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When the church was originally built, in 1250, outside the second circle of walls it was an oratory, but as time passed it was enlarged to the present size. The main entrance to the church of Santissima Annunziata is through Small Chapel of the Vows, built from designes by Michelozzo. The small cloister is richly decorated by the numerous frescoes.
The coffered ceiling of the church, by Volterrano, is beautiful. The hemispherical cupola is designed by Leon Battista Alberti. Inside the church is the Giambologna Chapel transformed by the sculotor for his own burial. The most valuable and attractive part inside the church is The Tabernacle of the Annunziata and the Loggiato dei Serviti.
In front of the church on the square, there is the Equestrian statue of Grand Duke Ferdinand I
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The Basilica of Santissima Annunzi
The rather uninspired portico hiding the facade of Santissima Annunziata makes it practically impossible to guess that there could be such beauty inside. Completed in 1481, this basilica is dedicated to the Annunciation. The story goes that a monk was trying to paint this religious scene but gave up, feeling that he was unequal to the task. He woke up the next day to find the painting completed and guessed that an angel had come during his sleep to help him. The painting now stands at the centre of a small temple located next to main entrance. It's a tradition for Florentine brides to come offer their wedding bouquet to the Virgin Mary and pray for a happy marriage at the basilica.
The design and architecture of Santissima Annunziata are different from what you find elsewhere in Florence since they are predominantly Baroque in style. The basilica is known for housing some paintings and frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, "the faultless painter", as well was Giambologna's tomb, which he designed himself. There is also a beautiful "Pieta" by Baccio Bandinelli. Every year on March 25, thousands of people fill up the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata to celebrate Annunciation. The piazza itself is quite nice (although we were greeted by many beggars) and it's surrounded by some very nice buildings, including the "Ospedale degli Innocenti", Europe's first orphanage, dating back to the 15th century.
Admission to Santissima Annunziata is (believe it or not) free :o)
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Una piazza perfetta
This gentle little piazza was my favorite in all of Florence and largely free of tourists as it’s tucked away in an area not many of them venture to: fine with me. It is, however, spittin’ distance from Museo di San Marco so if you’re in the area, absolutely leave some time for a walk-by. It is a MUST for anyone with an interest in architecture as the master of Renaissance design, Filippo Brunelleschi, fulfilled one of his earliest commissions here: Ospedale Degli Innocenti.
This elegant building on east side of the square was built in 1419-27 with funds provided by the Florentine Silk Guild. It’s said to be the very first in Florence to implement the proportional mathematics, linear perspective, symmetry and ancient, classical Roman elements that were hallmarks of the Renaissance era: all elements of a structure working harmoniously together inside and out, and appropriately for its setting and purpose.This careful adherence to humanist principles of pleasing balance, order and beauty was carried over to painting and sculpture as well.
This piazza’s particular appeal is because Brunelleschi’s light, delicate facade and porch for the foundling home was duplicated almost exactly (100 years later) on the former monastery on the west side, and echoed again in a new facade added to the church on the north side in 1601. Other than a couple of small fountains and a equestrian monument of Ferdinando I de’ Medici by Giambologna - cast in bronze from melted enemy cannons - the rest of the square is free of distractions. A look south from the center of the piazza provides another bonus: a very nice glimpse of Brunelleschi’s biggest triumph. Have the camera ready and hope for no garbage bins in the way.
More about Ospedale Degli Innocenti and Basilica della Santissima Annunziata in separate reviews.
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Basilica della Santissima Annunziata
Florentine brides have a tradition of visiting this church on their wedding days and leaving their bouquets as offerings to the Virgin.
The original was founded in the mid 13th century by a group of Marians - a faction holding St. Mary in particular reverence and who had a hand in the proliferation of Madonnelle in Italy - and was once outside the city walls. The chiesa you see today is a 15th-century rebuild with some later alterations including a Brunelleschi-inspired facade I mentioned in a previous review. Its most treasured relic is a (rumored) Fra Bartolomeo ‘Annunciation’ reputed to have been partially completed via divine assistance.
But art lovers will find treasure in frescoes adorning an unusually positioned cloister at the entrance to the basilica. Largely executed in the 15th and 16th centuries, there are some lovely and very old illustrations by Andrea del Sarto, Cosimo Rosselli and Jacopo Pontormo.
Inside are more works by Sarto, Lippi, Matteo Rosselli, Daddi and the amusing ‘St Luke painting the Virgin’ by Vasari with the artist portraying himself as Luke. Bit of cheek there, eh? Giambologna is buried in a side chapel of his own design, and the adjoining Cloister of the Dead and Cappella of San Luca has more frescoes and the tombs of artists Tacca, Bartolini, Cellini, Pontormo, Franciabigio, Bandinelli and others, many of whom contributed their talents to the decoration of the church.
This website has the most complete catalog and history of the architecture and artwork. It is, unfortunately, only in Italian but some painstaking copy/pasting into google translate will unravel enough to make yourself a nice guide:
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Founded by the Servite order in 1250, the church of the Holy Annunciation was later rebuilt by Michelozzo between 1444 and 1481. Its atrium contains frescoes by the Mannerist artists Rosso Fiorentino, Andrea del Sarto and Jacopo Pontormo. The church is situated on the northern end of Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, one of the finest Renaissance squares in Florence.
Santissima Annunziata - Shrine of the Virgin Mary
Inside the Santissima Annunziata is one of the city's most revered shrines, a painting of the Virgin Mary begun by a monk in 1252 but was supposed to be miraculously completed by an angel, according to devout Florentines. Newly-wed couples traditionally visit the shrine (on the left as you enter the church) to present a bouquet of flowers to the Virgin and to pray for a long, fruitful marriage.
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
The Piazza della Santissima Annunziata is one of the finest Renaissance squares in Florence. Designed by Brunelleschi (who also designed the cathedral's dome), the delicate nine-bay arcade fronts the Spedale degli Innocenti to its right, the church of the Holy Annunciation on the northern side, while at the centre of the square stands a bronze equestrian statue of Duke Ferdinando I. The statue was started by Giambologna and finished in 1608 by his assistant Pietro Tacca.
This church was founded in 1250, but rebuilt in the 1400's. It's simple exterior belies the fact that the interior is heavily frescoed and guilded, completed in 1669.
In the church is Florence's most revered shrines: a painting of the Virgin Mary that was begun in 1252 by a monk, but according to some Florentines, completed by an angel. Come by and judge for yourself. Traditionally, newlyweds come to the shrine to leave flowers and pray for a long and successful marriage, but all we saw were elderly ladies there. On second thought, eldery ladies can be newlyweds too!
The church is located in what is claimed to be one of the finest Rennaisance squares in Florence, designed by Brunelleschi (the same guy that put the Dome in Duomo) If you walk down the middle of the square, right to the street, you will be facing the back of the Duomo, which makes for an interesting photo op.
This square houses the Spedale degli Innocenti ( orphanage) designed by Brunelleschis on one side and Santissima Annunziata by Michelozzo on the other.
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Piazza Santissima Annunziata
Facing the statue, on your left there is a fountain where you can fill your bottle in those hot summer days.
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