Scuola del Cuoio was founded after World War II through the collaborative efforts of the Franciscan friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori and Casini families, Florentine leather artisans since the 1930’s. Their mission was to give orphans of the war a means to learn a practical trade with which to earn a living. Marcello Gori and Silvano Casini brought their master craftsmen to Scuola del Cuoio to teach these youngsters the leather craft trade. Santa Croce, with its strategic position along the banks of the Arno river, since the 13th century had been historically the area of the tanners. The tanned hides were used for centuries for the leather manufacturing of the city and at the Monastery itself to cover the great manuscripts. Post-war Scuola del Cuoio brought those traditions back to the Monastery.
During the Renaissance, the Medici family donated this dormitory wing to the Franciscans and commissioned architect Michelozzo for the project. The main corridor, with its vaulted ceiling and coats of arms of the Medici family over the doorways and mantle, and decorated with frescoes executed by the school of Domenico Ghirlandaio, was converted by the friars to host Scuola del Cuoio and its social project.
The students were taught the differences between the various kinds of leather, the methods to cut leather by hand and began to create a variety of leather items ranging from handbags and briefcases to other small leather goods. The more gifted students learned how to make artistic objects such as desk sets and jewelry cases and the art of gilding leather using 22 carat gold.
In May of 1950, Scuola del Cuoio, due to the growing demand of fine quality hand-crafted products, opened its doors to clients inside the laboratories of the school. Scuola del Cuoio supplied the 6th Fleet (stationed in the Mediterranean), the U.S. Air Force, the 5th Army and the American Embassies in Europe and these alliances contributed greatly to Scuola del Cuoio’s popularity in the United States and even led to the desk of the Oval Office where, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then-President of the United States, used a leather desk set hand-crafted and gilded from Scuola del Cuoio.
With support of the Italian Foreign Ministry, the then-Mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, formally recognized the significant social role that Scuola del Cuoio played in the city and thus, created two annual scholarships for boys from Third World countries. At the end of the 1950’s, in agreement with the Ministry of Justice, Scuola del Cuoio began to offer courses to inmates inside Florence’s Murate prison and in juvenile detention centers.
Over the decades, visitors and clients have included the Royal Families of England, Sweden, Greece and Japan, the President of the Italian Republic, Sen. and Mrs. Ted Kennedy, Madeleine Albright, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.
Many visitors from the entertainment world own Scuola del Cuoio products and have visited the artisan workshop. James Stewart, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Grace Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn and Gwyneth Paltrow, Buddy Hackett, Rob Schneider, John Houston, Steven Spielberg, Zubin Mehta and Jack Nicklaus to name just a few. The successive mayors of Florence have commissioned Scuola del Cuoio to create guest books, albums and writing pads with the coat of arms of the city displayed during official ceremonies. The Bishop’s Court, the Internal Ministry, the Italian Air Force, the Official Academy of the State Police, and famous hotels such as the Ritz in Paris and the Hassler in Rome order their leather goods from Scuola del Cuoio.
The unique location, the quality of its products and the commitment to tradition has made Scuola del Cuoio famous. It remains the largest genuine laboratory in the city where clients can witness the artisans create the leather goods in the midst of centuries-old history. With the passing of Silvano Casini and Marcello Gori in 2003, two of the founding fathers of the Scuola del Cuoio, the vision of the school lives on through the family. Marcello three daughters, Laura, Francesca, and Barbara, and grandson Tommaso (Laura’s son) manage Scuola del Cuoio and continue to be committed to the great tradition of quality products and personal customer service.
The friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori family share a common vision for Scuola del Cuoio: to revive the minor arts, drawing from the experience of the master craftsmen, and to uphold the great traditions of Florentine quality craftsmanship, also by providing a unique learning experience for visitors and students from all over the world.
Today, Scuola del Cuoio continues to enroll students and offer scholarships to need-based applicants reaffirming the important social commitment that has distinguished Scuola del Cuoio from its inception. Full courses range from three months to full year and short courses are offered from even three hours to a week for students, visitors and tourists alike.
Scuola del Cuoio follows the centuries-old Florentine tradition of placing the master craftsman and the apprentice side-by-side during everyday activities. Students and the master craftsmen work in the workshops located in the brick-vaulted rooms of the historic Novitiate’s Courtyard and use hand-made tools that also date back from a half century ago. In order to complete the overall view on the leather making business, Scuola del Cuoio organizes visits to local tanneries and fairs during the year.
Scuola del Cuoio is pleased to renew its social pledge and commitment to the student by offering fellowships and scholarships to European unprivileged, awarded by administrators of Scuola del Cuoio with the approval of the Provincial Father of the Franciscan Order who review each student’s scholarship application. Application deadline for both fellowships and scholarships is April 1st for awards to be granted for the following calendar year.
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