Santa Maria Novella, Florence

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  • gkitzmil's Profile Photo

    the cloister of Santa Maria...

    by gkitzmil Written Aug 24, 2002

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    the cloister of Santa Maria Novella
    The monumental complex of the cloister of Santa Maria Novella adjoins the church and is full of important paintings. Begun in 1340 and completed internally in 1360, the cloisters were designed by Fra' Sisto and Fra' Ristoro. They are among the most beautiful examples of Italian Gothic architecture.

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    Santa Maria Novella

    by viddra Written May 21, 2007
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    This church was built in the 13th century with white and green marble.

    Important works of art inside are the frescoes by Masaccio portraying the Holy Trinity (1427), the Crucifix by Brunelleschi and the one by Giotto.

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  • morganna's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Novella

    by morganna Updated Jul 30, 2004

    This jewel was designed by Leonbattista Alberti, one of most important architects of reanaissance architecture. He also wrote some books about the art of building, so here we have again one of those "Renaissance Man".

    In fact, Alberti just designed the façade of an existing medieval church, using a rational and geometrical composition.

    After admiring the façade, when you get inside, you will able to enjoy a lot of masterpieces of artists like Masaccio, Giotto or Ghirlandaio!

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    Santa Maria Novella & Renaissance Art

    by brendareed Written Jun 14, 2014
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    Santa Maria Novella is one of the major churches in Florence. It is a Dominican church that is situated near the train station. From an art standpoint, it is a wonderful place, full of great pieces that are important to a study of Renaissance art. Note - I have few photos of the interior since photos of the great art works were not allowed.

    Imagine the hustle and bustle of Florence in the 13th and 14th centuries! Santa Maria Novella was one of four major construction projects within the city at that time (to include the cathedral) so artisans would have no problem finding work.

    To enter the church, go through the gate to the right of the church façade, follow the pathway that winds around the courtyard and then brings you back to the church halfway around. As of January 2012, admission was €3.50 and well worth the price for the quality of art within the church.

    As you enter the church, you can immediately see Masaccio’s Holy Trinity across the room on the wall. See my separate tip for this painting (it is special enough to demand its own tip!). Now turn around and look at the church itself (I had to get that painting discussion out of the way – it is one of my favorites and felt it should get top priority in this tip!). The black and white stripes indicate the Dominicans. You can see a visible altar, a new thing back when this was being built – the altar used to be behind a screen.

    As you are looking towards the altar from back near the Masaccio, look up at the crucifix hanging from the ceiling in the center of the church. This is a very famous Giotto work, devotional in nature, creating a very realistic Christ on the cross. It was painted on wood and is original to the church and considered one of their more valuable artworks.

    Heading up towards the altar, you will find several smaller chapels, including two commissioned by the wealthy Strozzi family. The chapel on the far left of the transept was painted by Orcagna and his brother, Nardo di Cione. The fresoes were inspired by Dante’s Inferno and show the Last Judgment where even the wealthy and churchmen find themselves in a hell that is compartmentalized according to their sins. This chapel was done after the plague and the altarpiece is a return to that former conservative pre-plague look.

    Turn back and head towards the altar, stopping just before at the chapel to the left of the altar. The crucifix hanging in this chapel was designed by Brunelleschi after bragging to Donatello that he could sculpt a more human and lifelike Christ than Donatello had done (Donatello’s Crucifix can be seen across town in Santa Croce Church). In the end, it was agreed that Brunelleschi’s Christ was indeed the more human looking of the two.

    The altar is decorated with frescoes by Ghirlandaio, who it is said gave his patrons their monies worth. The frescoes show the Tournabourni family (relatives to the Medici) portrayed in various scenes from the Virgin Mary’s life. Giovanni Tournabourni can be easily recognized by her full brocade dress in the scene Nativity of Mary (bottom right scene on left side of chapel). Notice anything else in this scene? Look at the red/pink architecture in the background at the top of the steps – looks like this artist was influenced by Masaccio’s Holy Trinity. The influence of Donatello’s choir stalls from the Cathedral (seen at the Cathedral Museum) can also be seen in this scene.

