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Santa Trìnita


History

The original and smaller complex of the Vallombrosans, an order created by a Florentine nobleman called Giovanni Gualberto (see The Story of Giovanni Gualberto below left), was founded in 1092 on the site of an earlier Carolingian oratory. Parish church status was granted in 1178. Rebuilding and expansion followed 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. 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 (right). 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.

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.

Art highlights
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
First chapel Minor 17th century art, including Saint Lucy about to get her eyes gouged out.

Second chapel There's a serene St 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 size for it's stone frame.

Third chapel A fine Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece of 1430 by Bicci di Lorenzo. In the left wall here a tomb with a small Madonna and Child panel above attributed to Donatello, restored in 2014. Some good fresco fragments here too.

Fourth chapel 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 by him. High up on the outer arches are frescos of the life of Gualberto by Neri and his father Bicci di Lorenzo.

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.

First chapel on the left On the left wall 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 frescos of martyrdoms (a flaying and a beheading?) by Giovanni dal Ponte.

The next chapel (there's a rocker lightswitch to the left, but the attendant will tell you off) 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.

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.

Last chapel, right hand side 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 St. 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 to be properly seen.

The second quite bare chapel
has a Prediction of John the Baptist by Francesco Curradi from 1649.

The third chapel is the Spini chapel and has a Neri di Bicci altarpiece of 1456 of the Assumption of the Virgin. Also in here is a damaged detached fresco by Spinello Aretino, with its sinopia opposite.

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
Entrance in the centre of the nave. Bare and wide and roughly cross-shaped (see right). It's atmospheric if not pretty, you'll need 50c 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 be a Strozzi chapel. It's pretty bare, but there are some detached frescoes, and the tomb of Onofrio Pazzi, 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 far right) painted around 1280 for the high altar here. It was replaced with a Trinity by Alesso Baldovinetti 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 of 1423 by Gentile da Fabriano, commissioned by Palla Strozzi around 1421 for their family chapel, which is now the sacristy. The central panel, The Adoration of the Magi, and two elements of the predella, The Nativity and The Flight into Egypt, are in their original frames 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.

A Deposition by Fra Angelico (begun by Lorenzo Monaco) also commissioned by Palla Strozzi for the family chapel here (the first on the left) is now in the Museo di San Marco, as are its pinnacles by Lorenzo Monaco, with the predella panels he painted in the Accademia. The striking Trinity with Saints Benedict and Giovanni Gualberto by Baldovinetti of 1469-71 is now in the Accademia too.  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. A Bronzino Lamentation of 1546/8, formerly here, in the Uffizi since 1925.

Opening times
Daily 8.00-12.00, 4.00-6.00

Sundays and holidays: 8.00 -10.45, 4.00 - 6.00

The Story of Giovanni Gualberto
On a Good Friday 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 St 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.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 









 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 



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