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Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella in Florence

Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella in Florence
Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella in Florence

Santa Maria Novella is one of the most beautiful and important churches in Florence. Recently restored, it has regained all the beauty and splendour of its polychrome marble. The Dominican friars began building it in 1278 as a response to the magnitude of the churches of Santo Spirito and Santa Croce, belonging respectively to the Augustinian friars and the Franciscan friars.

A Brief History of Santa Maria Novella

Around 1350 the church was completed, it missed  only the façade that would later become famous all over the world. To complete it  Giovanni Rucellai, merchant and humanist, gave the charge to Leon Battista Alberti. The church, so far built in the Gothic style, was transformed into a splendid example of “Tuscan Romanesque”, through the use of white, green and blackmarble, and with a careful choice of the proportions of the elements. The result is one of the most beautiful churches of the Renaissance. To remind people who wanted and funded Santa Maria Novella there are different symbols. On the pediment of the tympanum there is the inscription about  John Ruccellai and a symbolic year 1470. The marble decoration depicting a sail was the symbol of the Rucellai family. The sun in the tympanum is a symbol of the Dominican order.

Giotto, Masaccio and Brunelleschi

The interior has three naves in which the Crucifix of Giotto immediately attracts the visitor’s eye. In the transept, in Cappella Strozzi, there is a wonderful cycle of frescoes made by Filippino Lippi. In the main chapel or Tornabuoni there is a famous Ghirlandaio’s fresco cycle in which the character portraits are all important figures of the time, including the Tornabuoni people. In the Cappella Gondi there is the Crucifix made by Brunelleschi, the only wooden work of  the artist.

The Trinity of Masaccio
The Trinity of Masaccio

The most important work of all Santa Maria Novella is the Trinity of Masaccio that is a totally revolutionary art. Jesus on the cross, at his feet the Virgin and St. John,  with the buyers of the work on the side, Lenzi spouses. The vault over Christ seems that really exists, so that Vasari used to say that “It appears a hole in that wall.” The Virgin does not watch his son ,who is dying , but points at the viewer of the picture, resigned to a fate that must be accomplished for all men’s salvation.

Museum of Santa Maria Novella

On the left of the façade there is the museum and the cloisters of Santa Maria Novella. The Green Cloister is named after the dominant color in the frescoes (Stories of Genesis) painted by Paolo Uccello and other artists. We suggest you to admire, in particular, the Great Flood and the Drunkenness of Noah. After the Green Cloister there is the section where are exhibited paintings, furniture and relics that belonged to the Dominicans of Florence. On the opposite side of the main entrance there is the Spanish Chapel which takes its name from the function performed in the Middle Ages as a  place for religious services of Eleonora of Toledo. Entirely frescoed by Andrea di Buonaiuto, it underline  the role played by Dominicans against heresy.

Information for visits to Santa Maria Novella
Where: close to the station Santa Maria Novella
How to get there: by feet
Monday-Thursday: 9:00 am  to 5:30 pm
Friday: 11:00 am  to 5:30 pm
Saturdays: 9:00 am  to 5:30 pm
Sundays and religious holidays:
July-September: 12:00 to 5:30 pm
October to June: 13:00 to 5:30 p.m.
The ticket office closes 45 minutes before closing time
Tickets: Museum: Price € 5.00 ticket includes admission to the Basilica, the Cemetery of Avelli and the Museum of Santa Maria Novella (Cloister of the Dead, Green Cloister, Spanish Chapel, Cappella degliUbriachi and Refectory).