Europe

The temple of Santa Maria Novella in Florence

The Santa Maria Novella temple is one of the most famous in Florence. This is due to its architectural beauty as it is one of the examples of Alberti’s art, one of the best Renaissance architects. Entering it is living a unique and unrepeatable experience that you will not be able to forget.

Florence and the origin of the Renaissance

The city of Florence is known worldwide as the birthplace of the greatest artists of the Renaissance. This was an artistic style, but also a cultural and humanistic current that advocated a return to the great knowledge of the Roman Empire, and above all, the return of the human being as the center of the universe.

Some of the most important works of the time were built in this city and it competed with Venice and Rome for having the most beautiful and innovative temples. It is the case of the church of Santa Maria Novella, a perfect example of the union between art and religion and the use of the human scale in architecture.

 

Its origin is found in an old oratory dedicated to Santa María del Valle.

The new temple was built on this oratory, hence the term Novella (‘new’) which is integrated into its name. The extension of this place was granted to 12 Dominican friars; the friars Sisto Florentino and Ristoro Da Campi were the first to design the building.

The church was finished in 1360, under the supervision of Fra Jacopo Talenti. In 1420, Pope Eugene IV consecrated it and it became the first basilica in Florence.. However, the most important part was still missing: the façade, the large image on the outside that should show the importance of the temple.

This work was entrusted to León Batista Alberti, a prestigious architect who worked under the patronage of Giovanni Rucelli. Thus, between 1456 and 1470, one of the magnum opuses of the Florentine Renaissance was created.

The church of Santa Maria Novella

The Santa Maria Novella façade is an emblem of Renaissance architecture. In it you can see different niches, one of which inspired Boccaccio for one of his Decameron stories. The name of the patron is present and the sun, symbol of the Dominican order, is located in the highest part of the façade.

the treasures within

Inside, it has a Latin cross plan divided into three naves, where the works of art by great masters attract attention for their color and majesty. Throughout its route you can see very elaborate crucifixes, impressive frescoes and paintings that were an innovation at the time. It is the case of The Madonna of the Rosarya painting by Vasari (top image).

On its main altar is the series of paintings showing the life of the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist made by Giovanni Ghirlandaio. Michelangelo participated in these works as an apprentice. Likewise, in the main nave you can see a crucifix by Giotto, which shows the greatness of religious art.

Works by Brunesleschi, Giuliano de Sangallo, and Masaccio, of which the Trinity located in the left lateral nave stands out, populate the rest of the naves and chapels. The most important are Gondi and the Storzzi chapel, the latter painted by Nardo de Cione and Andrea Orcagna.

The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella

On the outside of the temple are the cloisters: the so-called green cloister and the cloister of the dead. The first is named in this way because of the frescoes in which this color stands out. In it, different scenes from the Old Testament are developed.

On the other hand, the cloister of the dead houses several prominent families of Florence. It is the most sober in terms of color, but in it you can see beautiful white marble works.

As the last point of this route, from this cloister you can enter the Chapel of the Spanish. It is a place with a great history, for having been the space granted to Doña Leonor de Toledo, wife of Cosme I de’ Medici, so that she could pray upon her arrival in Florence together with her Spanish entourage. There, the frescoes that adorn it stand out.

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