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Fiesole

 





Cathedral (San Romolo)

Badia Fiesolana
San Domenico
San Francesco
Sant’Alessandro
Santa Maria Primerana



I don't get up there often so some so-far unexplored
churches are merely mentioned at the bottom of the page.

 

Cathedral (San Romolo)
Piazza Mino da Fiesole


History
Founded 1028 to replace the old cathedral which was where the Badia Fiesolana is currently sited. Enlarged from 1256, which work took about a century. Heavily restored 1878-83, the (spoiled?) appearance of the exterior dating to this work. Romulus is the patron saint of Fiesole and was probably a local bishop of the 1st century. Tradition has it that he was a disciple of Saint Peter and that he had been converted to Christianity by the apostle.


Interior
Dark on entering due to the windows being few and thin, but this makes the highlight high altarpiece glow and dominate. Nine chunky columns down each side of the nave, the first five corinthians, the next four of plainer design. The walls are bare with only confessionals breaking up their flatness. Baroque altars were removed during the 19th century work. The inner facade has glazed terracotta St Romulus himself made by Giovanni della Robbia for a different church. The noticeable high altar in grey-green and white marble dates from 1273.
There's a raised choir with stairs up to each side, each side being self-enclosed. The left-hand side has a 19th century pseudo-gothic altarpiece, the right-hand side has another such, but also two decorated side chapels, and the best view of  the impressive Bicci di Lorenzo high altarpiece. The right-hand of the two small chapels is the Capella Salutati (see below right) with the vault frescoed with The Four Evangelists by Cosimo Roselli and two fine sculptures by Mino da Fiesole - the tomb of Bishop Leonardo Salutati on the right and an altar frontal of the Madonna and Saints on the left.
The high altarpiece in the choir is a triptych depicting the Madonna and Child with Saints Alexander, Peter, Romulus and Donatus painted by Bicci di Lorenzo in the 1440s. This work has the earliest known representation of Romulus. The apse vault was frescoed with scenes from the life of St Romulus by Nicodemo Ferrucci in the early 17th century

The crypt below the choir has a statue of the Virgin as you enter on the left and a granite baptismal font of 1569 on the right, the work of Francesco Ferucci, with frescoed domes. Down here are most of the remains from the first church. The central altar of Saint Romulus houses his relics in a marble urn. It is fenced off with Roman remains under grills in the floor in front. There are frescos on the columns by the entrances to the crypt too, one of Saint Benedict from around 1420–30 and a later Saint Sebastian (see right) sometimes locally, and unconvincingly, said to be by Perugino.

Campanile
Built 1213 and much restored, with the balcony added in 1738 and restored in the 19th century.

The church in art
Several views of the interior (see below) by R. C. Goff in his book Florence and Some Tuscan Cities.


Opening times

7.30-12.00, 3.00- 6.00
(2.00-5.00 in winter)









 

 



 

Badia Fiesolana
via dei Roccettini


History
The original church and Camaldolite convent was rebuilt 1025-28 (rededicated to Saint Bartholomew) and, more drastically, in 1456-64 after the church was taken over by Augustinian canons. Up until the 1025 rebuilding the church had been the cathedral of Fiesole, dedicated to Saints Peter and Romulus, and said to have been built on the site of St Romulus's martyrdom. The last rebuilding is what we see today, with the only remainder of the first reconstruction being the Romanesque polychrome marble section of the otherwise unfinished facade. The 15th-century work was Medici-funded, by Cosimo the Elder, and is by by Michelozzo's workshop it is said, to principles inspired by Brunelleschi and Alberti. In 1520 the complex was temporarily used as a hospice for sufferers from Florence’s syphilis epidemic. Soon after this Charles V used it to house his troops during the siege of Florence that he laid.
In later centuries it was used as a printing and engraving shop and for housing. Today it is the home of the EU-funded European University Institute, the church itself being used for the annual EUI conferring ceremony and other events.


Interior
Very tall, barrel-vaulted and impressively bare, and thereby probably truer to Brunelleschi's spirit than other of his churches with later embellishments. Four tall and deep square chapels either side of the single nave have matching plain altars but a variety of contents. They are arched in pietra serena by Francesco di Simone Ferrucci. One is totally frescoed, the left hand ones have small windows but it was too dark on my visit to make out anything. The baroque frescoed chapel has a bigger window.
Initially the north side chapels were patronised by the Medici and the south side ones by the families of their bank's directors.

