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Siena



 

Santa Trìnita


History
The original and smaller complex of the Vallombrosans, a Benedictine order created by a Florentine nobleman called Giovanni Gualberto (see The Story of Giovanni Gualberto below), was founded in 1092 on the site of an earlier Carolingian oratory which they enlarged at this date. Parish church status was granted in 1178, with rebuilding and expansion following after 1250 in a Gothic style by Niccolò Pisano. Damage resulting from the flood of 1333 resulted in more work from 1340, possibly under the direction of Neri di Fioravante. This is the gothic interior we see today. A controversial 'restoration to its original form' in the 1890s led to the loss of mannerist elements, including a staircase in front of the high altar by Buontalenti of 1574 which is now in Santo Stefano al Ponte and said to have been inspired by shells and bats' wings. This staircase was admired by Francesco Bocchi, writing in 1591, especially for it's bringing the clergy closer to the congregation. He also said that the church responds to the eye with considerable grace despite being planned at a very uncouth time.

Exterior
Mannerist façade by Bernardo Buontalenti of c.1593. His need for a looming vertical effect leads to his not covering the whole width with his façade, leaving the odd diamond-pointed bit to the left, visible in the photo (see right).

Interior
A big dark church, even on bright days, and very wide with unusually wide aisles. Many fine altarpieces,  patches of fresco and fully frescoed chapels - there are frescoes or fragments in the arches over most of the chapels, mostly lost in gloom. The facade of the old, Romanesque, church can be seen on the inner facade.
The chapels all have semi-hidden boxes with red buttons to push for lighting, and most of them work. You need a 50 cent or €1 coin to illuminate the Sassetti Chapel.

Left hand side
The first chapel has minor 17th-century art, including Saint Lucy (to whom this chapel is dedicated) about to get her eyes gouged out, by Pompeo Caccini.
In the second chapel there's a serene Saint Jerome, in an attractive wilderness with his dozing lion, by Ghirlandaio's son Ridolfo. Like all the works in this chapel it's the wrong size for it's stone frame.
The third chapel has a fine Annunciation altarpiece of 1430 by Bicci di Lorenzo. In the left wall here a classical tomb with a small Madonna and Child panel above attributed to Donatello, restored in 2014. Some good 14th- century 'school of Gaddi' fresco fragments here too.
The fourth chapel, the Compagni family chapel, was dedicated to Saint John Gualberto. Giovanni Gualberto with Saints (see detail far below) is a rare, and large, fresco by Neri di Bicci from 1455, detached from the cloister of the former monastery of the church of San Pancrazio after the flood in 1966 and restored and transferred here. It has recently been more fully restored. There's also a sweet, but ill-lit Annunciation here by him. This chapel walls were once frescoed with scenes from the life of the saint.  The remaining scenes are high up on the outer arches, and show The Murder of St John Gualberto’s Brother and St John Gualberto Forgiving the Assassin. Some sources say they are by Neri di Bicci and his father Bicci di Lorenzo, but they have recently been attributed to Bonaiuto di Giovanni, an associate of Bicci di Lorenzo.
The fifth chapel is the Chapel of the Assumption, or the Spini Chapel. In 1452/3 Bicci di Lorenzo's son, Neri di Bicci, frescoed this chapel with scenes from the life of Saint John Gualberto, and in 1455/6 he painted an altarpiece of The Assumption, now in Ottowa. See Lost art below.

