The Merchant’s Lodge in Piazza Salvi, Barga Vecchia was built by order of Cosimo I to protect the citizens from the rain and to be used as a grain market. On one side of the entrance there is a lion, the Marzocco, a statue that symbolised the Florentine Republic.
In 2006 the original marzocco statue was removed for restoration as it was in a terrible condition and in danger of falling apart.
A copy was made and that has been gracing the piazza ever since.
The Marzocco was apparently the first piece of public secular sculpture commissioned by the Republic of Florence, in the late 14th century. It stood at the heart of Florence in the Piazza della Signoria at the end of the platform attached to the Palazzo Vecchio called the ringhiera, from which speakers traditionally harangued the crowd.
The Marzocco was such a powerful symbol of the Florentine Republic that the republican Florentine troops in the Siege of Florence (1529–1530) were known as marzoccheschi, “sons of the Marzocco”and pro-Medici besiegers of the city in 1530 held a funeral and ritually buried a representation of it, with bells tolling. Prisoners of war from Pisa were forced to kiss it in 1364