The raised transepts have big altars at each end, with a Crucifixion and a Resurrection? In a small chapel off the left arm is a surprise (not mentioned in any guide book) large bright fresco of The Annunciation (see right) which the church claims is by Raffaellino del Garbo, but it's more likely to be a workshop effort. The flat-ended choir is deep and also bare.

Lost art
It was for Medici banker Angelo Tani's chapel here (the Chapel of Saint Michael, first on the right) that Hans Memling's Last Judgement Altarpiece (see below) was commissioned. But it was famously captured by Hanseatic pirates led by Paul Beneke on the 27th April 1473
, on its way from Flanders to Florence. The galley was seized upon entering English waters, the Hanseatic League being at war with England at the time. The painting was taken to Danzig (now Gdansk) and installed on the altar of the Guild of Saint George in the Church of Our Lady. It has remained in Gdansk.

Opening times
Monday - Friday 9.00 - 5.30
Saturday 9.00 - 12.00


 

San Domenico
Piazza San Domencio


History
Built from 1406-35 for Observant Dominicans and founded by Giovanni Dominici, a busy Dominican diplomat during the Papal Schism, whose preaching was described as 'like hearing Saint Francis reborn'. This was the second Dominican convent in Florence, after Santa Maria Novella and before San Marco, being consecrated on 25th October 1435. After being founded in 1406 the complex was abandoned in 1409 due to political machinations around the Schism, with the friars not returning until 1418. The church was lengthened and the interior remodelled in the 15th and 16th centuries based on the Badia in Florence, with the portico of 1635 and a campanile in 1611-13 added by Matteo Nigetti.
This was the convent Fra Angelico first entered, around 1421, possibly at the suggestion of Leonardo Dati, who he would have met while working in Santa Maria Novella. Born Guido di Pietro around 1400 and known as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole whilst here, he joined with his younger brother Benedetto and moved to San Marco around 1436. He returned (from Rome) in 1449 when elected prior here.
Much of the convent today houses the European University Institute which is based up the hill in the Badia complex, but a few monks remain.

The chapter house next door (ring at no.4 to the right of the church portico) contains a fresco of The Crucifixion (c.1430) by Fra Angelico, along with a fresco (and its sinopia) of the Madonna and Child originally a lunette in the cloister, also said to be by him. To the left of the portico is the entrance to a nice little cemetery with some odd and interesting stones and buildings.

Interior
Small and tall with three pietra serena arched deep chapels on each side. The first two on each side were built 1488-95, with the last pair the Annunciation chapel on the left and St Anthony's chapel on the right, built in 1559 and 1592 respectively. Those on the left are connected and the first contains the highlight Fra Angelico (see below) Also on this side are an Epiphany by Sogliani and a rather handsome and tastefully Mannerist Annunciation by Jacopo da Empoli. The chapels opposite contain a Crucifixion attributed to Jacopo del Sellaio and a Baptism of Christ by Lorenzo di Credi. The ceiling's trompe l'oeil frescoing is somewhat out of keeping.
 



Art highlight
An altarpiece, sometimes called The Fiesole Altarpiece, was made around 1425 for the high altar by Fra Angelico, one of three he painted for the church here (see Lost art below). It was removed from the high altar in 1610 and is now in the first chapel on the left. It is thought to be his first altarpiece. It shows the Madonna Enthroned handing a white and a red rose to the naked Christ, these flowers symbolising purity and the Eucharist. She is surrounded by angels with three Dominican saints in black and white robes (Dominic, Thomas Aquinas and Peter Martyr) with Saint Barnabas at her right hand, to honour Barnaba degli Agli, the patron. If it looks odd and too tall is because it was painted as a late-gothic gold-ground triptych and was altered in 1501 when it was enlarged at the top, the sky, background landscape and architecture was added by Lorenzo di Credi and the multi-compartmental arched framing was removed. He also repainted most of the costumes. For a reconstruction of the original form see right.
The saints in the pilasters here were taken from another altarpiece by the workshop of Lorenzo Monaco.
The mind-bogglingly populous predella panels show Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven flanked by The Virgin with the Apostles, Doctors of the Church and Monastic Saints in the panel on the left and The Forerunners of Christ with the Martyrs and Virgin in the panel on the right. In the pilasters are Eighteen Blessed of the Dominican Order, on the left, and Seventeen Blessed of the Dominican Order and Two Dominican Tertiaries. These panels in the church are copies by Michele Micheli, a copyist who helped to arrange the sale of Angelico's originals around 1827. The originals are now in the National Gallery in London, having been first bought by Nicola Tacchinardi, an opera singer favourite of Rossini.

