Le Chiese di Firenze

I saw a lot of churches while in Italy. In fact, I probably spent more time 'sight-seeing' in churches, (or museums of churches, or cloisters of churches) than anywhere else during my month in Italy. Even the most humble amongst them was sure to contain an artistic masterpiece or the tomb of some famous Florentine merchant, politician or artist. One thing to be aware of if you visit any Italian churches...wear modest attire. In other words, leave your short-shorts, halter, tank and tube tops at home. If you forget this tip you will be asked to leave or you'll be given a lovely paper poncho to wear, typically in a shocking yellow color just so everyone knows what a skanky dresser you are.

Here's a list of most of the churches I visited...
Santa Croce - In Santa Croce I saw the tombs of Michaelangelo, Galileo and one of my new favorite artists, Lorenzo Bartolino. Remarkably, we were allowed to take photographs in this church. Below is a picture of a picture of Santa Croce in the aftermath of the 1966 floods.

Santa Maria Novella - This was the second church I visited in Florence and where I learned that not all churches allow photography. In fact most churches and museums do not allow any photography at all and in most places if you walk in the door with a camera around your neck, and what tourist doesn't have a camera around his or her neck, you are told in no uncertain terms that you may not take pictures!! no photo! But here there was no such person on duty. I managed to snap one iphoto of a choir singing in the sanctuary, (which I later posted on facebook, so there!) but was soundly scolded a few moments later when I attempted to snap a picture of the interior architecture.

Santa Trinita - A humble church which houses the Sassetti Chapel with frescoes painted by Ghirlandiao, and is just across the street from the Ferregamo Shoe Museum! More on that later.

Santa Maria del Carmine - The Brancacci Chapel, nuf said.

Santo Spirito - What I remember most about this church was being hurried out because they closed everyday at 12:30. Not one of my favorites, inside or out. (Ha, listen to me! The girl who grew up attending a church made of cinder-blocks, in Flushing, Michigan!)

Santa Felicita - Another humble church (not cinder-block humble) but it houses one of the most beautiful paintings I've ever seen...Pontormo's Deposition from the Cross.
San Lorenzo - This church reminded me of a geode...plain on the outside, beautiful on the inside. The facade was never completed. The cloisters house the Medici Library and around the back is the Medici Chapel which contains eye-popping precious stone inlays and Michelangelo's glorious sculptures, Day and Night and Dawn and Dusk.

San Marco - The church was closed for renovations, but the monastery is where the real treasures of San Marco reside. In both the museum and the cloister dormitories one finds a showcase of the work of Fra Angelico, my new favorite artist.
San Annunziata - Up the street and around the corner from San Marco is San Annunziata, which is not a tourist haunt, but an active church. I stopped in here one day to see the shrine to Mary, heavily ornamented with a painting of the Virgin, said to have been painted by an angel.

San Miniato del Monte - sits on a hill in Oltrarno, the other side of the Arno river. The story goes, St. Minias was beheaded on the banks of the Arno during anti-Christian purges. After the deed was done, he picked up his head and walked to the spot where the church today stands. I hiked up to this church, with my head on my shoulders, on one of my last days in Florence. I arrived in time to hear the monks chanting. Is it sacreligious to say it was a magical moment, because that's what it was.

The Duomo - No trip to Florence is complete without a visit to the Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore. The Duomo is the opposite of San Lorenzo, ornate on the outside, vast and stark on the inside. Oh, and the big dome.

I also visited churches in Siena and Venice...

Siena Duomo - My guidebook described the Siena Duomo as, "either a symphony in black and white marble or a tasteless iced cake." Ouch. I sort of liked it because, let's face it, I grew up attending a church made from cinder blocks. Not one inch of the exterior or interior of the Siena Duomo is without engravings, mosaics, frescos, marble, gold, etc. It also has quite an array of depictions of the slaughter of the innocents which I found very disturbing.

San Marco, Venice - I stood in line for an hour to see the inside of San Marco. It was well worth the wait to see the interior which is full of gold and marble mosaics! One sample is below, and below that is my cohort, sans John who was snapping the picture, standing in 'St. Mark's Square'.



  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and your commentaries. They make me want to learn Italian, grab my passport and purchase a winning lottery ticket. ( I tried. Spent 5 bucks and won two). I hope that you were aided by postcards, journal notes, or tour books, in writing your text and that you didn't actually remember all those names and correct spellings on your own. If that is the case, then you are too smart to be my friend. I love the colors in your favorite painting. The facial expressions and postures of the witnesses (?), are haunting but not exaggerated. I want to see more. You gotta play to win I guess. Thanks, Betsy. I'm so glad you got to go.

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