An account by Dr. Bruno Santi (I)
In that period I was about to complete my degree in History of Art, in fact, I was supposed to take my last exam on November 5th. I lived alongside the Arno in the San NiccolÚ area and the first thing I did was go to Santa Croce because the situation was extremely serious there. In fact, I was able to help the soldiers take away the St. Francis of the Bardi by Giotto, painted in the Duecento.
I tried to go and work in places where my help was most needed to save the works of art and therefore went almost immediately afterwards to the church of SS. Apostoli. The mud was extremely deep and the violence of the flood had even managed to move the organ so that we found it blocking the door. We removed all the mud and then I went to the church of Santa Trinita where for a while I worked at cleaning up the chapels with the Ghirlandaio frescoes.
Later I worked at the Horne Museum on the illuminated manuscripts damaged in the flood, though I was to spend the longest period of time at the Lemonary in the Boboli Gardens. Many of the panels damaged in the flood were brought there, including a St. Peter that had already suffered harm in the two previous floods of 1333 and 1557.
I worked at the Lemonary, with another colleague, John Schofield, for several months. We had to keep the growth of mildew on the Cimabue Crucifix under control and John invented a faster system which consisted in blowing, or more or less spraying, the antimildew product onto the painting, which helped us to save a great deal of precious time. It was very hard work.
We were also without electric light or water in Florence in that period and I remember an old well was re-opened in Costa San Giorgio so that we could draw our own supplies of drinking water. I also remember taking part in an enormous torchlit procession and this was the first time I was to hear Joan Baez's song "We shall overcome"; this was really a foretaste of the protests that were to break out in 1968.
Dr. Bruno Santi is now the Head of Artistic and Historical Assets in Siena
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