Lost art
Works by Fra Angelico:  A Crucifixion with Saint Dominic fresco from the refectory here and two panels depicting adoring angels, very worn, are in the Louvre. These panels may have been part of the shutters of a ciborium mentioned by Vasari now in the Hermitage. Also in the Hermitage is a fresco depicting the Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas (see right).
Angelico's three major works, though, began with the high altarpiece above. The other two are the Annunciation in the Prado (painted next) with scenes from the Life of the Virgin in the predella, and a pastelly Coronation of the Virgin (with very colourful steps) in the Louvre, which has perspective-dominated scenes from the Life of St Dominic in the predella. This altarpiece was judged by Vasari to be the best of the three.  The Annunciation and Coronation altarpieces would originally have been on altars either side of a rood screen (left and right of the entrance, respectively) facing the congregation and were also both probably painted under the patronage of Taddeo di Angelo Gaddi, the great-grandson of the painter Taddeo. Both where looted by Napoleon. The Prado Annunciation recently underwent considerable conservation and study for the major 2019 Fra Angelico exhibition in that gallery.
The predella for the one that's still here is in the National Gallery and four standing saints from the side pillars are in Chantilly (Saints Mark and Matthew, probably studio works) and the Rau Collection in Remagen (Saints Nicholas of Bari and Michael). The roundels of the Annunciation in the pinnacles are in a private collection. Roundels of Saints Romulus and Alexander from the tops of the pilasters are in The London National Gallery and the Met respectively.
Perugino's Madonna and Child Enthroned, with Saints Sebastian and John the Baptist. Painted for the chapel of Cornelia di Giovanni Martini Salviati here (now the Guadagni Chapel) is in the Uffizi.

Opening times

7.30-12.30 & 4.30-6.30
(8.30-12.00 & 4.00-6.00 in winter)

 

   




A reconstruction of the original form of Fra Angelico's Fiesole Altarpiece



 

San Francesco
via San Francesco


History
Built on the site of an Etruscan, and then Roman, acropolis, the church of St Mary of the Flowers was built here for a small order of Florentine women called the Recluses of St Alexander (named for the nearby church). They established themselves here in 1333 and had a small gothic church built by Lapo di Guglielmo Pollini the year after. In 1352 they moved out, to Pietrafitta on the Mugnone river. A papal bull establishing a Franciscan convent here was issued in 1399 and from that date on the church was enlarged and its dedication was changed. Considerable regrettable rebuilding from 1600 was followed by heavy restoration in 1905-7, which resulted in neo-gothic heaviness at the expense of the renaissance charm, but the cloisters retain this.

Interior
A small gothic-arched space heavily restored in the 20th century with two pairs of ornate altars before the low balustrade dividing the body of the church from the deep choir. The triumphal arch is said to be the work of Benedetto da Milano from the period of Franciscan rebuilding.
On the first right-hand altar is a Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine by Cenni di Francesco (see right). The panel depicting St Anthony of Padua below it is said to be by one of the sisters of St Mary. There's (currently a photo of) an Immaculate Conception by Piero di Cosmo over the second
altar. The barrier of the balustrade means you can only get a distant view of the high altarpiece Crucifixion by Neri di Bicci. On the left-hand side altars are an Adoration of the Magi by the school of Cosimo Rosselli and a highlight Annunciation by Raffaellino del Garbo, formerly placed on the high altar. Also a Bicci di Lorenzo triptych placed on the wall here in 1998, a Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints.
The door on the left gives access to the sacristy, cloisters and museum. The museum has a somewhat ramshackle collection of Egyptian and Chinese objets collected by missionaries.

