Florence is famous for its magnificent religious complex, basilicas, and churches, rich of art created by leading artists such as Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, Vasari, Filippo Lippi, Ghirlandaio and many others. The artistic wealth of Florentine churches attests to the importance and power of the city in centuries past. Below the main religious buildings that should be visited to understand the glorious past of the city better.
Florence Cathedral – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo)
Florence’s Duomo, or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, together with the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile, form one of the most outstanding religious ensembles in the world.
Florence Cathedral – Baptistery – Giotto’s Bell Tower
Florence Cathedral - Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Type: Monumental cathedral 14th – 19th century
Address: Piazza del Duomo
Phone: +39 055 2302885
Opening hours: Cathedral 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Dome Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 7:00 pm and Saturday 8:30 am to 6:20 pm, Bell tower 8:15 am to 6:50 pm, Crypt 10 am to 5 pm
Tickets: Cathedral free – single ticket € 10,00 full price € 2.00 reduced admission Dome, Crypt of Santa Reparata, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Baptistery, Bell tower
Services: audio guide rental – skip the line € 7.00
Accessibility for the disabled: Partial entrance (only the Cathedral)
Note: To climb the dome it is mandatory to reserve a day and a time. The reservation for the dome can not be changed: If you are not present on the selected day and time, you will lose your reservation to access the monument. Reserving entrance to Giotto’s Campanile and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, is not mandatory, but it is recommended.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore impresses with its monumental size and exterior beauty, thanks to the use of white marble from Carrara, green from Prato, red from Maremma and terracotta tiles. The cathedral has a layout consisting of a basilica with three naves body welded to a huge round triconica that supports the immense dome of Brunelleschi. Spanning 54 meters in width, it is the largest dome ever built in brick. The dome holds the largest surface decorated with frescoes – 3600 m², painted between 1572-1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari.
Entrance to the cathedral is free. In general, there are lines at the entry due to the large number of tourists. Inside the cathedral, besides admiring the artistic and architectural beauty, there are two routes to follow – the route of the Dome and the route of the Crypt (requires payment).
With the route of the Dome, you can climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome and observe closely the beautiful frescoes of the Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari inside the dome. Going up a little more, you will reach the lantern on top the dome, which offers a magnificent view of Florence. Be prepared, though, there are 463 steps to take on foot (there is no elevator).
The route of the Crypt takes you into the basement of the Cathedral. Inside the Cathedral, between the first and second pillar on the right side of the nave, there is a staircase that leads down to the archaeological excavations of the ancient basilica of Santa Reparata and the crypt.
History about the Florence Cathedral
In 1296, led by architect Arnolfo di Cambio, the construction of the cathedral began on the ancient foundations of the church of Santa Reparata. After Arnolfo’s death in 1302, the work was interrupted indefinitely. The discovery in 1330 of the relics of the revered Bishop of Florence, San Zanobi, under the church of Santa Reparata, breathed new life into the construction. In 1334, management of the project was given to Giotto, who focused his efforts on the Campanile that he had designed, but he died in 1337. Andrea Pisano continued the work, especially on the bell tower, but died with the arrival of the Black Death in 1348 and the work was yet again interrupted. In 1349, construction continued under the oversight of Francesco Talenti and Giovanni di Lapo Ghini. In 1418 a public competition was announced for the design of the dome.
Two rising artists Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti presented worthwhile projects. Brunelleschi, however, was given the task of construction the dome. Brunelleschi adopted a highly innovative solution, preparing a double self-sustaining shell during the construction, without resorting to conventional supportive reinforcements. As suggested by Brunelleschi, the dome should initially have been decorated with golden mosaics, to reflect the light coming through the windows of the drum. After his death, this expensive project was put aside and replaced with frescoes. The Grand Duke Cosimo I Medici chose the theme of Universal Judgement and entrusted the task to Giorgio Vasari.
These frescoes, when seen up close during the climb of the dome, show the perspective distortions and color use to optimize the view from below. For the complexity of the endeavor and the extraordinary result, the construction of the dome is considered the first great Renaissance architecture affirmation.
The facade of the cathedral was left unfinished. In 1587, under the government of Francesco I Medici, the architect Bernardo Buontalenti, who introduced more modern elements to the original design, destroyed the existing decorations. Only in 1871, after an international competition, he began building an original facade, designed by Emilio De Fabris. After his death, Luigi del Moro continued the work until the conclusion of the construction in 1887.
Description of the artworks
At the base of the crown, beyond the rose window, there are panes with the busts of the great artists of the past. In the center of the gable a circle with the Eternal Father, the work of Passaglia. The three great bronze doors of Augustus Passaglia and Joseph Cassioli date back to the period 1899-1903 and are decorated with scenes from the life of the Madonna. The mosaic lunettes above the doors were designed by Niccolò Barabino and depict The Charity among the founders of Florentine philanthropic institutions; Christ enthroned with Mary and St. John the Baptist and Artisans, Florentine merchants and humanists paying homage to the Virgin.
In the pediment on the central portal, a bas-relief of Titus Sarrocchi with Mary on the throne with a scepter of flowers. The area of the apse of the cathedral consists of an octagonal dome and the three apses. The elegant windows of the south and east sides are attributed to Lorenzo Ghiberti. Along the perimeter of the church runs an internal balcony on corbels, at the tax of the crossing. The floor in polychrome marble was designed by Baccio d’Agnolo and continued by his son Julian from 1526 to 1560, Francesco da San Gallo and other masters (1520-1526).
The composite of figurative stained glass windows is the richest of Italy, with as many as 44 stained glasses in front of 55 windows dating from between 1434 and 1455 with the predominance of Lorenzo Ghiberti as a supplier of the drawings. The mullioned windows of the nave and transept depict Saints and characters from the Old and New Testament, while the large round eyes on the drum represent Marian scenes. The major Renaissance artists of that time drew the images for the windows. Including Donatello (the Coronation of the Virgin, only visible from the nave), Lorenzo Ghiberti (Assumption of the Virgin, San Lorenzo enthroned between four Angels, St. Stephen enthroned between four Angels, Ascension, Agony in the Garden, Presentation in the Temple), Paolo Uccello (Nativity and Resurrection) and Andrea del Castagno. The rose window depicts Christ crowning Mary designed by Gaddo Gaddi (XIV century).
The high altar is of Baccio Bandinelli and the wooden crucifix by Benedetto da Maiano (1495-1497). The grandstand, also called San Zanobi, has at its center the chapel where the relics of the saint and bishop of Florence are kept. His bronze sarcophagus is the work of Lorenzo Ghiberti (1442). The central section depicts the miracle of the resurrection of a child, which occurred in the city in Borgo Albizi. The painting above is The Last Supper by Giovanni Balducci, whereas the mosaic glass paste of the Bust of Saint Zanobi. In the right tribune, called the Immaculate Conception, stands the central chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, with the altar by Michelozzo. The left grandstand, that of the Holy Cross, contains in the floor the solar gnomon of Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli from 1450, updated with a graduated bronze dial. Here, every June 21 the observation of the summer solstice takes place.
