Chiesa Santo Spirito
The Church of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito, popularly known as Santo Spirito, is located in the northern end of the pretty square after its name, situated in the most charming and lively area of the Oltrarno quarter, plenty of craftsmanship, restoration and antique shops.
The present Church was formerly an ancient church of the Agustinian Order built in the mid of the 13th century, but it is said that a colossal fire devastated it in the first decades of the 15th century.
Around 1440 the illustrious Florentine Frescobaldi family commissioned its reconstruction from Filippo Brunelleschi (1377ca -1445) believed as the main Italian architect of the 15th century.
He designed the indoors of Santo Spirito with the same features he created in 1419 for the rebuilding of San Lorenzo (the parish church of the Medici family): a Latin cross with three ample aisles, proportionally related, and forty tiny semicircular chapels, running all along both the lateral spaces of the Church.
Like San Lorenzo, the indoors of the Church of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito are considered the paradigm of the Renaissance architecture in Florence.
The current unadorned and still uncompleted façade of Santo Spirito is not capable to represent the perfection of its interior which has a succession of weightless arches upheld by thirty five graceful columns with Corinthian capitals in grey pietra serena, giving the impression of being an elegant Greek internal portico.
In 1444 started the rebuilding work oversaw by Brunelleschi himself. After his death the work came to a halt until 1452, being subsequently conducted by the well-known Tuscan architects and sculptors, followers of Brunelleschi: Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Gaiole and Salvi D’Andrea, who introduced some variations into the original design.
Between 1479 and 1481, Salvi D’Andrea, carried on the work of the internal façade outlined by three great doors and executed as well the Cupola (1483). D’Andrea made those works from the design initially created by Brunelleschi.
The internal façade still preserves the wonderful stained glass round window with a representation of the “Pentecoste” created by Il Perugino (nickname of Pietro Vannuci, 1452-1523) who studied with the brilliant Piero della Francesca. Currently, Il Perugino is unanimously believed the main exponent of the Umbrian painting from the 15th century.
In 1489 the celebrated Tuscan architect, engineer and sculptor Giuliano da Sangallo (byname of Giuliano Giamberti, 1445 -1516) brother of the brilliant architect Antonio da Sangallo, was commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent to build the Sacristy. As the Sacristy was added to the Church, the only thing that Giuliano da Sangallo could do was to demolish the former gothic Campanile. He built a splendid octagonal Sacristy, close to the external of the left crossing of Santo Spirito, featured by a wooden carved vaulted ceiling and lovely columns with Corinthian capitals, which are attributed to the eminent Tuscan architect and sculptor Andrea Sansovino (byname of Andrea Contucci, 1467-1529) who had been an advanced disciple of Antonio da Sangallo.
In order to connect the Sacristy to the indoors of Santo Spirito, the talented Florentine architect Simone del Pollaiuolo, nicknamed Il Cronaca (1457-1508) nephew of the celebrated painters Antonio and Piero del Pollaiulo, invented a surprising and ample entrance way from chapel n. 29. On the Altar, located in front of the entrance way, there is a marvellous picture by Alessandro Allori (1569): “San Fiacre Healing the Sick”
The present towering Campanile was built between 1568 and 1571 from the project created at the very beginning of the 16th century by the prestigious Florentine architect and sculptor Baccio d’Agnolo (byname of Bartolomeo Baglioni, 1462-1503).
In 1564 Bartolommeo Ammanatti (1511-1592) the eminent Tuscan sculptor and architect, considered a primary exponent of the late Roman-Tuscan mannerism begun to conduct the building of the Chiostro Grande (Big Cloister) in Santo Spirito, enlarging the former religious complex in accordance to the original project by Brunelleschi.
While the smaller Cloister, called Chiostro dei Morti (Cloister of the Dead) was built by the well-know Italian architect Alfonso Parigi (1606-1656) son of the most celebrated Giulio Parigi. A profusion of marble gravestones are there set in its walls.
In 1792 was carried on the complete of the façade. It was entrusted to Boccini, the skilled craftsman building of Santo Spirito. Boccini did his greatest effort painting on the façade a series of columns and other fine architectonical elements, but his paintings were unfortunately lost during its restoration in the ’60.
Nearby the Church there is the “Cenacolo del Santo Spirito” (Cenacle of Santo Spirito) which was the Refectory of the former Monastery. Currently is a small museum which preserves several artworks and antique pieces from the now disappeared Monastery.
The Cenacle preserves the outstanding fresco “The Crucifixion” by the talented Tuscan Byzantine style architect, sculptor and painter Orcagna (byname of Andrea di Cione, 1320 ca.-1368) and by his also prestigious brother, the painter Nardo di Cione, active from 1344 to 1366 ca.
The Cenacolo del Santo Spirito hosts as well an exclusive collection of Romanesque sculpture, which was granted to the Cenacle by the “Fondazione Salvatore Romano”.
For more information on THE SANTO SPIRITO please click here
Oltrarno Side of Florence
The Cathedrals : Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Cappella Brancacci
Main Monuments : Palazzo Pitti, Piazzale Michelangelo, Ponte Vecchio
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