Churches of Tuscany
Florence • LuccaPisa Siena

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Cathedral (Duomo)


The cathedral of Florence, popularly known as "il Duomo", form the Latin "Domus Dei" or the house of God, was begun with the laying of the first stone, on September 8th 1296.   The architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, was the same who designed Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio and The Loggia dei Lanzi. 


The new church was meant to replace a much smaller one, Santa Reparata, a crumbling old romanesque building.   The cathedral took almost 140 years to complete due to several wars and especially the Black Plague of 1348, which returned several times before the end of the century, so that several generations of architects worked on the building, culminating in the extaordinary dome, designed and built by one of the fathers of the  Florentine renaissance, Filippo Brunelleschi. 


This was the first real dome to be built since the fall of the Roman empire.    Brunelleschi who studied the structure of the Pantheon in Rome (1st century, A.D.) was able to not only to design the dome, but he also designed and invented machines for hauling and lifting the stones to dizzying heights, whithout having to construct scaffolding from the ground. 


His was the famous lift to carry men, material and provisions to the top.   He had kitchens installed at the top so that the builders wouldn't have to lose time coming down for their meals.   The church was finally consecrated by Pope Eugene IV in 1436. 


Needless to say that the cathedral was decorated by several generations of artists up to the 19th century, when the facade was redesigned in a neogothic style by Emilio De Fabris between 1871 and 1887.    The facade was the work and inspiration of the newly united Italy, dedicated in the presence of the new King, Umberto II.



Santa Croce


The church of the Holy Cross (Santa Croce) was begun in 1294 by the great Florentine architect Arnolfo Di Cambio, who was also resposible for Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, and the beginning of the cathedral. 


It is among the three "great churches" of the city, that is, the churches that served also for the
great spiritual gatherings, in which renouned preachers would hold forth.A sort of revival meeting of the middle ages. 


The mighty nave is in the simple cistercian gothic style: unusual in that there is no vaulting and is reminiscent of the romanesque, having a huge wooden drop ceiling.   This church soon became the burial place of the great families of Florence and later the burial place of famous Italians from Michelangelo to the composers, Cherubini and Rossini


Many of the chapels were donated and used as family tombs, the most famous being the Bardi chapel, frescoed by none other than the young Giotto.   Next door in the cloister is the notable Pazzi chapel designed by the great Filippo Brunelleschi, probably the very first example of the
new Florentine neoclassical style: not to be missed. 


Beyond that, is the elegant neo classical cloister also by Brunelleschi.  The facade was revested in white, green and red marble in 1863 on an earlier neogothic design, elaborated by the great Jewish architect, Niccolo' Matas.

FRANCIS PETERS <> wrote about S.Croce



Santa Maria Novella


It was built over a previous church 1246  by Dominican friars in the austere Cistercian style which was imported into Italy by the Cistercians of Citeaux in France.

The church is famous for its 15th century facade designed by Leon Battista Alberti.  The choir is decorated with frescoes by Ghirlandaio depicting the lives of the Virgin on the left and the life of John the Baptist on the right.   These frescoes bring to vivid life the reality and customs of 15th century Florence.   


On the left wall down the middle of the nave is the extaordinary Trinity by Masaccio, one of the first painters of the renaissance  to bring real perspective into play.   In the middle of the church hangs the Crucifiction, one of the greatest masterpieces by Giotto.

To the right of the main altar is the Strozzi chapel containing the last work of Filippino Lippi: the lives of Philip the apostle and John the Evangelist.    Perhaps his greatest masterpiece.



S. Lorenzo 


It has a complicated building history.   Even though it was built – at least partially - under the direction of Filippo Brunelleschi, it is not purely of his design. 


The project had begun about 1419, but the lack of funding slowed down the construction and forced changes to the original design.    By early 1440s, only the sacristy, now called The Old Sacristy, had been worked on, the work on the church was being paid for by the Medici and in 1442, the Medici stepped in to take over financial responsibility of the church. 


Brunelleschi died, however, in 1446 and the job was handed over either to Antonio Manetti or to Michelozzo - today scholars are still not certain.   Though the building was “completed” in 1459 in time for a visit to Florence by Pius II, the chapels along the right-hand aisles were still being built in the 1470s and 80s.


By the time the building was done, many aspects of its layout, not to mention detailing, no longer corresponded to the original plan.  The principal difference is that Brunelleschi had envisioned the chapels along the side aisles to be deeper, and to be much like the chapels in the transept, the only part of the building that is known to have been design by Brunelleschi.



San Miniato al Monte 


It is one of the most beautiful romanesque churches in Tuscany.   Begun in 1013, and an enlargement of the previous shrine church dedicated to the merchant, who was the leader of the Armenian comunity of Roman Florentia.    Martyred in 250 a.d. under the Emperor, Decius., he quickly became renouned in the christian comunity. 


The catacombs lying beneath the present church, becoming a place of pilgrimage almost immediately.     The church dominates the hillside (or monte) With its white and green 11th century facade.     Having been beautified, with the financial aid of the wool guild, it was later decorated with arabesques and mosaics done by Greek artists from Venice at the same time as the Baptistry was restored toward the end of the 13th century.

The view of the city from the steps of San Miniato is one of the most memorable and breathtaking in Tuscany.


