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San Pancrazio e la "Porta Occidentalis"

Terzo importante contributo di Francoeffe

Nella terza cerchia di mura, in fondo a quella che oggi è via Strozzi, si apriva una porta che in epoca Carolingia si chiamava “Porta occidentalis’, essendo questa rivolta verso ovest. Gli antichi fiorentini però la ribattezzarono col nome storpiato del Santo cui era dedicata la piccola chiesa.
L’ antica ‘Porta occidentalis’ fu chiamata ‘Porta San Pancrazio’, anzi – in dialetto fiorentino- San Brancrazio. Dalla porta partiva una strada (l’attuale via della Spada) che conduceva alla chiesa e monastero di San Pancrazio – a quel tempo fuor dalle mura-, attorno a cui si era sviluppato un nutrito borgo.
Quando, al riparo delle mura, il borgo si estese assumendo il rango di sestiere, la sua insegna divenne due branche rosse di leone, derivate dal nome storpiato del santo : “San Brancrazio con la insegna della branca di leone per lo nome”. Il monastero fu edificato intorno al 1150 per le benedettine di Sant’Ellero (cioè di Sant’Ilario ndr). Era stata Itta, l’abbadessa di Sant’Ellero, a donare il bosco di Vallombrosa a San Giovanni Gualberto. Papa Alessandro IV assegnò , nel 1235, tutto il complesso all’Ordine dei Vallombrosani, nel frattempo diffusi e assai seguiti nella città di Firenze. Successivamente la chiesa fu ampliata intorno al 1300 in stile gotico come la vicina Santa Maria Novella. Nel quattrocento il nuovo ampliamento in stile rinascimentale fu attribuito in un primo tempo a Leon Battista Alberti, l’architetto che aveva costruito per la potente e ricchissima famiglia Rucellai un palazzo nei dintorni.
I Rucellai erano con i Federighi fra i più importanti patroni della chiesa. Nel 1078 la contessa Matilde realizzò una nuova cerchia, più ampia delle precedenti e maggiormente consistente, a protezione delle possibili incursioni di cavalieri tedeschi. Si trattava di quella che Dante appellò come ‘..l’ antica cerchia.’. Il lato est correva lungo quella che oggi è via del Proconsolo: alcuni segni sulla sua carreggiata ne evidenziano il tracciato e alcune torri di guardia.
Il complesso di San Pancrazio era dedicato al Martire che nei primi secoli, sotto Diocleziano anche se quattordicenne, non cedette alle lusinghe che gli furono prospettate affinchè abiurasse la Fede cristiana da poco abbracciata. Non cedette neppure a quelle dell’Imperatore : “ Fanciullo, io ti conforto di non morire di mala sorte. Abbandona il tuo proposito e ti terrò come figlio”. “Io sono fanciullo di corpo ma vecchio di senno”.
La matrona Ottavilla lo seppellì decapitato al secondo miglio della via Aurelia. Papa Gregorio Magno dopo un omelia tenuta sulla sua tomba, nel frattempo divenuta una Basilica, contribuì non poco a estendere la fama del Santo oltre i confini, in tutta Europa. Da allora, per avere tenuto ferma la sua fede è ritenuto il punitore degli spergiuri e Santo della Giustizia Se fino ad allora i Giudici facevano talvolta giurare gli accusati la propria innocenza sulla tomba di San Pietro, affermatasi la fama di Pancrazio, facevano giurare sulla sua. “Essendo quivi venuti ed il colpevole essendo ardito di giurare la falsità sopra l’avello di colui (Pancrazio ndr), non potè ritirare la mano a se e poco istante morì invitto. Onde infino al dì d’oggi si tiene che sopra le reliquie di San Pancrazio si fa giuramento per le cose gravi che accaggiono”.
La chiesa, anche se molto piccola, è rammentata su alcuni documenti fino dal 931 ma il Villani racconta che la sua esistenza risale al tempo di Carlo Magno. Al piccolo edificio si affiancò verso la metà del 1100 un monastero per le monache benedettine. Successivamente Papa Alessandro IV lo assegnò ai frati vallombrosani. Quando nel 1172 la Signoria fece costruire la prima cerchia comunale, ingrandendo ancora la città che contava circa 35.000 abitanti, la porta venne spostata fino all’inizio dell’attuale via Palazzolo, prendendo il nome di ‘ Porta San Paolo’. La chiesa di San Pancrazio divenne una delle prime 36 parrocchie fiorentine.
Leon Battista Alberti, su incarico di Giovanni Rucellai, disegnò la Cappella del Santo Sepolcro adiacente all’antica chiesa. Di fronte all’antico monastero, lungo via della Spada, un ospedale prendeva anch’esso il nome di San Pancrazio. Poi furono accolti i Domenicani prima del loro trasferimento nella chiesetta di Santa Maria della Vigna. La tradizione vuole che vi abbia soggiornato anche San Domenico di passaggio da Firenze.
Adesso la chiesa, sconsacrata, è sede del “Museo Marini” che espone le opere del Maestro ed ospita mostre di Arte Moderna. Il Monastero, dopo molti rimaneggiamenti e destinazioni (è stata anche Manifattura Tabacchi), è adesso sede di molte Associazioni d’Arma.



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