At the center of the counter-italic clock the heads of the evangelists painted by Paolo Uccello (1443). The clock, for liturgical use, is one of the last functioning that uses the so-called Italic hora. A day divided into 24 “hours” of varying lengths depending on the season, which begins with the sound of vespers, in use until the eighteenth century. To the right of the central portal the tomb of Bishop Antonio d’Orso (1343) Tino di Camaino can be found. The adjoining pillar has a table with a gold background depicting Saint Catherine of Alexandria and a devotee by to the school of Bernardo Daddi (1340).
Archeological area – Cathedral of Santa Reparata
The underground area of the cathedral was used for centuries for the burial of Florentine bishops. Recently the archaeological history of this area was reconstructed from the remains of Roman houses, an early Christian pavement, to the ruins of the old cathedral of Santa Reparata dating from the year 405 d.C. The basilica has guarded the body of San Zanobi from 1050 until 1374 when the remains of the saint were transferred to the new Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
The vast area contains numerous remains of walls and floors of houses of Roman “Florentia”. The floor is formed by a polychrome mosaic with geometric decorations, among which also a cross pattern. Noteworthy is the beautiful peacock symbol of immortality, one of the few remaining figurative elements. Numerous are the tombstones. You access to the excavations by a staircase on the left aisle, where, near the entrance, the tomb of Filippo Brunelleschi is located.
Baptistery of San Giovanni
Type: Renaissance Baptistery 13th – 15th century
Address: Piazza del Duomo
Phone: +39 055 2302885
Opening hours: 8:15 am to 6:30 Tickets
sts: single ticket € 10,00 full price € 2.00 reduced path Dome, Crypt of Santa Reparata, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Baptistery, Bell Tower
The building is beautifully decorated both outside and inside. It is most famous for the mosaics of the dome and the gate of Paradise, by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence, is located opposite the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The octagonal building’s main facade faces the cathedral. The baptistery was built on the remains of a Roman structure of the first century AD, considered originally a temple dedicated to the god Mars and decorated with mosaics in geometric patterns. The real foundation date is uncertain and must be somewhere between IV – V century, perhaps following the conversion to Christianity of Queen Teodolinda. It has undergone alterations in the seventh century during the Lombard domination. In 1128 the building officially became the city’s baptistery, and the external marble covering was added.
In 1202 the apse following a rectangular plan was realized, substituting the previous semi-circular one. The building has an octagonal layout, with a diameter of 25.60 m. A dome with eight segments covers it; the outside is masked by the attic and covered by a flat pyramid roof. The exterior ornament, made of white Carrara marble and green Prato marble, is marked by three horizontal bands, decorated with geometric panels, in which windows with pediments are inserted. The three bronze doors, made according to a consistent figurative program during over a century, depict the history of humanity and the Redemption, as in a huge Bible telling the story from the Old to the New Testament. The three bronze doors were created between 1330 and 1452 by Andrea Pisano (first door) and Lorenzo Ghiberti (the last two doors, facing north and east). Michelangelo named the second door the “Gate of Paradise“.
It consists of panels entirely overlaid with gold, made between 1425 and 1452. For the realization of the two doors, Ghiberti opened a workshop of bronze workers, where artists like Donatello, Michelozzo, Masolino and Uccello were trained. During the restoration that started in 2013, it was discovered, while cleaning the panels, that the figures of the bas-reliefs of Lorenzo Ghiberti are golden, using amalgam mercury gilding on a basis of bronze, while another is made of panels entirely covered with gold. The most important port is the Gate of Heaven, created by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The interior of the dome is decorated with mosaics on a gold background with depictions of the angelic hierarchies. The mosaics of the apse were made in 1220. Later the complex mosaic of the cupola with octagonal wedges was added between 1270 and 1300, with the intervention of Brother Jacopo and the participation of Coppo di Marcovaldo and Cimabue. The Universal Judgement, dominated by the great figure of Christ is depicted on three of the wedges. The other five segments portray stories of Genesis, Joseph, Mary and Christ and St. John the Baptist. The interior decoration is inspired by Roman buildings, such as the Pantheon, with extensive use of mirroring polychrome marble. Inside two Roman sarcophagi can be found: the one where the Bishop John of Velletri was buried is called “della fioraia”. The other one is decorated with a wild boar hunting scene and a sixteenth-century lid with the Medici coat of arms that added when it was reused as a tomb for Guccio de’ Medici, Gonfaloniere of Justice in 1299.
The tomb dedicated to Baldassarre Cossa, the anti-pope John XXIII, who died in Florence in 1419, is located to the right of the apse. Donatello and Michelozzo created it between 1422 and 1428. The floor has valuable marble inlays, with geometric, zoomorphic and phytomorphic patterns often related to fantasy animals. In 1576, on the occasion of the baptism of the expected male heir of Grand Duke Francesco I Medici, Bernardo Buontalenti rebuilt the baptismal font. The altar is neo-Romanesque and was created by Giuseppe Castellucci in the twentieth century. Before the altar, a grate offers a glimpse under the ground, to the excavations of the Roman Domus with geometric mosaic floors, which came to light during the digs.
Bell Tower of Giotto
Type: 14th century bell tower
Address: Piazza del Duomo
Phone: +39 055 2302885
Opening hours: 8:15 am to 6:30 pm
Admission: single ticket € 10,00 full price € 2.00 reduced path Dome, Crypt of Santa Reparata, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Baptistery, Bell Tower
Services: audio guide rental
Accessibility to disabled: no
Slim and elegant, Giotto’s Bell Tower is situated next to the right side of the cathedral. It was designed by the great painter Giotto following the guidelines of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Giotto followed the construction until his death (1337). Andrea Pisano continued the work, and Francesco Talenti completed it in 1359. The bell tower has a square base of 14.45 meters on each side and is over 84 meters height. Coupled mullioned windows and triple lancet windows on the top floor designed by Talenti bestow light and lightness, accentuating the Gothic characters of the bell tower.
The exterior was decorated with reliefs and statues, part of the supporting structure. The bottom panels (Andrea Pisano and Luca della Robbia) depict human activities. The lozenges (Andrea Pisano and students) represent the planets, the virtues, the liberal arts, the sacraments. The statues in the niches depict the above patriarchs, kings, prophets and sibyls, originally all the work of Andrea Pisano. In the middle of the fifteenth century, they were partially replaced with statues of Donatello and Nanni di Bartolo. Due to the progressive degradation, the originals have been relocated to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (where they are on display) and have been replaced by casts. It’s a climb of 414 marble steps to reach the upper terrace.