    On the top right scene on the right hand side, there is some work possibly by a very young Michelangelo – notice the naked male (one of Michelangelo’s trademarks) and in a pose reminiscent of Masaccio’s Tribute.

    Beside the altar on the right is the second Strozzi Chapel, done by Filippino Lippi on the lives of St. John and St. Philip.

    Before you walk away from the church, be sure to look at the façade on the front. This façade was designed by Alberti, who had to work around tombs that were already in the front of the building (the brown doors). This façade is classically influenced and it geometrically designed.

    There is more to see at Santa Maria Novella; these tips only highlight the Renaissance works. I have a separate tip for the Green Cloister and Museum of the church, which is worth a visit as well (it is a separate fee as it is connected with the church’s museum).

    Open weekdays 9 a.m. - 5.30 p.m.
    Fridays 11 a.m. - 5.30 p.m.
    Saturdays 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
    Sundays and religious holidays 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

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    Masaccio's Holy Trinity at Santa Maria Novella

    by brendareed Updated Jun 14, 2014

    As you enter the church, you can immediately see Masaccio’s Holy Trinity across the room on the wall. This fresco (1426) is a very important painting in the development of Renaissance artwork; often considered the most perfect piece of early Renaissance art. First, look at the architecture painted in the fresco – doesn’t it give the feeling that the wall is going in…a three dimensional effect. The use of reds gives depth. Your eyes actually look towards the back because the classical pillars and ceiling of the painting give the feeling of added space to the room. Masaccio used this one point perspective in his Tribute in the Brancacci Chapel as well. It was Masaccio that Michelangelo said he was inspired by.

    But there’s more to this painting than the perspective. Look at the people in the lower part of the painting – the ones outside the little room created by the perspective. These are the patrons – the ones that paid for the work; they are the same size as the other figures in the painting – Christ, Mary, John the Evangelist – which demonstrates a new dignity of the wealthy that we don’t see in earlier works where the patron is small and rather insignificant to the piece. These figures create a large triangle within the work – Christ at the top point and the patrons the lower points. And within this triangle is a smaller triangle of Christ, Mary, and John. Also, the patrons are harmonious with the saints in the colors of their robes (note: the female patron’s robe is supposed to be the same color as Mary’s but it was later repainted, which explains its different color). If you look closely at Mary’s robe, you can see the faint grid pattern used by the artist to set up the painting.

    And the Holy Trinity is symbolized in the painting (hence the name of the piece) – Christ the Son; God the Father at the top, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove (the white collar-like thing between God and Christ).

    Finally, look at the skeleton below – just so that you don’t become complacent with your life, it reminds you, “I was once what you are now and what I am, you will become.”

    For an informative video about this magnificent and ground breaking painting, visit the Khan Academy website.

    Note: The photo used with this tip was taken from Wiki Commons and is in the common domain; therefore, it has no copyright. I did not take this photo.

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    Santa Maria Novella Cloister & Renaissance Art

    by brendareed Updated Jun 14, 2014
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    The Green Cloister and museum at the Church of Santa Maria Novella are separate from the church and have a separate admission fee (January 2012 it was €2.70). If you are interested in art, this would be a good place to visit; if art isn’t really your interest, then I suggest skipping this one.

    The two primary things to see in the cloisters relating to Renaissance art would be the Spanish Chapel and the frescoes by Paolo Uccello in the walkways (see separate tip).

    You find the museum to the left of the church’s façade – head down the short steps and enter through the door. You pay right there and then you can proceed straight ahead to the cloister walkway.

    Now proceed to the end of the walkway and turn left. About mid-way down this part of the walkway will be the Spanish Chapel in the old Chapter House, which is also where St. Catherine of Siena was brought to demonstrate if she was a witch or not. Look around at the frescoes all over the walls, done by Andrea di Bonaiuto.