Apse end
At the end of left transept arm is a small chapel with lots of marble decoration and fresco decoration by Domenico Cresti Il Passignano from 1593.
On the left wall if the first chapel on the left is a sweet tomb, of Benozzo Federighi, Bishop of Fiesole, with a lovely flowery frame, by Luca della Robbia (see right). It came here from the deconsecrated church of San Pancrazio in 1896. Above it and opposite are tantalising fragments of frescoes of martyrdoms (a flaying and a beheading?) by Giovanni dal Ponte.
The next chapel (there's a rocker light switch to the left, but the attendant will tell you off if you turn it on) is dark and baroque with 17th-century works, including a darkened San Pietro sulle Acqua of 1621 by Cristoforo Allori and Zanobi Rossi
In the baroque choir the high altarpiece polyptych is a Trinity and Saints Anthony, Michael, Francis, and Julian by Marriotto di Nardo (1424) and you can get behind it and look at the panels and construction.  There is also a rare surviving 15th-century carved Trinity on the altar below. Similar images were considered blasphemous by Pope Urban VIII and he ordered them destroyed in 1628. The apse ceiling disappears into the gloom, unfortunately, making it hard to see the figures of David, Abraham, Moses and Noah by Alesso Baldovinetti from c.1470, around the same time as he painted the Trinity mentioned in Lost art below.
The next chapel, the Doni chapel, decorated 1608-40 by Ludovico Cigoli, is dark and fenced off, with a painted Crucifix and grills each side. The Crucifix is the one from San Miniato which is said to have nodded to Giovanni Gualberti (see The Story of Giovanni Gualberto below ). It came here in a procession in November 1671.
The last chapel on the right hand side is The Sassetti Chapel with Domenico Ghirlandaio's very wonderful 1483-6  fresco series of the Life of St Francis. The back wall contains the most interesting scenes.  The Miracle of Saint Francis in resuscitating a boy who had fallen from Palazzo Spini was a late replacement for the originally-planned Apparition at Arles. It shows the piazza outside this church and is said to allude to the death of Sassetti's first son Teodoro and the birth of his second, given the same name as a sort of resurrection. The women clustering to the left said to be Sassetti's daughters. The figure far right, with his hand on his hip, is said to be Ghirlandaio. It is said that the whole cycle contains approaching sixty of Sassetti's family and friends. The Confirmation of the Rule scene above features portraits of Lorenzo de' Medici his sons and their tutor Angelo Poliziano against the backdrop of the Piazza della Signoria. (Despite the Florentine settings of these two scenes they both took place in Rome.) The four Sibyls in the vaults, including one modelled on Sassetti's daughter Sibilla, are also by Ghirlandaio, as is the Vision of Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl on the wall above the chapel entrance (see right). Francesco Sassetti, a Medici banker blamed for its declining fortunes just prior to his death from a stroke in 1490, and his wife Nera Corsi kneel either side of an equally gorgeous altarpiece, also by Ghirlandaio, depicting The Adoration of the Shepherds. This altarpiece is often cited as the work most obviously inspired by the Portinari Altarpiece (amongst many such) especially the shepherds. Ghirlandaio depicted himself, as the shepherd pointing to the Baby and the carved garland (ghirlanda) on a sarcophagus. The unusual presence of this antique sarcophagus in a nativity has been explained as it's thereby making a group of three with the actual tombs of the donors flanking the altarpiece in the side walls. 

Right hand side
The first chapel is firmly fenced in so the Cenni di Francesco fresco of the Communion of Mary Magdelene and its sketch opposite, are not easily seen.
The second, quite bare, chapel has a Prediction of John the Baptist by Francesco Curradi from 1649.
The third chapel has a Neri di Bicci altarpiece of 1466 of The Virgin Enthroned with Saints painted for the church of Saint Jerome in Fiesole and transferred here in the 19th century. Also in here is a damaged detached fresco of the Madonna Enthroned with Saints by Spinello Aretino, with its sinopia opposite found under Lorenzo Monaco's frescoes in the Salimbeni chapel, and still showing his hammer marks.
The fourth, Bartolini Salimbeni Chapel, has frescoes of The Life of the Virgin (1420-25), with the prophets David, Isiah, Malachi and Micah in the vaults, mature works by Lorenzo Monaco. These are his only known work in fresco and almost as special as the Ghirlandaios. For me the highlights are the people on the right wall and the architecture on the left wall. The Annunciation altarpiece is also by Lorenzo (see right) who did much good work, especially in illumination, at the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli, but it is in this chapel where you can see his best work in its original context. The floor features poppies, the family emblem, and 'Per non dormire' their motto, which translates as 'For those who don't sleep.'

The crypt
The entrance staircase is in the centre of the nave. It's a bare and wide and roughly cross-shaped space (see right), atmospheric if not pretty, and you'll need a 50¢ coin to light it.

The sacristy
The entrance doorway (by Lorenzo Ghiberti) is to the left of the side door in the right transept, and is opened on request by the attendant. It's a pleasingly tall space, which used to house the Strozzi family sepulchral chapel, and may also have been designed by Ghiberti. It's pretty bare, but there are some detached frescoes, and the tomb of Onofrio Strozzi, also built to designs by Ghiberti, commissioned by his son Palla, who was banished after the revolt in 1434 against Cosimo il Vecchio. Palla was one of 500 who were banished, and he died in Padua. The tomb is decorated with flowers painted by Gentile da Fabriano, who also painted the Adoration of the Magi (now in the Uffizi) for Palla Strozzi for this chapel.