The basilicas of Florence
Basilica of Santa Croce and Opera di Santa Croce Museum
Area: Florentine Area
Type: Franciscan Gothic basilica 14th century
Address: Piazza Santa Croce, 16
Phone: +39 055 2466105
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Tickets: € 6.00 full € 4.00 reduced – Cumulative with Casa Buonarroti € 8.50
Services: earphones rental, theme views € 10.00 Museum, Pazzi Chapel, Basilica, Chostri
The Basilica of Santa Croce’s architecture is Gothic style, built by the Franciscans monks. Inside are several chapels covered with fresco masterpieces. It stands majestically on the eastern side of the square. It is one of the most celebrated monuments of Florence, not only for its architecture but the frescoes and for the many artists, writers and Italian scientists who are buried there; Donatello, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Niccolò Machiavelli, Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi, Luigi Cherubini, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gioachino Rossini, Leon Battista Alberti, Ugo Foscolo and many others. For this reason, it is also known as “The temple of Italian Glories.“
The holy basilica was built back in 1295 and was almost certainly designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. The basilica was completed towards the end of the 14th century, but the church wasn’t consecrated until 1443. In the mid-16th century, Giorgio Vasari made numerous interventions and classical altars that covered most of the frescoes. The façade, in neo-Gothic style, was completed in the middle of the 19th century, more or less during the same period of the bell tower. On the left side is an original 14th-century porch and the tomb of Francesco Pazzi, from the same period. The basilica has an Egyptian cross plan, which is divided into three wide and solemn naves. The floor is dotted with nearly 300 funerary marble gravestones, in-lay both bas-relief. The transept is very pronounced and flanked with numerous chapels.
The Basilica is home to many paintings and sculptures of great value. Along the right wall is the “Crucifixion” by Santi di Tito, the “Madonna del Latte” by Antonio Rossellino is on the first pillar, “Road to Calvary” by Giorgio Vasari is on the right wall, and a kiosk with “Annuciazione” by Donatello (1435) is a high relief. Benedetto da Maiano made the pulpit. Along the left wall hang frescoes of saints that date back to the first half of the 15th century. On the second and third altar are two paintings by Santi di Tito, “Resurrection” and, respectively, “Supper at Emmaus”. In the fourth altar is the “Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Giorgio Vasari. Furthermore, we can find the “Pieta” by Agnolo Bronzino, and the “Ground the tombstone,” by Lorenzo Ghiberti as well as the fresco named “Assumption of Mary,” attributed to Agnolo Gaddi. The sixth altar has a painting by Giorgio Vasari, named “Pentecost.”
This is the part of the basilica with the most marked Gothic style transalpine characteristics. The frescoes, done by various artists, follow the story of the Invention of the True Cross. Much of the credit goes to Agnolo Gaddi (circa 1380), who did the Chapel’s windows. The Cross was made by maestro Figline, the Virgin in the central altarpiece by Niccolò Gerini, the “Doctors of the Church” by Giovanni del Biondo, and other artists.
Transept and chapels
To the right of the main chapel are the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels, both painted by Giotto in 1320-1325. The first cycle of paintings is entirely dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. The other the pictorial cycle is divided between SS. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. Following are the Giusti chapels, with the tombs of Carlotta and Giulia Bonaparte, Riccardi, with frescoes by Giovanni da S. Giovanni and canvases, and velvets, with frescos and an altarpiece by Giovanni del Biondo. The right arm of the transept leads to the wide Castellani Chapel. Here one can find remarkable frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi and students; the tabernacle is by Mino da Fiesole and Della Robbia school statues. Immediately adjoining is the Baroncelli Chapel, painted by Taddeo Gaddi, Giotto’s star pupil, also the author of the glasswork. On the left of the Main Chapel are six others, which follow the trend of the transept. The first is the Spinelli Chapel, followed by the Capponi, Ricasoli, Pulci-Berardi chapels. In the latter are frescoes by Bernardo Daddi (about 1330) and a glazed terracotta altarpiece by Giovanni della Robbia. Alongside the Bardi Chapel of Vernio are stories with frescoes of St. Sylvester, made by Maso di Banco (a pupil of Giotto) around 1340.
The head of the transept gives access to two other notable chapels. The first is the Niccolini Chapel with a frescoed dome from Volterra, statues by Pietro Francavilla, and two paintings by Alessandro Allori. The other, far more important, is the second chapel of the Bardi of Vernio family. Above the altar is the wooden Crucifix by Donatello criticized by Filippo Brunelleschi, who created one for the Church of Santa Maria Novella. The gilded wooden angels are by Giorgio Vasari. In the Side Chapel Machiavelli (or Salviati) with the altarpiece Martyrdom of St. Lawrence made by Jacopo Ligozzi.
Inside the basilica are many tombs and the tombs of famous Italians. In the counter-façade are playwright U.K. Nicolini, historian G. Capponi, and botanic G. Targioni Tozzetti. Alongside the right wall of the tombs of Michelangelo Buonarroti are the monument to playwright Vittorio Alfieri by Antonio Canova in 1810, the tomb of writer and politician Niccolo Machiavelli, the monument to art historian Luigi Lanzi, the monument to humanist Leonardo Bruni by Bernardo Rossellino, and the graves of musician Gioacchino Rossini and poet Ugo Foscolo.
Along the left sidewall above all is the monumental tomb of Galileo Galilei and his pupil Vincenzo Viviani. So is the monument to Charles Marsuppini, one of the most beautiful and elegant of all the 15th century, excellent work by Desiderio da Settignano. Finally the monuments to musician Luigi Cherubini and brilliant architect Leon Battista Alberti.
Hallway and Sacristy
The south transept is accessed through a portal, made by Michelozzo, into a corridor (also called Androne Novitiate). In the lunette are fresco “Madonna and Child with Saints” by Fra’ Bartolomeo and a “Deposition” by Alessandro Allori. The sacristy was built in the mid-14th century on the Peruzzi family expenses. Inside are cabinets-reliquaries of the 15th century, large frescoes by Niccolò Gerini, Taddeo Gaddi, Spinello Aretino, and the bust in polychrome glazed terracotta “Redeemer” by Giovanni della Robbia. Immediately adjoining is the Rinuccini Chapel, frescoed in 1363-1366 by Giovanni da Milano. At the end of the corridor is the Medici Chapel, designed by Michelozzo. The altarpiece in glazed terracotta Madonna with child between Angels and Saints by Andrea della Robbia.
Opera di Santa Croce Museum
It is located in the old convent rooms, mostly former refectory and cloisters. Radical renovations and expansion occurred after the disastrous flood of 1966. The first large cloister indisputable preserves architectural features of the 14th century. In the background is the Pazzi Chapel, one of the most exemplary architectural works of the Renaissance. Filippo Brunelleschi commenced it between 1429 and 1430, but its completion happened forty years later. Other excellent artists contributed, such as Desiderio da Settignano, Luca della Robbia, and Giuliano da Maiano. In the first part of the former refectory is the great crucifix on wood by Cimabue, damaged by the flood of 1966. Here are also the frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi and Andrea Orcagna, as well as the statue of St. Louis of Toulouse by Donatello. The latter is one of the first large bronze statues cast in the Renaissance and then covered with fine golden brown. To access the second cloister, completed after Brunelleschi’s death, one must go through an elegant portal made by Benedetto da Maiano.
Basilica of San Lorenzo - Medici Chapels - Princes Chapel
Area: Florentine Area
Type: 11th – 14th century
Address: Piazza San Lorenzo – Florence city center
Located on the western side of the square it was, from the first statement to the extinction of the family, the “personal” church of the Medici family, who embellished it constantly making use of the best architects, painters and sculptors in Florence (including Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Michelangelo Buonarroti).
