Although the Santa Maria Novella Basilica is one of the most important Gothic church in Tuscany and I’ve walked past countless times, I must admit that I had never visited the church, the convent and the adjacent museum. In December of last year I attended the wonderful Christmas concert, but at that occasion there was no opportunity to admire the many treasures of the church.
So I was thrilled to be able to take part in the InstaPhotoMeet this weekend organized by Tuscany Buzz where a group of enthusiastic instagrammers was given a tour through the complex and while posting their impressions on Instagram with the hashtags #santamarianovella #tuscanybuzz # buzzmeet03.
The Santa Maria Novella church is located near the station of the same name and it is therefore difficult to imagine that this very site was located outside the medieval city walls when the Dominicans began construction there in 1279. The church was named Novella (new) because nearby another little church could be found by the name Santa Maria delle Vigne. Executing such a large-scale project took a long long time back in those days and the new church was finally consecrated in 1420. Florencehad expanded significantly in the meantime and the new, larger circle of city walls now also enclosed the Santa Maria Novella church.
The construction of the beautiful marble facade of the church designed by Leon Battista Alberti was completed in 1470 and that makes it the oldest facade of all the churches in Florence. Other churches like Santa Croce and the Duomo received their marble facades centuries later and the San Lorenzo Church never even got a pretty façade and must make do with a bare, unadorned front.
The church holds works by famous artists such as Masaccio, Giotto, Filippino Lippi, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Ghirlandaio and Brunelleschi. A central spot is reserved for the crucifix by Giotto (1288) depicting Jesus in the moment of his last breath.
Particularly impressive are the richly decorated chapels, especially the Tornabuoni chapel, the largest of them all, is my personal favorite. Domenico Ghirlandaio decorated it around 1485 with scenes from the lives of the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist and all the scenes are set in Florence during the Renaissance making it an important historic document as well.
A number of cloisters and chapels can be found on the east side of the church such as the beautifully decorated Spanish chapel and the macabre Cloister of the dead. The museum holds a selection of religious objects including statues, clothing and a colorful embroidered altar cloth.
Video of the Spanish chapel.
Visit the website of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella for more information about the complex, the art works and visits.
Click on the photos for a larger view.