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Who is “La Berta” ?

Who is “La Berta” ?

The bust of “La Berta” in the facade of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore

In the heart of Florence, close to the Duomo, the church Santa Maria Maggiore can be found. On one of the facades a white bust of a woman called “La Berta” can be found. Legend has it that in the year 1327, on the date of September 16th an astrologer was sentenced to death for witchcraft. As he was being taken up to the stake he started crying out for water but a woman called Berta, who was watching from her window, started yelling:  “Don’t give it to him, don’t give  it to him”.  The reason for her being against his request is because it was believed that being a sorcerer, by drinking water he could acquire special powers and avoid being burned. The astrologer, before dying on the stake and after hearing her scream, shouted out to her:  ” Ah, and you on the other hand, you will never remove your head from there”.  From that moment, almost 700 years ago, the petrified head of “La Berta”, high up on the façade of the church, has been gazing down on Florentines going about their daily business.    And this is the story of “La Berta”…

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