THE LEGEND OF THE BLACK ROOSTER
The Black Rooster on a gold field is the historic symbol of Chianti Classico wine. The choice of that symbol was due above all to what the Black Rooster represents from the standpoint of history and popular tradition.
The legend of the Black Rooster goes back to the Middle Ages and the incident it describes points in reality to the political unification of the entire Chianti zone. It was, precisely, the behavior of a black rooster that decided the zone’s fate.
According to the legend, in the medieval period, when the republics of Florence and Siena were engaged in bitter conflicts with each seeking to prevail over the other, the Chianti territory was the theater of almost continuous clashes because of its location between the two cities. To put an end to the fighting and establish a definitive border, the two antagonists agreed to an unusual or even bizarre solution. A rider would depart from the capital of each of the two republics and the border would be drawn at the point where the horsemen met. The riders were to set out at dawn and the signal for the race to begin would be the crowing of a rooster announcing the new day. That arrangement was completely in line with the customs of those times when the rhythms of daily life were measured by natural mechanisms. In preparations for the race, the choice of rooster was a more decisive factor than the choice of rider or horse. The Sienese opted for a while rooster, while the Florentines chose a black bird, which they kept closed up in a small pen. They sealed out the light and gave the bird little to eat, so that it was famished.
On the long-awaited day of the race, the rooster began to crow loudly as soon as it was removed from its pen, although it was still some time before dawn. His crowing permitted the Florence rider to leave immediately and with a big advantage over the Sienese horseman, who could not depart before the regular time when the first light of dawn induced his white bird to crow. Because of the time lost in comparison with the Florentine rider, the Siena horseman managed to cover only 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) of the route before meeting his competitor in the vicinity of Fonterutoli.
As a result, nearly all of Chianti passed into the hands of the Florentine republic long before Siena itself fell to its traditional opponent.
After that legendary horserace, the Black Rooster became the symbol of the League of Chianti, which was assigned administrative and military defense duties within the Republic of Florence.
Given the zone’s political significance, the Black Rooster was depicted on the walls of the Salone del Cinquecento by Giorgio Vasari when the famous painter, architect and author was called upon in the mid-16th century to remodel the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.