Lost art
The Cimabue Maestà della Madonna (see right) painted around 1280 for the high altar here. It was replaced with a Trinity by Alesso Baldovinetti (mentioned in Lost art below) in 1471 and moved into a side chapel and, later, the monastery infirmary. It's been in the Uffizi since 1919, where it's now part of the spectacular Cimabue/Giotto/Duccio trio on display in room 2.
An altarpiece signed and dated May 1423 by Gentile da Fabriano, was commissioned by Palla Strozzi around 1421 for the family chapel here in the sacristy. The gilt and gorgeous central panel, The Adoration of the Magi, and two panels of the predella, The Nativity and The Flight into Egypt, are in the original frame in the Uffizi (since 1919). Another panel from the predella, the impressively architectural and very finely-wrought Presentation at the Temple, is in the Louvre (since 1812), with a copy taking its place in the Uffizi. There is conjecture that the Presentation panel may feature a building based on the long-lost Strozzi palazzo which stood opposite this church. The main panel is said to contain a portrait of Palla Strozzi in the train of the magi, holding a hawk.
Also commissioned by Palla Strozzi for the same chapel here was A Deposition by Fra Angelico now in the Museo di San Marco. The altarpiece was begun by Lorenzo Monaco -  its pinnacles are by him, as are the probable predella panels, of scenes from the lives of Saints Onofrio and Nicholas, in the Accademia. The altarpiece had been begun by Lorenzo, but upon his death in 1424 it was completed by Angelico and installed on 26th July 1432. Palla Strozzi is depicted on the right holding the crown of thorns and the nails, his son Lorenzo kneels in the right foreground nearby. A very finished drawing of The Dead Christ from the altarpiece is in the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge.



Bicci di Lorenzo's altarpiece of 1434, painted for the Compagni chapel here (see reconstruction above, from Bicci di Lorenzo’s altarpiece for the Compagni family chapel by Dillian Gordon, Burlington Magazine Feb 2019 ) has its main-tier panels now in Westminster Abbey in London. The central panels show the Virgin Enthroned with Saints John Gualberto, Anthony, John the Baptist and Catherine. The predella panels have in recent years been identified as the central Nativity and Saint John Gualberto and the Destruction of the Abbey of Moscheta in private collections, and the Baptism of Christ in the York Art Gallery. The missing panels are also thought to be scenes from the lives of the saints above them, Anthony and Catherine. The reasons for the altarpiece's removal, by 1845, are unknown. Bicci's son Neri di Bicci painted an altarpiece of The Assumption in 1455/6 for the Spini chapel here. It is now in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottowa.
The striking Trinity with Saints Benedict and Giovanni Gualberto by Alesso Baldovinetti of 1469-71, originally from the Gianfigliazzi chapel here, is now in the Accademia too. In a lecture on the artist Roger Fry was scathing of this painting's want of imagination, ugly bambini, and 'pellets of cotton wool' clouds. He admired the painting of the embroidered curtain held open by cherubs, however, whilst admitting that he always hoped that they'd let it fall back into place.
Albertinelli & Franciabigio's impressive Virgin and Child  between Saints Jerome and Zenobius painted for the Zenobi del Maestro chapel here, is now in the Louvre, having been looted by Napoleon.
Bronzino's early major work, The Dead Christ with the Virgin and Mary Magdalene of c.1528/9, formerly in the convent here, has been in the Uffizi since 1925.

The Story of Giovanni Gualberto
One Good Friday Giovanni Gualberto left home with his gang of roughs, fully intending to avenge the recent murder of his brother. Upon finding the murderer, who pleaded for his life, it being the day Jesus was crucified, Gualberto decided to spare him, and proceeded up to San Miniato. Here a crucifix was said to have bowed its head to him in honour of his mercifulness. Gualberto later became a Benedictine monk and founded the Vallombrosan order. He died in 1073. This story is the source of Edward Burne-Jones's early painting The Merciful Knight, which shows Christ kissing Gualberto. The Crucifix of Saint Giovanni Gualberto, now kept in this church, is said to be the miraculous crucifix, but it isn't that old - the story is around 200 years older than this crucifix. A cult flourished in the late-14th and 15th centuries which ascribed to it miraculous powers.

Opening times
Daily 8.00-12.00, 4.00-6.00

Sundays and holidays: 8.00 -10.45, 4.00 - 6.00

 



 


 



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