Wednesday, November 23, 2011

San Miniato al Monte

San Miniato al Monte is one of my favorite churches in Tuscany.  It sits perched on top of one of the highest points in Florence and when standing in front of the church, the view of the city below is spectacular!

The view from the courtyard in front of the church, looking down upon Florence
We arrived at San Miniato in the early evening, parking about a half kilometer or so from the church on a lovely tree lined street.

Free parking, just a short walk away!
There are a lot of steps leading up to the church from the street below.  Good exercise.  At least that's what I kept telling myself as I huffed and puffed my way to the top!

The steps lead up to a little courtyard in front of the church and monastery.  The monastery is the building to the right of the church as you are looking at it, and it is run by a small Benedictine community of monks, known as the Olivetans.  The monks produce herbal teas, honey and liqueurs that they sell in a shop nearby the church to raise money.  When we were there, we arrived during their evening prayer.  To walk into the church and hear the chanting was really awesome.

Inside and out, the church is magnificent.  Construction began on the building way back in 1013!  That is one old church!  The ceiling in the nave is wooden, as you can see in the photo above, and sections of it are painted.  There is very little light in the church.  When we were there, in the early evening, the sunlight was streaming in from the open doors and the few windows of the building. 

 The beautiful mosaic of Christ and San Minato above the main altar glows when the light hits it.  It is stunning.

There is only one tomb within the walls of the church.  The Cappella del Cardinale del Portogallo can be found to the left of the name.  It was built in 1473 and Cardinal James of Lusitania is buried there.

The tomb of Cardinal James of Lusitania

There are more graves around the churchyard, though...and there are some famous Florentines buried there.  Carlo Collodi, who created the story of Pinocchio is there, as is the painter Pietro Annigoni and physicist Bruno Benedetto Rossi.

The exterior of the church is in the typical white and green marble that is common on many of the basilicas in the area.  The interior walls are decorated with frescoes depicting the life of St. Benedict and were painted by Spinello Aretino in 1387.

An interesting story about this church - in 1530, during the siege of Florence, Michelangelo had the front part of the church wrapped in mattresses to protect it from enemy fire.  He also had the walls built up around the church as further protection from the siege.

Visiting the church is free, so really, if you're in Florence, you have no excuse not to visit!  I love it because it is so peaceful there.  We sat on a bench out in front of the church, near the cemetery for quite some time and enjoyed the beautiful view of Florence.  It's well worth the climb up the steps!

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