Basilica di San Miniato al Monte
In the central nave of the Basilica stands the magnificent so called Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix) which has the classical features of a Tabernacle.
It was projected in 1448 by the great Florentine architect and sculptor Michelozzo Michelozzi on commission of Cosimo de Medici “The Elder”.
By then the Chapel hosted the miraculous crucifix of San Giovanni Gualberto, currently preserved in the Basilica of Santa Trinità, Florence.
The superstructure of the Tabernacle is supported by two columns and two half pilasters with capitals of different sorts.
The Altar is ornamented by beautiful panels representing San Giovanni Gualberto and San Minaito by the well-known Tuscan painter Agnolo Gaddi (1350 ca.-1396) son of the most famous Taddeo Gaddi.
Agnolo Gaddi begun his paintings in the Chapel in 1394, but he left them unfinished because of his death occurred two years later.
The sides of the Chapel are decorated with some episodes of the Passion of Jesus Christ and the crown of the arch is embellished by the Ascension flanked by the Annunciation. The predella (lower part of the altarpiece) represents the Virgin and the Twelve Apostles.
The polychromatic glazed terracotta on the external side of the covered roof is believed a masterwork by Luca Della Robbia.
The marvellous, but unfortunately unfinished, Campanile of the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte was projected by the eminent Florentine architect and sculptor Baccio D’Agnolo (byname of Bartolomeo Baglioni, 1462-1543), but around 1498 the work was interrupted.
To the right of the Basilica stands the Bishop’s Palace, the former summer residence of the Florentine Bishopric. It was built between 1295 and 1320. Afterwards the building became a convent, subsequently a hospital and then the site of the Company of Jesus, the religious order founded in 1540 by San Ignacio de Loyola (Azpeitia (Guipúzcoa), 1491 ca. - Rome, 1556).
The religious site is surrounded by fortified walls, which were originally projected and rapidly constructed by Michelangelo Buonarotti (Caprese (Arezzo), 1475 – Rome, 1564) by the beginning of the siege of Florence and afterwards enlarged by order of Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1537 to1574.
Since 1854, those walls include a big graveyard called “Porte Sante” (Blessed Doors).
Several illustrious persons are there buried: the writer Carlo Collodi (byname of Carlo Lorenzini); the poet and writer Luigi Ugolini; the writer Giovanni Papini; the painter Pietro Annigoni; the sculptor Libero Andreotti and the statesman Giovanni Spadolini.
On the 24th October 1529 the troops of the Emperor Charles I of Spain and V of Germany together with the troops reunited by Pope Clemente VII, conducted by Philibert of Chalôn, Prince of Orange, besieged the once more proclaimed (1527) Republic of Florence in order to restore the Medici monarchy.
The religious complex, because of its strategic position, became by the time one of the main fortifications. History speaks about a brave republican military official named Lapo who offered him voluntarily to fight on the highest part of the linked Campanile with two cannons. The great Michelangelo was designated responsible of the protection of the strengthening.
He invented a bright system to safeguard the buildings and the life of the courageous Lapo, which consisted of hanging down the stow mattresses of the friars, as well as all the mattresses collected among the inhabitants of the neighbouring areas, to cover the external sides of both the Basilica and the Campanile so to soak up the impact of the cannonballs of the enemy.
Although the troops of the Republic of Florence, conducted by Francesco Ferrucci, were defeated on the 10th August 1530 by the most numerous and powerful monarchic battalions, being crowned Alessandro de Medici as sovereign of Florence, Michelangelo succeeded in saving the brave Lapo and the magnificent religious site. Wasn’t it another San Minias’miracle?
The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte opens daily.
From April to September: 8am-noon; 2-7pm.
From October to March: 8am-noon; 2:30- 6pm.
Oltrarno Side of Florence
The Cathedrals : Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Cappella Brancacci, Santo Spirito
Main Monuments : Palazzo Pitti, Piazzale Michelangelo, Ponte Vecchio
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