    On the right side you see scenes that include the Dominicans (in the black and white robes). Of note, the black and white dogs at the bottom of the fresco are attacking brown dogs (symbolic of the Franciscans). The overall scenes demonstrate the dogma of the Dominicans that would tell people the Dominicans’ role in salvation. You also see a Florence Cathedral with a dome – this was done before there was a dome or any vision of how to finish the cathedral. They just had faith that at some point someone would come around and know what to do.

    On the left side of the Chapter House the frescoes show The Triumph of Catholic Doctrine with a line up of famous saints, virtues, and men of the arts.

    I didn’t visit the museum part of this venue, but it is in the old refectory (dining hall) and displays old liturgical objects and some remains of frescoes from the Church.

    Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday 9 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.
    Holidays 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    Days of closure Closed on Friday, Sundays and New Year's Day, Easter, May 1, August 15 and Christmas

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  • brendareed's Profile Photo

    Uccello in Santa Maria Novella's Cloister

    by brendareed Written Jun 14, 2014
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    As you walk into the cloisters, be on the lookout for the Uccello frescoes on your right side; they are not too far into the cloisters from the museum lobby. The primary one to look at is the Noah and the Ark scene, which was painted by Paolo Uccello in 1431. Much of the paint is gone (this happens when it is outside) and so the painting isn’t in great shape, has a green tint to it, and when I was there had tape going across the middle of it. But it is a great painting demonstrating perspective (Uccello was obsessed with perspective!).

    Starting from the left and moving right, you can see the entire flood scene. On the left the ark is large and there are people fighting outside it as the rain begins. As your eyes move towards the back (there’s that one point perspective again) you can see the storm raging, lightning striking, and trees bending. As you continue to look to the right, the storm ends, Noah releases the dove, and then gets out to survey the damage, including the birds pecking at the dead bodies. The people in the center of the painting show emotion as they try to stay afloat in barrels. Great fresco by a master of perspective.

    Another feature typical in Uccell's work is the black and white pattern (see the ring around the one person's neck). You'll find this pattern in most of Uccello's works. And the pattern goes very well with the Dominican theme of Santa Maria Novella, don't you think?

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    Trinity by Masaccio

    by Willettsworld Written Jul 12, 2005

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    This pioneering fresco (c. 1428) is renowned as a masterpiece of perpsective and portraiture. The kneeling figures flanking the arch are the painting's sponsors - judge Lorenzo Lenzi and his wife.

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  • pasqualeswife's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Novella

    by pasqualeswife Written Feb 16, 2004

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    Santa Maria Novella

    The first stone of the present church of Santa Maria Novella was laid in October of 1279. Don't miss the frescoes by Ghirlandaio and in the sacristy, some magnificent works by Della Robbia.

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    Cloisters of Santa Maria Novella

    by pasqualeswife Written Feb 16, 2004

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    Cloisters of Santa Maria Novella

    The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella have traces of ancient frescoes left that have been faded by time and the elements. Still, well worth seeing.

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  • littlesam1's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Della Novella

    by littlesam1 Updated Jan 6, 2004

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    Santa Maria Della Novella

    Another beautiful church in Florence is Santa Maria Della Novella. Just around the corner is the world famous Santa Maria Della Novella Perfumeria where perfums are made.

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  • l_riva_l's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Novella

    by l_riva_l Written May 22, 2005

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    Santa Maria Novella is a lovely gothic church built by the Dominicans from 1279 to 1357.
    It contains some of the more important works of art in Florence.

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    By walking in the direction of...

    by sandravdp Written Sep 7, 2002

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    By walking in the direction of the river Arno some more you will get to the Santa Maria Novella Church.

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  • JaumeBCN's Profile Photo

    Santa Maria Novella was built...

    by JaumeBCN Written Aug 24, 2002

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    Santa Maria Novella was built between 1279 and 1357 and it is one of the charmest churches in Florence. Of course, there are some works of art inside, this time by Masaccio and Paolo Ucello.

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