The tradition of the totemic animal in the Italian cities of the Middle Ages was very strong, especially in Florence, but also in Venice which has as its symbol a lion, also a symbol of the republic.
The most famous representation of a lion associated with Marzocco is that of Donatello, (Florence, 1386 – Florence, 13 December 1466), a beautiful sculpture that in the early Florentine Renaissance, synthesized with a beautiful intuition, a lion holding with its right paw a shield representing the Red Lily on a white field Guelph symbol of the city positioned on the Arengario of Palazzo Vecchio and replaced in 1812 with a copy.
It was common and traditional practice to raise the statue of Marzocco, the lion of Florence, the heir of Mars, the divinity that with the advent of Christianity led to the veneration of the Christian patron saint and citizen St. John the Baptist, crowning the statue of Marzocco on the occasion of the feasts of the patron saint.
“four days before and four days after the day of St. John the Baptist it was customary to crown the Marzocco with a golden crown enamelled in white and red in whose band we read the following couplet, composed by Messer Francesco Sacchetti: “Crown port for the worthy homeland, so that freedom each cloak of golden crown and jeweled is crowned for the Feasts of our Protector St. John Batista” and during that time, Debtors, ceased or bankrupt debtors, bandits and those convicted of any crime had full freedom and security.
The event is held on the morning of the Sunday before June 24 with a procession from the Palagio di Parte Guelfa with the crown, made by the workshop of Master Goldsmith Paolo Penko, supported on a cushion by a Florentine Madonna to be then placed by the Mayor and the president of the Society of St. John the Baptist on the head of the Marzocco. The same rite is repeated the following Sunday on June 24 for the removal of the crown.