While you're in Piazzele Michaelangelo, if you haven't climbed your last, keep walking a little farther to San Minato al Monte. Florence's finest Romanesque Church affords you even better views of the city as well as some marvelous mosaics and frescoes. An interesting cemetary is found on the grounds.
When we walked into the beautiful church a choir was practicing. The impression it left on us was very special.
Porte Sante means “Holy Gates”; an appropriate name for a place to inter individuals who’ve been dispatched to St Peter’s realm. Not nearly as old as the ancient basilica it surrounds, it occupies a space enclosed by defensive walls engineered by Michelangelo in 1529 to convert the hilltop into a fortress during the Siege of Florence. Established in 1839, the cemetery is the resting place of some notables including the family tombs of Stibbert, Lorenzini and Zeffirelli. Carlo Lorenzini was the creator of Pinocchio under the pen name of Carlo Collodi, and Franco Zeffirelli is a renown director and producer of operas and film.
Most of the celebs buried here will be familiar only to Italians but it’s enough to drink in the panoramas of Florence stretching below and to wander the maze of elaborate mausoleums and monuments. Tragic, mournful, stately and even amusing, they are interesting studies for the camera in a space largely free of other tourists. Most macabre was the likeness of a child, her face expressionless and veiled in death, rising beyond the reach of a small sister’s beseeching hands.
One look at the looooog flight of steps from Piazzale Michelangelo is enough to deter most of the masses - which is a very good reason to make the climb. You’ll be well rewarded with a (serene) look at parts of a 1000 year-old church and one of the best views of Florence. The current structure was built on the site of an even older shrine to St. Minias: a 3rd-century martyr beheaded by Emperor Decius. Just as St. Denis of France - executed the same way, at virtually the same time - picked up his head and wandered off to succumb at the place where a cathedral now stands in his honor, Minias trotted his own noggin up this hill and is said to be buried in the crypt.
That crypt is a formidable forest of columns supporting a low, groin-vaulted ceiling with some rare, 14th-century remnants of fresco attributed to Thaddeo Gaddi, whose work may also be seen in Santa Croce. It’s reached via stairs under an unusual, raised chancel covered with intricate inlays and carvings, some portraying mythical creatures as was common in Romanesque-era churches. Other highlights are an inlaid astrological wheel in the floor, its 12 signs corresponding to the 12 apostles, glorious Renaissance-era chapel, Luca Della Robbia tondi and crucifix, and various other fascinating - and very old - fragments of fresco.
My good VT friend, Leics, was lucky enough to hear a plainsong mass here and tells us that it was positively ethereal. Current Latin/Gregorian chant services are currently noted as at 17:30 on Sundays (mass) and 7:15 and 17:30 (Eucharist) on weekdays.
Do take time to stop into the nice little shop where the monks who attend the basilica sell herbal remedies, honey, wine, essential oils, handmade soap, and other goodies as well as the usual postcards and whatnot, and spare some time to explore fascinating Porte Sante cemetery at the end of your visit.
Click the website below for a nice virtual tour of the basilica:
San Miniato romanesque church is wonderful: the Benedictines monks who live there sing Gregorian chants during late-afternoon vespers, and the public is invited to listen.
Winter: Vespers at 16.30
Summer: Vespers at 17.30
The present structure of San Miniato al Monte dates from 1018, owing it to Bishop Hildebrand. First, however, it was built as a chapel in the 4th century. In the upper part of the facade there is a fine 12th century mosaic with Christ between the Madonna and San Miniato. Inside the church there are valuable 13th and 14th century frescoes, while the altar preserves the bones of San Miniato.
The 16th century Forte di Belvedere or Forte San Giorgio, was commissioned to Buontalenti by Ferdinando I, dominates the city and the river of Arno. Inside the fortress there is Palazzetto which is used for exibitions now.
For a good glimpse of the interior of the church, see the movie "Up at the Villa".
St. Minias (Miniato) was the first Christian martyr in Florence. He became a victim of the Christian persecutions in the middle third-century and was beheaded. According to legend, after his decapitation, he picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders, crossed the Arno and went to die in the cave on Monte alle Croci. That cave is now the location of the church that bears his name.
If you look at the photos I took from the roof of my hotel, you can see the church gleaming off in the distance.
Famous dead person buried here:
Pietro 'Maestro' Annigoni. He was the artist who rendered the 1955 portrait of Queen Elizabeth, which portrait was used on banknotes at the time. He also painted the portraits of many other notables of his time including JFK.
San Miniato al Monte is a beautiful Romanesque basilica situated on a green hill above the city. The church was built in the 11th century over the shrine of the early Christian martyr San Miniato. The facade has a geometrical design and a mosaic dating from the 13th century of Christ between the Virgin and San Miniato. The interior has fine frescoes and mosaics.
Looking down on the city, the lovely old church of San Miniato al Monte is a renaissance-highlight in Florence. The beautiful façade, which is made of white and green marble, was constructed in the 11th century. In the 15 th century the church was enlarged. San Miniato has a nice little cemetery in the backyard and moreover the view down on Florence is even more amazing than from P. Michelangelo
San Miniato is my favourite church in Florence. It's perfect examples of Florentine Romanesque architecture, characterized by its bicoloured (white and green) marble fa?ade. The current building began to take shape in 1013 and mostly perserved it's original character. San Miniato is a three-naved basilica and has wodden roof. The interior has a few Renaissance additions, but they blend in well with the overall medieval aspect with beautifull frescoes. When I visited it only few other tourist was there so I could really enjoy in peace and bauty of this sacre place.
Palazzo dei Vescovi or the Bishops' Palace stands on the right and could be visited also.
Florence is very walkable, reasonably flat and pretty easy to navigate on foot as many areas in the historic centre are pedestrianised. If you dont want to climb uphill to Piazza Michelangelo and San Miniato you can get to there by bus.
Take bus number 12 from Santa Maria Novella. The stop is by the south east exit of the station near Piazza Adua. San Miniato al Monte is one of Florence's most beautiful churches. The bus trip takes around 30 minutes as traffic is generally always congested. From there you can walk back down the hill (probably 300 meters or one bus stop) to Piazza Michelangelo and catch the number 13 bus back to SMN. Purchase your bus tickets at the ATAF ticket booth at the station. Tobacconists used to sell them as well, but I cant guaranteee that this information is still current. Look for a large "T" or orange ATAF sticker on the window outside.
Once on the bus look out for stop Gailei 07. San Miniato will be the NEXT STOP after this. If you time your visit during the late afternoon you will have the pleasure of listening to a gregorian chant performed daily by the monks. Its also a nice place to get an overall view of the city and to the hills beyond.
This church is built in 1018 over the grave of christian martyr San Miniato, a rich armenian merchant who was beheaded by emperor Decius in the 3th century.
The facade is from 1090 with a geometric patern of colored marble. The mosaic is restored from the 13th century, it is Christ, with Mary and St Minias.
This is the best way to see the beauty of Firenze. Just take the bus to san miniato (no 12 or 13 from the central station) enjoy the panoramic view from there and then descend into the old center to the Pitty, then cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Ufficci and the Duomo and all the other monuments you like to see..