In 1294, on the 19th of March, the Florentine Republic named the Guild of the Silkworkers as protectors and educators of the city's abandoned children.
In 1419 the Guild began to build an impressive building dedicated to the care of those children " who are commonly called foundlings...whose fathers and mothers, against the law of human nature, have deserted them". Filippo Brunelleschi who was a member of the Guild, as Vasari said, 'made the design of the house and loggia' and directed the work personally until 1427. With this new building he abandoned the old scheme of a medieval hospital, and founded a model that became an example for the Renaissance dwelling.
Many artists contributed to the construction of the building, such as Luca and Andrea delle Robbia, il Rossellino, Filippo Lippi, Giuliano da San Gallo, Piero di Cosimo and not least Domenico Ghirlandaio, who in his masterwork, the
Adoration of the Magi, painted to the homage of the whole city of Florence to the child.
The great loggia is really an extension of the piazza itself. At one end of the loggia, there is the niche, now walled in, where there was the famous "wheel" into which unwanted children were placed. Above, there is an inscription in Latin taken from the salm XXVI: " Pater et mater reliquerunt nos, Dominus autem assumpsit " (Our fathers and mothers abandoned us, but the Lord has taken us).
On the façade there are a number of ceramic medallions by the Della Robbia family in the spaces between the arches. They show babies in swaddling clothes representing the work of the Foundling Hospital.
The Spedale degli Innocenti was the highest expression of the humanistic culture of an entire city which can be summarized by the motto of the Latin poet Giovenale "Maxima debetur puero reverentia" (Children deserve maximum respect) (Satire, XIV, 47).