The San Miniato al Monte Church stands on a hilltop near Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence. If you get up early, you can go and listen to a mass with Gregorian chant at 07.00 hours. The façade is preceded by a beautiful monumental staircase.
San Miniato al Monte Church Florence
Address, opening hours and admission
The address is Via delle Porte Sante, 34 – Florence. Telephone: +39 055 2342731. Public transport: Bus 12, 13. Opening hours: From Monday to Saturday, the church opens at 07:00 for mass and choir singing. It closes at 8.30 am. For tourists, the church is open from 09.30 to 13.00 and from 15.00 to 19.00 hours. In the summer the church often doesn’t close until 20.00 hrs. On Sundays (except sometimes in winter) the San Miniato al Monte Church is open from 08.15 to 19.00 hours. Before 08.00 hrs. one can only enter through the old “Medici gate” at the side entrance at the end of the Via delle Porte Sante. Admission is free. People in a wheelchair need to contact the church before visiting.
The San Miniato al Monte Church was built in the 11th century. It is one of the few churches in Florence that has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries.
It is dedicated to saint Minias, who around the year 250 was beheaded by order of the emperor Decius. The reason was that Minias had tried to convert Roman soldiers to Christianity.
In 1018 the relics of the saint were buried in the new crypt.
The basilica is built on a spot where there was also a church before.
The architect himself was a bishop called Ildebrando.
In 1499 the bell tower collapsed. It was rebuilt by the architect Baccio d’Agnolo. When the imperial troops besieged the city in 1530, Michelangelo converted the tower into a defensive structure.
The monumental cemetery and the staircase to Piazzale Michelangelo date from the 18th century.
The church is visible from the centre of twon and has a green-white façade with interesting patterns. The white marble comes from Carrara, the green from nearby Prato.
On this facade you can see a bronze eagle with a knot of wool. This is the symbol of the Guild of Calimala (Arte della Calimala, named after the Via Calimala, where it was housed). These processors of precious textiles were among the most influential guilds of their time.
The mosaic above the central window depicts “Christ between the Madonna and San Miniato”. Within the church, in the apse, another work with this same theme can be seen.
The interior of the church is largely from the Middle Ages, with some additions from the Renaissance period. The ceiling is supported by a wooden roof. The columns have both classical and Byzantine capitals. The floor decorations consist of marble symbols of the zodiac. There are also several floor tombs.
There is an 11th century crypt where partly decayed murals by Taddeo Gaddi can be seen.
The sacristy was frescoed in 1387 by Spinello Aretino. The frescoes depict “Events from the life of Saint Benedict”.
The Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal is named after Jacopo di Lusitania, who died in Florence at a young age, 25 years old. This chapel, designed by Antonio Manetti, is decorated with works by a number of Renaissance masters.
Behind the church is a huge cemetery, where tombs can be seen that reflect all the art movements that have been going on in Florence over the centuries.
In the central nave are an aedicula designed by Michelozzo and a panel by Agnolo Gaddi. The panel is painted with a “Annunciation” and with “San Miniato”.
The “Chapel of the Crucifix” at the end of the central nave was designed by Michelozzo. The commissioner was Piero di Cosimo Dè Medici.
There is a crucifix made by Luca della Robbia.
The interior is further enhanced by marble that was originally used for Roman buildings.
Attractions near San Miniato in Monte
The fortress, built by Michelangelo, is right next to the church. The famous cemetery is located within the walls of this fortress. The Episcopal Palace (Palazzo dei Vescovi) also stands here. It was designed in 1295 as a summer residence for the bishop of Florence.