List of Basilicas, Chapels and Churches in Florence


Basilica churches in Florence
Santissima Annunziata, Florence
Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence
Florence Baptistry
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Florence Cathedral
San Miniato al Monte
Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence
The Medici at San Lorenzo
Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence
Santo Spirito, Florence
Santa Trinita



Churches in Florence
Sant'Ambrogio, Florence
Church of Santi Apostoli, Florence
Badia Fiorentina
Certosa di Galluzzo
San Felice, Florence
San Jacopo sopr'Arno
San Leonardo in Arcetri
San Marco, Florence
Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence
Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi
Santa Maria Maggiore, Florence
Church of Ognissanti, Florence
Santa Trinita



Basilica di Superga


Churches in Pisa

The Piazza del Duomo ("Cathedral Square") is a wide, walled area at the heart of the city of Pisa, Tuscany,  recognized as one of the main centers for medieval art in the world.  Partly paved and partly grassed, it is dominated by four great religious edifices: the Duomo, the Leaning Tower (the cathedral's campanile), the Baptistry and the Camposanto.

It is otherwise known as Piazza dei Miracoli ("Square of Miracles"). This name was created by the Italian writer and poet Gabriele d'Annunzio who, in his novel Forse che si forse che no (1910) described the square in this way:

L’Ardea roteò nel cielo di Cristo, sul prato dei Miracoli, which means: "The Ardea rotated over the sky of Christ, over the meadow of Miracles."

Often people tend to mistake the term with Campo dei Miracoli ("Field of Miracles"). This one is a fictional magical field in the book Pinocchio, where a gold coin seed will grow a money tree.[1]

In 1987 the whole square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The heart of the Piazza dei Miracoli is the Duomo, the medieval cathedral, entitled to Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption). This is a five-naved cathedral with a three-naved transept.

Construction began in 1063 by the architect Buscheto and is the originator of the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style in architecture.   The mosaics of the interior show a strong Byzantine influence, while the pointed arches point to Muslim influences.

The façade, of grey marble and white stone set with discs of coloured marble, was built by a master Rainaldo, as indicated by a write above the middle door: Rainaldus prudens operator.

The Baptistry of St. John (Italian: Battistero di San Giovanni) is a religious building in Pisa, Italy. It started construction in 1152, in replacement of an older baptistry, and completed in 1363. It's the second building, in the chronological order, in the Piazza dei Miracoli, near the Cathedral and the famous leaning Tower.

The architect was Diotisalvi, whose signature can be read on two pillars inside the building, with the date 1153. (In the medieval Pisan calendar, 1153 corresponded to 1152.):




Duomo di Siena

Cathedral of Siena

The medieval Cathedral of Siena (Italian: Duomo di Siena), dedicated from its earliest days as a Roman Catholic Marian church and now to Santa Maria Assunta (Most Holy Mary of Assumption) is the seat of the Archbishop of Siena-Colle di Val d'Elsa-Montalcino.

The cathedral itself was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. The dome rises from an octagonal base with supporting columns. The lantern atop the dome, was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The nave is separated from the two aisles by semicircular arches. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the façade. Black and white are the symbolic colors of Siena, etiologically linked to black and white horses of the legendary city's founders, Senius and Aschius.



Abbazia di San Galgano

San Galgano Abbey was built in the 13th century when the old chapel and monastery became too small for the pilgrims who visited the tomb of the saint from Siena.  Saint Galgano Abbey was Tuscany's first pure Gothic church, and it was later used as the model for the Cathedral of Siena. The abbey is built according to the typical Cistercian plan based on a Latin cross with three aisles, rich in carved capitals and rose windows, with a cloister, halls, and typically – a bell tower.

Over the centuries the rivalries between Siena and Florence condemned the abbey to a slow but irreversible decline, and at the end of the 18th century the bell tower collapsed destroying a great part of the roof of the church. The abbey was abandoned and the bricks and stones were used by the builders of the area to build houses and other small churches. Thanks to several restorations the cathedral is now one of the most beautiful and fascinating ruins in Tuscany, and it is well worth a visit.

Many legends have been created to account for the absence of the roof.  One of the most popular among the poor farmers of the Val di Merse was that Napoleon had stolen the supposedly golden roof of the cathedral.




Façade and bell tower of the Duomo di Lucca

Temple of the Volto Santo di Lucca

Cathedral of Lucca

The Cathedral of St Martin (Italian Duomo) is a church in Lucca, Italy.  It began in 1063 by Bishop Anselm (later Pope Alexander II). Of this structure, the great apse with its tall columnar arcades and the fine campanile remain.

Labyrinth on the portico of the cathedral.  The nave and transepts having been rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 14th century, while the west front was begun in 1204 by "Guidetto" (Guido Bigarelli of Como), and consists of a vast portico of three magnificent arches, and above them three ranges of open galleries enriched with sculpture.

In the nave a little octagonal temple or chapel shrine contains the most precious relic in Lucca, the Volto Santo di Lucca or Sacred Countenance. This cedar-wood crucifix and image of Christ, according to the legend, carved by his contemporary Nicodemus, and miraculously conveyed to Lucca in 782. Christ is clothed in the colobium, a long sleeveless garment. The chapel was built in 1484 by Matteo Civitali, the most famous Luccan sculptor of the early Renaissance.

The tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia of Siena, the earliest of his extant works (1406), is an early Renaissance masterpiece.

Additionally the cathedral contains a Ghirlandaio Madonna and Child with Saints Peter, Clement, Paul and Sebastian; a Federico Zuccari Adoration of Magi, a Jacopo Tintoretto Last Supper, and finally a Fra Bartolomeo Madonna and Child (1509).


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