San Miniato al Monte is a beautiful church which stands on one of the highest points in Florence, overseeing the city from above for nearly 1000 years.
St. Miniato was an Armenian soldier, who was killed in the year 250 AD by the Roman soldiers of Emperor Decius, because he converted to Christianity, and Christians were persecuted at that time. He is considered the first martyr of the city and his remains are supposedly kept today in the crypt of St. Miniato al Monte.
The oldest historical evidence of a church dedicated to San Miniato dates back to the year 783. The building was neglected and unsafe, and the Florentine bishop Ildebrando began to build a new one on April 27, 1018. The church was finished two hundred years later, in the 13th century.
In 1373, the Olivetan monks arrived in Florence, called by the Pope Gregorio XI, and settled in the monastery, where you can still find them today.
The Chapel dedicated to the Cardinal Giacomo di Coimbra (Cardinal of Portugal) was built between 1461 and 1466 by Antonio Manetti and finished by Antonio Rossellino, after his death.
During the 16th century, with the emergence of the Medici family, the area, being placed in a dominant position, was transformed into a fortress, and the Oliventan monks abandoned the monastery, but the church remained intact.
The Olivetans came back in the 19th century, when the monumental cemetery of the Porte Sante was also built, housing numerous chapels of the Florentine bourgeoisie.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The Basilica, one of the masterpieces of the Romanesque style, has a two-tone façade, covered in white and green marbles. On the façade, stands a 13th century mosaic depicting Christ on the throne between Madonna and San Miniato, while on the top of the façade there is a bronze eagle representing the guild of merchants of the Arte di Calimala (cloth merchants), which from the 13th century had the patronage of the church.
The interior of the church is rather unusual, with the presbytery and chorus raised on a platform above the great crypt, and it has changed little from the first construction of the building. The upper part is accessed by two side staircases, which are connected to the two side aisles, while from the central nave, behind the lower altar, a short stairway descend to the crypt. An arch decorated with marble inlays stands in the center of the nave.
The vaulted ceiling of the Chapel was decorated in terracotta by Luca della Robbia. In the vaults, are frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi. The sacristy, noteworthy Gothic architecture, houses the frescoes by Spinello Aretino and the upper cloister is adorned by precious frescoes by Paolo Uccello.
HOW TO GET THERE
To reach the church, it is quite a demanding climb, but beautiful at the same time. If you want to save your energy, you can get there with the bus number 12, stopping at the closest station to the church, San Miniato al Monte. Otherwise, if you want to get there on foot, use the map below.