Three Swiss in Florence – enjoying some of the Gothic churches

To recapitulate – Here is the architecture timeline of Florence:

churches and palaces

After having shared some impressions about Proto-Renaissance, I will now continue with some churches from Florentine Gothic.


Santa Maria Novella and the Spanish Chapel built by the watchdogs of the Lord

Santa Maria Novella is the first gothic church in Florence. The Dominicans started the construction in 1246. Here is a foto taken from the cupola of the Duomo. The railway station is just across.


This is the nave. There are ogives, but less pronounced than in central Europe. The wooden cross of Giotto (1290) is one of the highlights.


Masaccio was an outstanding artist at the transition between Gothic and Renaissance who died at the age of 27. His “Santa Trinitá” (ca 1428) is famous for the perspective that was innovative  at that time and helped pave the way for Renaissance paintings.


In the attached  Spanish Chapel we come across the watchdogs of the Lord. They are black and white. I learn that “Dominicans” stands for “Canes Domini” or watchdogs of the Lord. The Spanish Chapel tells the history of the Dominicans that have built Santa Maria Novella.



Monastery and Campanile of Badia – a quick glance in the cloister

Badia means “monastery” and today belongs to the Fratenernity of Jerusalem. We just visit the cloister with the view of the gothic Campanile. The nuns are inventive and sell unusual souvenirs. I buy soap made from the milk of donkeys and some honeydrops.



More Florentine Gothic: Sant’Ambrogio

Sant’Ambrogio is located east of the city center. Very easy to reach from our hotel near Santa Maria Novella: We just have to follow the streets aligned along the old Roman Decumanus. I like this church with its open roof framework and beautiful frescos such as the “Maria Lactans” by Orcagna. My fotos of the frescos are blurred, as the church is rather dark inside.



In a way the heart of Florence Gothic: The Duomo and the Campanile

The full name of the Duomo is “Santa Maria del Fiore” and this name is related to the lilly flower that is the symbol of Florence. We loved to come back to the Duomo again and again. The gothic construction plan was followed by the architects until the Cupola and the Lantern were completed in the 15th century. The names of the architects included Cambio (1296), Talenti (1350) and above all Brunelleschi who after 1418 was the genius implementing the cupola based on the original plans. His breakthrough was the idea to avoid using a huge scaffold from the ground, but a hanging scaffold that would grow with the cupola. He meticulously planned the construction and checked the progress every day. Vasari and his successor later completed the paintings in the cupola.


On a sunny day, I climbed Brunelleschi’s Cupola and enjoyed the magnificent view of the town.


The Campanile (around 1340) was Giotto’s masterpiece that his successors completed, among them Andrea Pisano and Talenti.


And more Gothic: Santa Croce and the attached Pazzi Chapel, the last Renaissance masterpiece of Brunelleschi

Santa Croce is the church of the Franciscans. Like San Miniato and Santa Maria Novella, the facade is adorned with white marble and grey Pietra serena, but this facade was completed only around 1860 – it is assumed that the facade is based on the orignal plans.


The woodwork of the ceiling is open, reflecting the modesty of the Franciscans. The nave gives the impression of a uniform entity, as the woodwork of the central nave is repeated in the aisles and the floor tiles are also the same.


Only the choir reminds a bit of central European Gothic. Beautiful chapels are on the side, with frescos from the first half of the 14th century (many by Giotto and his workshop).


Santa Croce is rich of artwork. Leni loves this vivid painting of the “Deposition from the Cross” by Francesco Salviati.


Leni and I spend so  much time in the main church that we miss the attached Pazzi Chapel on our first visit. The guardian watching over Santa Croce feels sorry for us: “You HAVE to see the Pazzi Chapel”, he says, “you HAVE to come back”, and he writes on our ticket that we are allowed to enter a second time, adding his personal signature. Great that the guard working here loves his church.

When we come back later, Ursula shows us her favorite artwork, Donatello’s “Annunciation”.


And we visit Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel. The chapel was his last Renaissance master piece. We just sit inside and meditate in this unostentatious hall full of harmony.


Later we enjoy the treasures in the attached museum. I particularly like the crucification on the tree that adorns the backwall of the former refectorium.



Let me continue later with some more Gothic and with some Renaissance churches – again following the achitecture time line of Florence.


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