In 1219, twelve Dominicans arrived in Florence from Bologna, led by Fra’ Giovanni. In 1221, they obtained the small Church of Santa Maria delle Vigne, so called for the surrounding agricultural land.
In 1242, the Dominicans decided to start work on a new and larger church. On October 18, 1279, during the feast of San Luca, the laying of the first stone was celebrated, with the blessing of Cardinal Latino Malabranca Orsini.
The construction was completed around the middle of the 14th century, but the church was consecrated only in 1420, by Pope Martino V.
Leon Battista Alberti designed the large central portal and the upper part of the facade, in white and dark green marble, which was completed in 1470.
After the Council of Trent, between 1565 and 1571, the interior of the church was redesigned by Giorgio Vasari, with the removal of the choir enclosure and the reconstruction of the side altars, which led to the shortening of the Gothic windows.
Between 1575 and 1577, the Gaddi Chapel (Cappella Gaddi) was built by Giovanni Antonio Dosio. A further reorganization of the church took place between 1858 and 1860, and was entrusted to the architect Enrico Romoli.
An important restoration was carried out in 1999 for the preparation of the 2000 Jubilee, while a subsequent restoration of the facade was carried out from April 2006 to March 2008.
Santa Maria Novella was the first basilica where elements of Gothic architecture were used in Florence. The interpretation of the style was very original and set an example for a large number of other churches that followed.
The church is 99.20 meters long, and 28.20 meters wide, while the transept measures 61.54 meters. The interior is divided into three naves with six large spans that shrink towards the altar.
The marble facade of Santa Maria Novella is among the most important works of the Florentine Renaissance. The first intervention took place around 1350, when the lower part of the facade was covered with white and green marble. On this occasion, the six tomb arks and the two Gothic side portals were made.
Inside the church, there are many invaluable works of art, with famous authors like Giotto di Bondone, Duccio, Filippo Brunelleschi, Sandro Botticelli, Masaccio (Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone), Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Giorgio Vasari, Paolo Uccello and, of course, Michelangelo Buonarotti.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is located about 200 meters away from the railway station of Santa Maria Novella. The nearest bus stop is Stazione Santa Caterina, on the bus Lines 13, 14, 17, 22.