Practically nothing remains of the original cathedral, consecrated in 393 A.D. by St. Ambrose; It was rebuilt and rededicated in 1059 by Pope Nicholas II. In 1418 the Medici, already protagonists of the political life in Florence, chose it as their own church, giving to other families with the idea to contribute to the costs and have their own chapels inside. The project was entrusted to Filippo Brunelleschi, and the building was finished in 1461, after the architect’s death. Subsequently, the library and the mausoleum of the Medici, called the Chapel of the Princes, were added. The facade has remained unfinished until Michelangelo elaborated the project by the commission of Pope Leo X. The bell tower was completed in 1740.
The interior is spacious and harmonious, in perfect harmony with the designs of Filippo Brunelleschi, and divided into three naves. The inner facade is the work of Michelangelo, while the decoration of architectural elements is work of Antonio and Tommaso Rossellino, and Pagno di Lapo Portigiani (15th century). There is a remarkable collection of artwork inside. Along the right side are some of the most important, such as the monumental painting “Martyrdom of St. Sebastian Empoli” (Jacopo Chimenti) and the “Marriage of the Virgin” by Rosso Fiorentino, as well as the marble altar by Desiderio da Settignano (circa 1460). In front of a bronze pulpit, unfinished by Donatello and his assistants is a cork shaped crucifix in wood by Antonio Pollaiuolo. Some of the most important works along the left side are the painting by Pietro Annigoni, “St. Joseph and the Child Jesus” and, in the Martelli Chapel, the “Annunciation” altarpiece by Flippo Lippi (1450), and the large fresco Martyrdom of St. Lawrence by Agnolo Bronzino (1565-1569). In front of the chapel is the other bronze pulpit of Donatello.
The decoration of the dome was painted in the mid 18th century. Notable works of art are contained in the two chapels of the transept, of which the most notable is “St. Anthony Abbot Enthroned with Saints”. Lorenzo and Giuliano, of the school of Domenico Ghirlandaio, immediately next to the Old Sacristy.
Built by Brunelleschi in the years 1421-1426 specifically for Giovanni di Bicci, the founder of the Medici family. The cubic space is divided into smaller volumes carefully divided and linked by proportional ratios, in full harmony with the stylistic standards of the designer. The decoration is largely due to Donatello, although Buggiano and Pagno di Lapo made the altar. Donatello made the bronze doors with very expressive representations. Patrete left the funerary monument to Piero and Giovanni Medici by Verrocchio (1472). In the basement of the basilica, open only during exhibitions, is the tomb of Cosimo the Elder, made by Verrocchio, and Donatello’s tomb.
Cloisters and Library
These are the most relevant parts of the convent, enlarged by Michelozzo. The first of the two was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and contains, among other works, the monument to Paul Giovio, made by Francesco da Sangallo in 1560. The second cloister has much more 14th century characteristics. It opens up to the Laurentian Library, made by Michelangelo, who combines the unity of style with the originality of some solutions. Pope Clement VII commissioned it, and the artist established the project in 1524. After ten years of Michelangelo managing the construction, Bartolomeo Ammannati and then Giorgio Vasari succeeded him, until its completion in the mid-16th century. With exceptional content, it has the most prestigious and valuable collection of manuscripts in all of Italy. Born by the initiative of Cosimo il Vecchio Medici and was enlarged by Lorenzo Il Magnifico. After some ups and downs due to the expulsion of the Medici family from Florence, it was finally reported in the city in 1523. Its manuscripts range from a period of the 4th century BC. Some of the most important examples are the “Annals” of Tacitus and the “Letters” of Cicero, the “Bible Amiatina” (7th -8th century), a “Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri transcribed and annotated by Filippo Villani. There is also an important collection of miniatures from the period between the 11th and the 16th century.
Medici Chapel and the Chapel of the Princes
In the apse of the basilica is the access to the Medici Chapels and the Cappella dei Principi, the actual names of the rooms used for the burial of the Medici and the New Sacristy, the latter was designed by Michelangelo as well as one of the funerary chapels. A large dome tops the Cappella dei Principi by roof tiles reminiscent of the apse of the cathedral. The crypt contains the remains of the Grand Dukes of the Medici family and some close relatives, including Giovanni delle Bande Nere.
The Chapel of the Princes is found in the compartment of the dome. It was started by Cosimo I, but completed by Ferdinando I. The rich decoration was never completed due to the extinction of the dynasty. Nevertheless, the use of porphyry and granite along with other stone material and semi—precious material is impressive. It has arks in the guise of the risen Doctors at Duke’s and the Grand Ducal throne: Cosimo I and Cosimo III. In two small rooms on the sides is the so-called “Treasure of San Lorenzo,” reliquaries which used to belong to Lorenzo the Magnificent.
The New Sacristy is accessible directly from the Chapel of the Princes, reating an intensely expression of Michelangelo and his true mannerist architectural prototype. The work was commissioned in 1520 to the artist directly by Pope Leo X and Cardinal Giulio (later Pope Clement VII), both born Medici. The work was interrupted in 1527, first by political-military affairs of Florence and afterward by the following period of adjustment. Giorgio Vasari edited the completion first, then Bartolomeo Ammannati, during the time of Cosimo I, First Duke of the city.
The interior of the chapel is reminiscent of the “Old Sacristy” by Brunelleschi, but is definitely inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. To the right side are the tombs of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano. Some exceptional statues by Michelangelo include: Virgin and Child, sculpted in 1521, the monument to Giuliano Duke of Nemours, accompanied in the scrolls by sculptures by Day and Night and the Monument to Lorenzo Duke of Urbino, 1533, accompanied by Aurora and Twilight figures. Also noteworthy are the sculptures S. Cosma and S Damiano, works of Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli and Raffaello da Montelupo, made under the instructions of Michelangelo himself. The bronze crucifix on the altar is attributed to Giambologna. In the basement.
Basilica of Santissima Annunziata
The Santissima Annunziata stands majestically in the square, considered one of the first examples of urban planning in Europe, and is the Marian shrine of Florence, also known as the motherhouse of the Order of Servants of Mary. In 1250 it was built as a small oratory, later expanded several times, reaching its current size between 1444 and 1477. During this period the large circular gallery was built, designed by Michelozzo and completed by Leon Battista Alberti, while Volterra frescoed the interior of the dome in the late 17th century. The basilica was consecrated in 1516. During the beginning of the 17th century, the porch of the façade was completed, whose main entrance is surmounted by a mosaic called “Annunciation” by Davide Ghirlandaio.
Through the portals is the Cloister of Vows, frescoed in the 15th and 16th centuries by artists who concluded the Renaissance period and mannerism began. Among the most notable artwork are “Assumption” by Rosso Fiorentino (1517), “Visitation” by Jacopo Pontormo (1514-17), the “Franciabigio Marriage of Maria” (1513), “Nativity of Mary” (1514) and “Arrival of the Magi” (1511), both by Andrea del Sarto, Stories of St. Philip Benizzi on which both Cosimo Rosselli (1476) and Andrea del Sarto (1509-10) worked. Michelozzo made the marble bas-relief of the “Madonna and Child.”
