The Santo Spirito Basilica, although located slightly north of the city centre, it is one of the most important churches in Florence. The highlight is a wooden crucifix attributed to Michelangelo. There are also works of art by Filippino Lippi, Bernardo Rossellino and Maso di Banco.
Santo Spirito Basilica Florence
Address, opening hours and ticket price
Address: Piazza Santo Spirito, 30 – Florence. Tel: . Opening hours: From 10.00 till 13.00 and from 15.00 till 18.00 Sundays and religious holidays from 11.30 till 13.30 and from 15.00 till 18.00. Closed: Wednesdays. Entrance fee: 2 Euros.(During the Covid-crisis, times may vary.)
The Chiesa di Santo Spirito stands on the square of the same name in a district called Oltrarno, on the other side of the river. The current church was built to a design by Filippo Brunelleschi. After his death in 1444, its construction was completed towards the end of the 15th century by Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Gaiole and Salvi d’Andrea. However, the facade was never finished and therefore has no decorations whatsoever.
When the first church was built on this site, long before Brunelleschi made his design, this was still a rural area. About halfway through, this church came into the hands of the Augustine Order, which is still managing the church today. Not much later, the population of the town began to increase. Also, the Ponte Santa Trinità was built, which made the district more important. As a result, politicians spent a lot of money on the construction of the church.
Brunelleschi had actually wanted the facade and the church square on the riverside. However, this was not possible because some families living on the site refused to sell their homes.
The current facade dates back to 1792. During the renovation some architectural elements were painted, but these were removed in the 1960s.
The church is 97 meters long and 32 meters wide (with a 58 meter transept) and has 38 side altars. Brunelleschi actually wanted a loggia on each side. This did not happen because the necessary changes to the facade would have been too extensive. The coats of arms above the windows belong to the families whose chapels are inside the church.
The church consists of three naves separated by columns, while the walls are decorated by pillars. There are also columns around the main altar.
The church has a coffered ceiling.
Works of art
The unadorned facade might suggest otherwise, but this church is bursting with beautiful works of art.
Michelangelo lived in the sacristy of the church for a period. A good part of this time he spent in the hospital of the associated monastery to study the anatomy of the corpses. He donated s wooden crucifix to the sacristy as a thank you for his stay. When the monastery was banned by the French occupiers at the end of the 19th century, the statue was given a new coat of paint. It was placed in another chapel to prevent the French from taking it to Paris. After having been exhibited at the Casa Buonarroti for some time, it was returned to the sacristy in 2000.
Pala Nerli and Pala Barbadori
Filippino Lippi was responsible for the Pala Nerli (“Madonna and Child and Saints” (1485). The saints are Martino and Caterina d’Alessandria. The other people in the painting are members of the Nerli family, who had commissioned the painting for their family altar. The angels are holding the Nerli coat-of-arms.
In 1429 the, childless, Gherado di Bartolomeo Barbadori had bequeathed his money to the church in order to have a chapel constructed in honor of San Frediano. In 1438, Filippino’s father, Filippo Lippi had been commissioned to paint what is now known as the Pala Barbadori. Unfortunately, Napoleon had the piece brought to France and it was never returned. Whoever wishes to see it will have to visit the Louvre.
The baroque altar with canopy and statues dates from the 17th century.
One of the highlights, although unfortunately rather neglected, is the fresco “Last Supper” painted by Andrea Orcagna in the refectory. A “Crucifixion” is part of this painting.