After visiting the Brancacci Chapel in this church, we headed out of the chapel entrance and were able to slip into the church through the front entrance (the entrance to the chapel is separate from the actual church it is housed in). While there is a fee for the Brancacci Chapel, the Carmine Church is free – you can just barely see the chapel from near the altar and you cannot get from one to the other.
The reason we went into the church was for a view of the magnificent trompe-l’oeil fresco on the ceiling by Domenico Stagi. This was done after the 1771 fire that basically gutted the church, although thankfully not everything was damaged and the Brancacci Chapel frescoes were spared.
As you walk into the nave of the church and your eyes adjust to the dark, look up at the ceiling. The details of the fresco give the impression of an actual architectural design in the ceiling – but it is really paint. Continue to walk towards the altar and look up and you will see the ceiling literally change before your eyes, continuing to give the impression of reality by the details in the paint.
The church itself is a church of the Carmelite Order and this actual church dates back to the 15th century, although the church’s foundation was dedicated years before in 1268. It is most famous for the Brancacci Chapel, but worth a stop in for the ceiling.
Opening hours: Holydays: 8-12AM and 8,30-6PM; Working days: 8AM-5.30PM.
One more stop this evening before heading back to our hotel. Because we were nearby, we stopped in to see an early Michelangelo work in a church designed by Brunelleschi - Spirito Santo.
One of the true hidden treasures of Florence and, to my mind, an absolute must see when in the city.
The church itself is a baroque/roccoco OTT rebuild of the original 15th century church in the Oltrarno district - one of the poorer areas of the city which slowly became gentrified in time. A fire in 1771 almost completely destroyed the church, but amazingly, the Brancacci Chapel survived, leaving behind the 'Sistine Chapel of Florence' . The rebuild has provided a main access that can only be described as monumental dullness - a huge blank wall that looks unfinished. But luck would have it that the rebuild actually covered over by a new altar and which protected the frescoes. This was removed in 1932 and restoration completed .... in 1990!!!
But the wait provided one of the greatest of Italian art treasures. Begun in 1424 by Masolino and Masaccio (better known, then, as Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Mone Cassai - or Mad Tom for short), there are 18 frecoes in the chapel. Only 7 are by Massacio - he is regarded as one of the greatest of 15th century artists but was sadly dead in 1428 at the age of 25 - and even less by Masolino. Work was suspended for 60 years after the death of Massacio, and completed by Fillipino Lippi, son of Filippo Lippi who had worked with Masaccio on the frecoes.
The 'Expulsion of Adam & Eve' (Masaccio) is one of the most extraordinary pieces of 'modern' art as is the artist's 'The Tribute Money' - they are two of the first pieces of work as you enter the Chapel - entrance that is controlled and only allows 30 people in at one time and for 15 minutes only - sadly, an insignificant amount of time for such an important event.
(You may guess I was somewhat bowled over by this expereince :))
The 14th century Santa Maria del Carmine was almost completely destroyed in a fire in 1771. Its present structure dates from the 18th century and was built by Ruggeri and Mannaioni. The interior contains Crucifix by Vasari and the Brancacci Chapel which is one of the greatest works of the entire Renaissance. Btw, this almost insignificant facade hide one of the most spectacular interiors of entire Firenze.