The interior is lavishly decorated with gilded carvings, medallions, and stucco. The painting the “Assumption” on the ceiling is the work of Volterra (second half of the 17th century). The walls and the large circular gallery are entirely crowned with chapels, all containing paintings by 17th-century artists. Three of the most prominent paintings stand on the right side: a crucifix from 1483 by Antonio and Giuliano da Sangallo in the second chapel, the monument to Orlando de Medici by Bernardo Rossellino (1456) and finally, in the fifth chapel, a crucifix attributed to Andrea del Castagno.
17th-century artists fill even the nine choir chapels with remarkable paintings. Among the most relevant are: the Madonna with Child and Saints by Perugino (third chapel to the left), Resurrection of Agnolo Bronzino (mid 16th century) in the fourth chapel, the crucifix and six reliefs Mysteries of Giambologna’s Passion in the fifth. Entering the basilica, immediately to the left, are two highly important chapels. The first, in the form of a small temple, is the Annunciation Chapel, commissioned by Piero di Cosimo Medici. On the altar is the revered image Annunciation, a fresco from the 14th century, object of devotion for newlyweds who come to lay a wreath. Tradition has it that the painter, Fra’ Bartolomeo, could not complete the painting. One night awakened from sleeping after near unfinished work, he realized with astonishment that the face of the Madonna was fully depicted on the wall. In the other chapel, the innermost chapel is a face of Christ painted by Andrea del Sarto around 1514.
Furthermore, along the left wall of the basilica, is the fresco by Andrea del Castagno S. Giuliano (1455-56) in the second chapel, the fresco Trinity and St. Jerome (1454) by Andrea del Castagno in the third, the Virgin of the Assumption Perugino (1506) in the fifth, the terracotta sculpture Baptist Michelozzo in the chapel on the left arm of the cruise.
Cloister of the Dead and other chapels
One of the transept doors leads to the Cloister of the Dead, built at the time by the restructuring of Michelozzo. On the lunettes there is an important cycle of frescoes named “Stories of the Servants of Mary”, a collective work of several artists. Standing out is the Madonna del Sacco, made by Andrea del Sarto in 1525.
In the adjacent Society of St. Luke chapel the wooden crucifix was made by Antonio da Sangallo, the terracotta St. John the Evangelist by Della Robbia, the sinopia Madonna and Child with Saints is attributed to Raffaellino of Garbo, St. Luke painting the Madonna di Giorgio Vasari, Trinity Agnolo Bronzino and Madonna with Child and saints by Jacopo Pontormo.
Two other rooms connected to the basilica are accessed through the porch of the facade. In the Chapel of the Madonna, there is a fragment of the fresco Madonna and Child attributed to Sandro Botticelli. In the Oratory of St. Sebastian, commissioned by the Pucci family in 1452, one can find frescoes, paintings and statues.
Basilica of Santa Trinità
Area: Florentine Area
Type: basilica 11th – 16th century
Address: Piazza di Santa Trinita
It was built in the Romanesque style by monks from Vallombrosa in the second half of the 11th century. At the beginning of the next century, it was enlarged and adapted to the Gothic style. The stone facade was rebuilt in the years 1593-94 to a design made by Bernardo Buontalenti. The floorplan of the basilica is an Egyptian cross with Gothic interior and three naves separated by pillars. Significant changes were made in the 17th century. In the counter, one can see the remains of the Romanesque church. Notable chapels are arranged along the inner walls and the head of the transept. On the third right side table with a gold background is “Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints” by Neri of Bicci and the “Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints” commissioned to Spinello Aretino (1390-95), the fourth frescoes are “Stories of the Virgin” made by Lorenzo Monaco in 1420-25. In the right transept of the Sassetti Chapel is a cycle of paintings dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi by Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1483-86. It is also notable for the realistic representation of Florentine society in the time and for the landscape and urban views of the city. The artist himself in 1485 executed the “Altar Adoration of the Shepherds”. In the second chapel on the left of the presbytery is the marble tomb of Fiesole Bishop Benozzo Federighi, commissioned to Luca della Robbia in 1454.
Along the left wall the table “Coronation of Mary and twelve saints” of Bicci di Lorenzo and in the third chapel, the fresco of St. John Gualberto forgiving the killer of his brother Lorenzo di Bicci as well as two works by Neri of Bicci – the fresco S. John enthroned, saints and blessed Vallombrosa (1455) and the table Expulsion of progenitors – in the fourth, and the wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene by Desiderio Settignano in the fifth. Lorenzo Ghiberti originally built the sacristy, accessible from Via del Parione, as a chapel for the Strozzi family. It contains remarkable paintings and sculptures. The former monastery cloister is accessed from Via del Parione, built in the years 1584-1593 on a project by Bernardo Buontalenti, and the former refectory (currently not accessible).
Main churches of Florence
Church San Miniato al Monte
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and Museum
Type: Dominican basilica 14th century
Indirizzo: Piazza Santa Maria, 18
Phone: +39 055 219257
Opening hours: from Monday to Thursday 9:00 am – 5:30 pm, Friday 11:00 am to 5:30 pm, Saturday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Tickets: €5.00 full price €3,50 reduced price
Accessibility for disabled: Yes
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a Dominican church that houses priceless works of art such as frescoes by Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Filippino Lippi and Domenico Ghirlandaio. The basilica enamored Michelangelo; in fact, he called it “my bride.” The history of the basilica began in 1219 when twelve Dominicans arrived in Florence from Bologna, led by Fra’ Giovanni da Salerno and settled in the small church of Santa Maria delle Vigne. In 1242 the Florentine Dominican community decided to begin construction of a new and larger building. It was completed in the mid-fourteenth century together with the adjoining convent. The church was constructed thanks to two Dominican friars, Fra’ Sisto da Firenze and Fra’ Ristoro da Campi. Commissioned by the Rucellai family, the architect Leon Battista Alberti designed the large central portal, and the upper completion of the facade, in white marble and dark green (coil), which was completed in 1470.
The marble facade of Santa Maria Novella is one of the most significant accomplishments of the Florentine Renaissance. In the sixteenth century, the church was renovated according to the design of Giorgio Vasari. A further renovation took place between 1858 and 1860 by the architect Enrico Romoli.
Architecture of Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
The church was the first basilica where elements of Gothic architecture were used in Florence, particularly the typical features of Cistercian Gothic. The interpretation of the new style was very original and served as an example for a large number of later religious buildings. It has a Latin cross plan divided into three naves with six large bays that decline in size towards the altar, creating the illusion that the building is much longer than it is. Coverage consists of ribbed vaults with pointed arches, decorated with white-green bichrome wall paintings, supported by pillars. The central altar is in the neo-Gothic style of the nineteenth century. Giotto’s Crucifix (1290) is located in the main aisle since 2001, where it was placed after twelve years of restoration.
The stained glass windows were made between the fourteenth and fifteenth century and among them in the Strozzi Chapel Madonna with Child and St. John and St. Philip both designed by Filippino Lippi. The rose window that opens on the façade depicts the Coronation of the Virgin and crowds of dancing angels and a frame of the Prophets created on cardboard and attributed to Andrea di Bonaiuto, between 1365 and 1367. Noteworthy is the lunette in the central portal of the counterfaçade, with a Nativity fresco by Sandro Botticelli and the Annunciation on canvas, by Santi di Tito.