The square
In front of the church, the building that is now the shop was built in 1625 as a chapel dedicated to St Bernard. Various functions followed, before it was comprehensively restored in 1962. The loggia opposite was restored in 1931-3.

Opening times
9.00-12.00, 3.00-6.00 (7.00 April-September)
 
 



 

Sant’Alessandro
via San Francesco


History

Said to have been built on the site of an Etruscan temple, this church was probably founded in the 6th century, making it the oldest church in Fiesole. It was initially dedicated to St Peter but in 820 this was changed to St Alexander, a Bishop of Fiesole drowned near Bologna in 590 after challenging incursions into church matters made by the rulers of Lombardy. His remains are behind the altar. Much destructive rebuilding was carried out here in the 19th century.

Interior
The bare basilical interior has 15 cipollino marble columns, 8 each side*, with ionic capitals and bases recycled from a roman building.
A chapel on the left contains renaissance frescoes depicting The Birth and (Early) Life of Christ. The sacristy (to the left) has access below the church to ancient remains and mural paintings.

Opening times
Sometimes open for exhibitions.


*I know that 2x8=16, but until I find out if this is just bad maths...or that maybe one of columns is made of something else.


 

Santa Maria Primerana
Piazza Mino da Fiesole


History
Built on the site of an ancient oratory, it is said, first mentioned in 966. Rebuilt in the 16th/17th centuries, the facade was built in  1585, with the portico dating to 1801. The church was restored in 1948.

Interior
Plain and tall, the body of the church is dark and contains a few ordinary panels and copies, along with a painted Crucifix from c.1350 (restored in 2008 for a Uffizi exhibition L'eredità di Giotto) on the right wall, opposite an old column embedded in the wall on the left. The apse is brighter and has admirable frescoes. On the left is a damaged Nativity of the Virgin by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini and on the right a more vivid Presentation at the Temple by 'school of Taddeo Gaddi', as the printed guide in the church tells us. The frescoes on the left were discovered during the 1948 restoration work. In the tabernacle behind the 18th century altar is a locally revered Madonna from around 1255. There's a glazed terracotta Crucifixion in the left hand wing of the transept by Andrea della Robbia's workshop, and a bas-relief self-portrait head in the right hand wing by Francesco da Sangallo (1494-1576) and another by him of Francesco del Fede, of 1575.



 


 

 
Fontelucente
Named for a local spring known from at least the 15th century, an oratory was built here. Inside is a triptych by Mariotto di Nardo from 1398 of the Madonna della Cintola.

San Girolamo
History
Belonged to the Congregazione degli Eremiti di San Girolamo, an order founded by the Blessed Carlo da Montagranelli, receiving papal recognition in 1406 and 1415, with the patronage of the Medici, whose villa was nearby. Passing to Augustinians the complex was enlarged between 1445 and 1451 by Michelozzo for Cosimo de' Medici.  More remodeling to the monastery in the 17th century, which later that century fell into disuse and passed into private hands.
From 1889 the complex was run by nuns of the Little Company of Mary, originally as a nursing home and later providing room and board to visitors and students. But they were shut down by the mayor of Fiesole in 1998, who accused the nuns of running an unauthorized hotel.

The church
The entrance portico was built  by Matteo Nigetti in 1633. Art includes a fresco of Saint Jerome by Luigi Sabatelli. The high altar, also designed by Nigetti in 1661, has an altarpiece by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini of the Assumption of the Virgin.  In the floor are the porphyry tomb of Francesco del Tadda and the circular marble tomb of Girolamo di Piero di Cardinale Rucellai (see
Lost art below) of 1478.

Lost art
An altarpiece of c.1497 by Francesco Botticini, called the Saint Jerome Altarpiece (see below) which once stood on an altar here, is now in the National Gallery in London. The saint is flanked by Saints Damasus and Eusebius on the left, with Saints Paula and Eustochium, the Roman noblewoman and her daughter who became his friends and followers, on the right. The smaller kneeling figures are Girolamo di Piero di Cardinale Rucellai and his son.
A sacrament tabernacle from here is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.




 

 

San Martino di Mensola
Up via Dupre, side of Bandini

Sant'Ansano
oratory on trafficy via Vecchia Fies
Lost art
Lorenzo Monaco's Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saints John the Evangelist and Francis now in the Museo Bandini.

 

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