Royal Family (Casa Savoia).

In the Cathedral of Florence there is a monument to a Pope. In general it is thought to be in honour of John XXIII an anti-Pope who lived at the beginning of the XVth century. However the coat of arms shows the symbol of Boniface VIII and there is no clear answer. It is also amazing that both Popes are among the least popular ones.

In Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a town between Siena and Arezzo in the Chianti area. Here Marcello Cervini was born and his very short period as Pope Marcellus II in 1555, while it has left no trace in Rome, is honoured in the fašade of his family Palace.
Cervini comes from cervo=deer and that's why the coat of arms shows the animal.
The Cervini family was very influential in Montepulciano and a splendid coat of arms of a Cardinal Cervini can be found in the Church of S. Biagio. Let's spend a couple of words on this church, which has a Greek cross shape. At one point it was considered as a model for the completion of St Peter's itself and you may try to figure out how St Peter's would have been if this project had been chosen.

The predecessor of Marcellus II, Pope Julius III Giovan Maria Ciocchi del Monte, had a palace in the main square of Montepulciano and his coat of arm as a Cardinal is typical of that full Renaissance period.

The top floor was added to the palace during the baroque period: you can find a close-up of these beautiful windows at You can see more of this Pope at


Pienza is the self-celebration of Pius II, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, pope in the period 1458-1464. A man of great culture, friend of artists, he changed the little hamlet of Corsignano, near Montepulciano, into the ideal city of early Renaissance and gave it his name.
The five moons of his coat of arms are everywhere in this little town. Above you see the Duomo.

On the main square two palaces flank the church. The Piccolomini Palace is built in typical Florentine style, while the palace built by Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (soon to become Pope Alexander VI) has a more sober look. The well has the pope's coat of arms.


Siena was until April 17, 1555 an independent republic, when it fell after a 15 months' siege laid by the Florentine supporters of Charles V. The loss of independence froze its development and that explains why it is among the best preserved medieval towns of Italy. In the Cathedral there are the statues of six popes from Siena (or having some connection with Siena), namely Alexander III, Pius II, Pius III, Marcellus II, Paul V and Alexander VII. The two who really mattered for Siena were Pius II and Alexander VII. Their families (Piccolomini and Chigi) were among the most prominent ones until a few years ago. In the picture you can see (top left) Pius II (on a palace in Via di CittÓ), (top right) Pius III (Library in honour of his uncle Pius II in the Cathedral, the coat of arms is that of a Cardinal and it is a work by Andrea Bregno), (lower part left) Alexander VII (Chapel of St. John the Baptist in the Cathedral), (lower part right) Gregory XII, the pope who accepted being demoted to Cardinal and who in 1407 fled from Rome with the papal court to Siena (the coat of arms is in the Cathedral).

SEE THESE OTHER EXHIBITIONS (for a full list see my Detailed Index)