Works of Art
Numerous and of the highest quality are the works of art inside the church. Among the most noteworthy the Trinity by Masaccio, experimental work on the use of perspective, about which Vasari had to say this: “It looks like there is a hole in that wall.” It is one of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art, implementing new stylistic standards in painting. The holy scene is set in a monumental classical architecture, designed with realistic vanishing points to be looked at from below, while the figure of God holds the Cross of Christ, with a majestic attitude. The altarpiece decorates the first altar with the Resurrection of Lazarus by Santi di Tito. The second altar has the Samaritan woman at the well by Alessandro Allori (1575), next to the Annunciation by Bicci di Lorenzo.
On the fourth altar the Resurrection and four saints by Giorgio Vasari and a little further the organ dating from the nineteenth century. A font from the school of Benvenuto Cellini can be found at the corner of the transept. Near the stairs to the Rucellai Chapel the tombstone of Corrado Penna, bishop of Fiesole, who died in 1312, the work of Arnolfo di Cambio. There are precious chapels such as the Chapel Maggiore or the Chapel Tornabuoni. The central crucifix is a work of Giambologna. The choir holds some significant frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio, a very young Michelangelo Buonarroti probably worked on these paintings as well. They represent episodes from the Life of the Virgin and St. John. Alessandro Agolanti made the stained glass windows in 1492 by a design of Ghirlandaio.
The Chapel of Filippo Strozzi preserves an extraordinary series of frescoes by Filippino Lippi with stories of the lives of St. Philip the Apostle and St. John the Evangelist (1502). Particularly noteworthy are the central scenes of the frescoes, set in a fancy classical architecture, in which a battle between Christian culture and paganism is fought, a very current theme in those days as it was the period of government of Savonarola. The Bardi Chapel, dedicated to St. Gregory presents remains of frescoes attributed to Duccio di Buoninsegna. The Madonna del Rosaio on the altar is by Giorgio Vasari (1568). The Rucellai Chapel dates from the fourteenth century. Preserved is a marble statue of the Madonna and Child by Nino Pisano, from the mid-fourteenth century. The Gondi Chapel, designed by Giuliano da Sangallo (1503), includes the Crucifix by Filippo Brunelleschi. According to a story reported by Vasari, Brunelleschi carved it in response to the Crucifix by Donatello located in the Santa Croce church which he called primitive. The Gaddi Chapel, by Giovanni Antonio Dosio (1575-1577), has paintings and frescoes by Bronzino.
In Gothic style with vaulted ceilings, the sacristy dates back to 1380 and was known as the Annunciation Chapel. Bernardo Buontalenti designed the cabinets with doors in the back wall. The sepulchers, used as sarcophagi, are at the lower part of the facade, and in the precincts of the small cemetery on the right, along the road via degli Avelli (Road of the Sepulchers). In one of these tombs, Giovanni Boccaccio set one of the Decameron (VIII 9). In the third tomb along the right wall of the church, starting from the facade, the famous painter Domenico Ghirlandaio was buried. The sepulchers were real burial tombs, but because they were above ground, sometimes a bad stench came out the cracks of the tombs for which Via degli Avelli got a bad reputation: there is a Tuscan expression that says “puzzare come un avello“ (“smell like a sepulcher”).
Bell Tower, Cloisters, Pharmacy and Museum
The tower was built between 1332 and 1333 by Jacopo Talenti on top of the ancient foundations. The style is typically Romanesque, with trifore with round and hanging arches. It reaches a height of over 68 meters.
Additions to the church are the buildings of the monastery, with three monumental cloisters: the Green Cloister with frescoes by Paolo Uccello, the Spanish Chapel, frescoed by Andrea Bonaiuti in the fourteenth century and the refectory, also frescoed. The three locations are now part of the Museum of Santa Maria Novella. The Cloister of the Dead, a former cemetery built around 1270 by the Dominicans, can be visited.
The ancient Perfume Workshop & Pharmaceuticals called Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella is also part of the complex, and can be accessed from Via della Scala. It is the oldest pharmacy in Europe; it has been in business non-stop since the seventeenth century.
Scientific instrumentation added in 1572-1574 also appear on the facade. On the left an equinoctial ring in bronze, to the right a astronomical marble dial with gnomon, the Dominican works of Ignazio Danti of Perugia (1555-1586), Grand Ducal astronomer and cartographer. The friar astronomer was, thanks to these instruments, able to calculate precisely the discrepancy between the true solar year and the Julian calendar, then still in use since its promulgation in 46 A.D.C. Presenting his studies in Rome to Pope Gregory XIII the realignment of days and the promulgation of the new Gregorian calendar was obtained, jumping in one night in 1582 from October 4th to October 15th.
From the pulpit inside the church, the first attack against the discoveries of Galileo Galilei was launched.
Church and Museum of San Marco
Area: Florentine Area
Type: church convent 15th century
Address: Piazza San Marco
The present church and monastery were built on the site where back in the 12th century a Vallombrosan monastery was located. In 1418 the monks were forced to abandon it by order of “Dominican” Pope Eugenius IV. The convent was entrusted in 1435 to the Dominican observant. In 1437 Cosimo the Elder of the Medici family decided to renovate the entire complex. The church, in fact, was greatly influenced by the Medici family, who lived nearby (in today’s Palazzo Medici Riccardi). The work was entrusted to Michelozzo, while the wall decorations were filled, between 1439 and 1444, by painter Fra Angelico and his collaborators, including Benozzo Gozzoli. Within the walls of San Marco pages of the history of Florence were written, with famous players such as Cosimo the Elder, Antoninus of Florence, Beato Angelico and especially Girolamo Savonarola.
The facade of San Marco is in neoclassical style and dates back to 1777. It was built by Fra’ Giovan Battista Paladini. The interior, a single nave, was again renovated at the end of the 16th century. Among the artwork that dominates the side altars is “St. Thomas in prayer before the crucifix” by Santi di Tito (1593), “Madonna and Saints” by Fra’ Bartolomeo (1509), “Our Lady of the Rosary” by Matteo Rosselli (1640) and, on the arc of the altar, a “S. Zanobi” carved by Giambologna. Fra Angelico painted the crucifix on the high altar around 1425.
To the left of the presbytery, there is the Serragli Chapel, whose ceiling was painted, among others, by Santi di Tino around 1594. Furthermore, the left side of the nave leads to the Salviati Chapel, where Sant ‘Antoninus of Florence’s (the archbishop of Florence) remains have been preserved since 1446. A bronze statue of the saint decorates the black marble sarcophagus, by Giambologna with the aid of Domenico Portigiani. The bas-reliefs in bronze were made by Giambologna and collaborators, which depict episodes of the life of St. Anthony (1581-1587). In the vestibule, two large frescoes by Passignano decorate the chapel walls: the Translation and Recognition of Sant’Antonino body.
