The Loggia dei Signoria, or the Loggia dei Lanzi as it is more commonly called, stands on the south side of the Piazza della Signoria. It was built between 1376 and 1382 by Benci di Cione and Simone di Francesco Talenti.
High up on the exterior of the loggia are personifications of the four 'cardinal virtues' (south side) and the three 'theological virtues' (east side). The sculptures (1384-89) were designed by Agnolo Gaddi and executed by, amongst others, Giovanni d'Ambrogio and Jacopo di Piero Guidi.
The loggia was built for the Signoria (then the governing body of the city) as a venue for public ceremonies. Its later name dates back to the reign of Duke Alessandro de' Medici (r. 1534-7), when it was used to station his troop of Swiss German Landsknechts, which were called in Italian Lanzichenecchi or Lanzi. Under Alessandro's successor,Cosimo I de' Medici (r. 1537-74), the loggia became a showcase for statues, both modern and antique.
After the construction of the Palazzo degli Uffizi (1560-81) the roof of the loggia was transformed into a grand terrace, from which members of the ruling Medici family could watch the spectacles and displays that frequently took place in the piazza below.
The loggia is home to two masterpieces of 16th century sculpture: Perseus and Medusa (1545-54) by Benvenuto Cellini and the Rape of the Sabine Woman (1583) by Giambologna.
The entrance to the loggia is flanked by two stone lions (the lion on the left is ancient Roman in origin, while the lion on the right was carved in the late 16th century). The ancient Roman statues (all restored), which stand along the back wall, were brought here from the Villa Medici in Rome.
The three sculptures in the centre of the loggia are, from left to right, the Rape of Polyxena (1866) by Pio Fedi, Ajax with the Body of Patroclus (heavily restored Roman copy of a Greek original) and Hercules Slaying the Centaur Nessus (1599) by Giambologna and Pietro Francavilla.