In the early morning of November 4 1966, after seventeen inches of rain had fallen earlier at the Arno’s source near Monte Falterona, the Arno spilled over into Florence and flooded the city, at some spots rising more than 20 feet above street level. The flood devastated the city, killing more than 30 people in the city and ruining countless of works of art and historical texts and papers.
In the image at right, the Baptistery is surrounded by the November 4 floodwaters. Five of the ten bronze panels on Lorenzo Ghiberti’s east doors had been ripped off and were initially missing, as well as two panels from Andrea Pisano’s south doors.
While years of painstaking work restored many of the works of art, some were irreparably damaged, particularly Cimabue’s Crucifixion, which became an iconic image of the damage, rescue, and restoration efforts related to the 1966 flood. It was not the city’s worst flood—the floods of 1557 and 1333 reportedly killed many more people.
Interestingly, on the same day in 1966, Venice suffered its worst recorded flood ever in the city, with floodwaters reaching 194cm (more than six feet) above sea level.
Clark, Robert. Dark Water: Art, Disaster, and Redemption in Florence. New York: Anchor Books, 2008.