At the time of Michelozzo’s restructuring, it was one of the largest and most modern monasteries throughout Italy. Between 1439 and 1444 the architect realized, with stylistic rigor and equal capabilities, two cloisters, the chapter, two dining halls and a guesthouse, all on the ground floor. Upstairs the corridors are filled with cells for the monks. Famous figures such as Beato Angelico (Brother Giovanni da Fiesole), the vicar general Antoninus of Florence (later beatified), the energetic reformer Girolamo Savonarola, Fra’ Bartolomeo (Baccio della Porta) lived here.
The convent is accessed through a door located on the right of the church, entering directly in the Cloister of St. Anthony, built by Michelozzo. The frescoes in the lunettes, all performed by artists from the late 16th century and the beginning of the next, evoke the life of the blessed. Among all, St. Dominic kneeling before Jesus crucified by Fra Angelico stands out. The “crybaby” bell is also preserved, which rang on the night in which Savonarola’s opponents surrounded the monastery to arrest him.
In the nearby hospice room and the related rooms the paintings of Fra Angelico were placed. In the passage communicating with the Sala del Cenacolo, there is a Crucifix by Baccio da Montelupo (1496). This environment contains the fresco of the “Last Supper,” painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio around 1480.
Following two flights of stairs that lead to the upper floor where the monks’ cells are, all arranged around the Cloister of S. Antonino. In the second hall, a portrait of Savonarola made of three paintings hangs, all works by Fra’ Bartolomeo.
On the right side of the third hall a door gives access to the Library, also designed by Michelozzo. On display are over a hundred illuminated manuscripts, some of which were created by renowned artists, including Fra Angelico himself and Domenico Ghirlandaio. There is also a missal illuminated entirely by Angelico.
During the mid-19th century, a part of the convent was converted into a museum, leaving the Order of the Dominicans church, part of the rooms adjoining the cloister of San Domenico and the “Library of Spirituality.”
Church of Santa Maria del Carmine
Area: Florentine Area
Type: Romanesque-Gothic church 15th century
Address: Piazza del Carmine
Phone: +39 055 2382195
The original building, begun in 1268, was in Romanesque-Gothic style, but its completion was in 1476. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was subject to alterations and was badly damaged by a fire in 1771. Construction was completed four years later, in an unmistakable 18th-century style. The interior has a nave with a Latin cross. In the third chapel on the right, there is a remarkable Crucifixion by Giorgio Vasari (1560). At the end of the transept is the Corsini Chapel, one of the earliest examples of Roman Baroque style in Florence. On the right wall is St. Andrew Corsini driving the Florentines at the Battle of Anghiari, G.B. Foggini’s masterpiece done in 1685-87.
Through a door in the facade, a hallway opens up and then the large cloister. The real jewel is the Brancacci Chapel, commissioned by one of the most prominent Florentine families. The painting was made by Masaccio and innovator and traditionalist Masolino from Panicale, who probably began in 1424 and stopped when the first of the two left for Rome. After the interruption, due to disagreements between the Brancacci and the Medici, the painting was completed by Filippino Lippi, a student of Sandro Botticelli, after 1480.
In the sacristy of the church, in plain Gothic style, fifteenth-century frescoes, the altarpiece Madonna, Child, and Saints attributed to Andrea da Firenze and Martyrdom of S. Jacopo di Lorenzo Lippi (1641).
Church of Santo Spirito
The plaster facade hides one of the purest Renaissance architectural gems for its harmony in the combination of open spaces and full volumes, flooded with natural light. It was entirely designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (his last work before his death), which began in 1444. The designer’s work was continued by Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Giole and Salvi d’Andrea, who made some variations to the initial project, that was finally completed in 1487. The building of the tower began in 1490 and ended in 1503 under the direction of Baccio d’Agnolo.
The interior, with a Latin cross, is reminiscent, albeit more complex, to the Basilica of San Lorenzo: the dome, the continuation of the aisles in the shorter arms of the cross, and monolithic columns with Corinthian capitals. The interior façade has a large round glass window of the Holy Spirit Descent of Perugino’s design in the center, this and the dome were made by Salvi d’Andrea. Along the inner perimeter are 38 small semicircular apses harmoniously arranged to correspond to the same family Chapels. Originally they contained small shrines topped by blades of the 15th century, which were later altered or replaced. In the right arm of the transept stands a panel by Filippino Lippi and the marble sarcophagus of politician Gino Capponi of the Neri family, attributed to Bernardo Rossellino. In the main apse, the most important works are the altarpiece Madonna and Child with four saints of Maso di Banco and two by Alessandro Allori: Holy Martyrs and the adulteress, both the 1574-1577 period.
Skirting the small apse of the left aisle important works of art are the Madonna, St. Anne and other saints by Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and Madonna Enthroned with Saints by Bartolomeo. From the vestibule well into the first cloister, are the refectory and the second cloister, the latter made by Ammannati in 1564-69. Finally, there is the Corsini chapel, which contains the Gothic tombs of two distinguished representatives of noble families: the blessed Neri and Thomas.
Church of Ognissanti
Area: Florentine Area
Type: 13th century church
Address: Piazza Ognissanti
It belongs to the monastery complex founded in 1251 by the Order of the Humiliated, around the time in which they created a village that specialized in spinning and weaving wool. It was also the family church of Amerigo Vespucci. The whole structure has been affected by interventions for more than six centuries. The baroque facade is work of Matthew Nigetti (1637). The glazed earthenware Coronation of Mary and the saints on the lunette of the portal have been attributed both to Giovanni della Robbia and Benedict Buglioni.
The interior consists of a single, wide nave with an accentuated transept. On gray stone altars, one can find significant works of art from various periods. The tombstone of the great painter Botticelli is visible in one of the chapels. Along the left wall, the fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin and the Trinity attributed to Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio. In a nearby chapel the habit worn by St. Francis, when he received the stigmata at La Verna, is preserved. The painting Crucifixion by Taddeo Gaddi is in the sacristy. In the former refectory, one can see the painting of the Last Supper by Domenico Ghirlandaio. The slender tower of the church dates back to the 12th -14th centuries.
Area: Florentine Area
Type: Abbey 10th – 13th – 17th century
Address: Via del Proconsolo (Historical Center)
The Florentine Abbey, situated in the historic center of Florence in front of the Bargello National Museum, is the first town abbey founded in 978 thanks to the substantial donation of Ugo, who became Marquis of Tuscany. In fact, until now, every December 21st a mass is still celebrated for the noble benefactor, as said by poet Dante Alighieri Gran Baron. Thanks to other large donations and also to the privileges granted by popes and emperors, the abbey acquired various properties in the surrounding area, where they opened their stationer activities, illuminators, bookbinders, and booksellers that connoted the area with a production linked to the realization of books and scrolls.
In 1285 the church underwent a radical makeover in the Gothic style by Arnolfo di Cambio, changing the orientation with the apse towards Via del Proconsolo. The orientation led the rear windows in the east to receive sunlight every morning. The bell tower (1310-30) spire and a hexagonal base are famous points of Florence’s profile and stand out between the towers of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello. As a curiosity, in 1307 the bell tower was half demolished to punish the monks’ reluctance to pay city taxes, but it was again restored in 1330. Its current height is about 70 meters.
During the following centuries, the Benedictine Abbey saw alternating periods of decline and periods of renewed splendor. Dating back to the 15th century precious red and gold silk and with the classic “S” pattern, and during the most important occasions, it could cover the entire inner surface of the church, radically changing its appearance. Suppressed in 1810 the monastery was divided up and tampered with to be occupied by homes, shops, warehouses, and offices. The current building has a mixture of styles and structures. The hall is dominated by a carved wooden ceiling, made by Felice Gamberai by 1631. Immediately to the left of the entrance, a large altarpiece by Filippino Lippi called “Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard” (1482-1486) stands out. Curiously, it has a depiction of the devil covered in fur with menacing fangs hidden on the rock below the saint, which is depicted in ecstasy for Marian vision.
Above the chapel is a large organ with carved and gilded wood dating back to 1717. There are numerous sepulchral monuments, among which the most important are: the Tomb of Giannozzo Pandolfini (died in 1456) of Bernardo Rossellini’s shop, the tomb of Bernardo Giugni by Mino da Fiesole, a prominent lawyer and diplomat who died in 1456, are located near the entrance.
The choir of the south transept has a pipe organ, built in 1558 by Onofrio Zeffirini and restored between 1979 and 1981 by Pier Paolo Donati. The instrument is mechanically driven and is enclosed inside an ornate wooden coffin. It has a console window, a single keyboard of 54 notes and 20 notes pedal board lectern.
Cloister of the Oranges
Despite the changes it has undergone over the centuries, the Abbey has been kept intact within the beautiful cloister of the Oranges built between 1432 and 1438 by Bernardo Rossellino. Legend says Dante saw Beatrice Portinari, his muse, for the first time during mass (13th century) in this Abbey. Furthermore, Boccaccio held the famous readings of the Divine Comedy (14th century) in this church.
Church of Orsanmichele
Despite having undergone structural transformations and use, it is one of the most interesting architectural designs of the 14th century. In 1290 Arnolfo di Cambio had a loggia placed here for the wheat market. However, it was destroyed by fire a few years later. Work began in 1337 to build a new lodge and, in the years 1367-1380, the arches were closed, and two stories were added to the structure. At the end of the 15th century, the ground floor was transformed into the Arts Guild church with the addition of the finely decorated splendid gothic windows.
On the exterior facades, 14 statues of the patron saints of the city’s arts were placed. Subsequently, these statues were replaced by replicas; the originals are on display in the halls of the Museum of Orsanmichele. From the top representative sculptors from the beginning of the 15th century onwards: S. Marco by Donatello, Incredulity of St. Thomas by Verrocchio, St. John the Baptist by Lorenzo Ghiberti, S. Eligio by Nanni di Banco.
Church of San Miniato al Monte
Area: Florentine Area
Type: Romanesque church 12th century
The church of San Miniato al Monte is on the summit of Monte alle Croci, one of the picturesque hills overlooking Florence from the south, and is together with the Baptistery of St. John, the most important building in pure Romanesque style of the city and one of the most impressive in Europe. It is dedicated to Miniato who is said to have been the first Christian martyr of the city in 250 A.D. The existence of a church was already documented in the 8th century, but the present one was built in the early 12th.
The facade unequivocally characterizes Romanesque style: white marble and green alternating at the lower part in the arches and lunettes. The top of the façade is more elaborate and includes the Christ blessing mosaic.
The church has a basilica with three naves and is built on three levels, a characteristic of the most advanced Romanesque style: chancel floor and basement crypt. Parts of the capitals of the columns were recovered from pre-existing buildings, including the Roman era. The inlaid marble floor is rich in plant and animal motifs. Along the wall of the right aisle are numerous frescoes dating back to the 12th and 14th century. Along the left wall is the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal, a remarkable architectural ensemble of the Renaissance. Antonio Manetto, a pupil of Brunelleschi, designed it. The decoration of the ceiling is all work of Luca della Robbia, and the tomb of Antonio by Bernardo Rossellino,
The Chapel of the Crucifix, centrally located, was designed by Michelozzo in 1448 and contains tables painted by Agnolo Gaddi in the late 14th century. The decoration of the majolica vault was executed by Luca della Robbia.
On the main altar is a glazed terracotta crucifix attributed to Luca della Robbia. On the right an altar whose focal point is the life table of S. Miniato, excellent work by Jacopo del Casentino (circa 1320).
The crypt is certainly the oldest part of the church and is supported by very different columns, as well as partially recovered capitals from pre-existing buildings. In the middle of the 14th century, Taddeo Gaddi gilded them. Tradition has it that the mortal remains of San Miniato are in the altar.
The original bell tower collapsed in 1499. It was rebuilt by Baccio d’Agnolo, and completed in 1535. During the siege of the city by the army of Charles V of Spain (1529-30), the bell tower was used by Florence as an observation point and, as such, targeted by artillery. Michelangelo, responsible for the defense of this area, had the idea to wrap it with mattresses to protect it from bullets, so they bounced off without harm. The bell tower was also the favorite spot of a skilled Florentine sharpshooter from where he killed enemy soldiers.
Certosa religious complex
Area: Florentine Area
Type: religious complex 14th century
Address: Location Galluzzo
The monastery stands alone on a hill full of cypress trees at Galluzzo just south of Florence. Rich in works of art including frescoes by Pontormo, it still houses a Cistercian monastery. The external appearance is more reminiscent of a fortress than a monastery. It was founded in 1342 on the initiative of Niccolò Acciaiuoli, the top representative of one of the major Florentine families at the time. Later the building was enlarged and enriched with works of art. In the late 50s of the 12th century, the building was entrusted to the Order of Cistercians Benedictines. The complex consists of several buildings: the church, the chapter house, sacristy, refectory, cloisters, and accommodation for the monks.
During the visit, the first building that is accessed is the stone building that Niccolò Acciaiuoli had built as his residence. Completed in the mid-16th century, was used for meeting and the remarkable Pinacoteca was placed there. Among the most interesting works are the five big lunettes scenes of the Passion, originally the largest cloister, painted by Jacopo Pontormo in 1523-25. Among the many chapels, the most significant one is the one wanted by Niccolò Acciaiuoli. Niccolò di Pietro Gerini designed the chancel window around 1395. In the adjacent cloister of monks, there is a serene stone sink by
Benedetto da Maiano (late 15th century). From the church square, there is also access to the guest quarters, dating from the second half of the 16th century.
Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity
Dating from the late 19th century, it has an exotic form, which is characteristic of the architectural experience gained in Russia during the second half of that period. More precisely, it is derived from the interpretation of Byzantine and Orthodox elements. It has a square base plant with lantern domes and slender polychrome. Inside are stucco reliefs, icons, paintings and ornamental and chromatic extravagance due to Giacomo Lolli.
Located in the historic center of Florence, the synagogue was built in the late 19th century by architects Mariano Falcini, Vincenzo Micheli and Marco Treves. The overall appearance, the large green domes of the Byzantine-Moorish-inspired and exotic garden around evoke an oriental atmosphere. In the Jewish Museum of Florence, one can find religious objects, jewelry, and ancient manuscripts.