Monday, June 27, 2011

The Spanish Chapel and San Miniato al Monte


This morning we had Marco again for lecture and were scheduled to meet at 9:00 AM at Santa Maria Novella to visit San Miniato, a beautiful church on a hill across the river that overlooks Florence and the Arno. It is a church that I have seen several times on my walks along the river and finally get to visit.

Before heading to the meeting point for class, I left early to finish our first looking assignment at the Duomo. On the way I had the Italian breakfast of champions, a cappuccino and paste (a pastry). The bakery I really like is called Gran Caffe San Marco, in Piazza San Marco (very close to our hostel) and on the way to most meeting points, cultural centers and our campus.

Here is there display of pastries, which, even now when it's a hundred and two degrees outside, makes me want to hike over there for a canolli.

Mmm-mmm good!

I've tried the pistachio ones so far, but they're a bit much in the morning so I usually go for the following:


 Marmalade awesomeness!

The assignment was to carefully observe the original exterior of the church and take notes about its pattern, which if you haven't noticed from the pictures is CRAZY!

Side of the Duomo (the original facade)

The choir at the apse of the cathedral.

I'm not sure about all of the symbolism of the patterns, but I do know that it is very busy and there were more circular patterns than I could count.
Before heading to San Miniato we went back to Santa Maria Novella to visit the Spanish chapel which was closed the day before.

Courtyard outside the Spanish Chapel

Marco showing us frescoes

The Spanish Chapel was originally a chapter house that was converted for La Signora, Eleanor of Toledo the Spanish royal wife of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. This chapel, like the cathedral of San Lorenzo, was run by Dominicans. It has beautiful frescoes. In each section, the 14th century artist Andrea di Bonaiuto painted commemorations of the Dominican order's religious views, Florentine culture and Florentine arts which were so heavily patronized by the Medici.  Here are some pictures of the Spanish Chapel frescoes:

The ceiling

Christ carrying the cross

Images of the important people of Florence with the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in the background. If you click on the image you can see that the black and white dogs in the foreground are protecting some sheep. The black and white dogs are the Dominicans (because they wear black and white robes) protecting the faithful.

This one was my favorite. Each of the ladies sitting on a throne symbolizes one of the arts.

After visiting the Spanish Chapel we took a bus to San Miniato. Like all the main churches in Florence, San Miniato has the very distinct, Florentine green and white marble facade, but unlike the others it is perched on one of the hills overlooking the city. I've seen San Miniato many times on my walks by the Arno. Finally I got to see it up close and look down at the glory of Firenze from San Miniato's high perch! 

The bus we took from Santa Maria Novella left us at the Piazza Michelangelo from which you have a beautiful vista of the entire city. This piazza is where the fireworks launch on St. John the Baptist's Feast Day! From the piazza we hiked up to the cathedral and had another tour from Marco!

Walk up the steps to San Miniato

 When we got there, there was a wedding happening and another in a few hours. The wedding we saw was for a member of the military and his young wife.

 So sweet! You can see the groom in the background. I didn't feel like it was nice to sneak a picture of the groom and bride. There is only so much sneaky photography I can do in a day. But there is no doubt that San Miniato is a beautiful and romantic church to be married in.

 The Nave of San Miniato

The wooden ceiling, which is traditional in Tuscany.

Here is a detail of the ceiling. It was so beautiful and ornate. I absolutely love these Italian colorful ceilings.

 The altar.

A space below the main altar. We didn't have a lot of time to tour, so I don't know anything about this space, except that I thought it was awesome!

One of the decorated corners.
After our tour of the cathedral, we were scheduled to head back down to the city center and then to the CSU campus for our second drawing lesson in one point perspective. However, it was so beautiful up here that some of us asked if we could stay and have our drawing lesson on site. Our amazing teacher Marsha was very accommodating and came up to meet us!

Along with being an amazingly gorgeous vista point and cathedral, San Miniato is also one of the remaining old cemeteries in Florence, and it is in the cemetery behind the church where we had our drawing lesson. 

This was one of the beautiful headstones near the facade of the cathedral.


I chose to sketch one of the tombstone sculptures, a very sentimental depiction of a young married couple, age 20 and 22, who both died in World War II. I think I was drawn to them because of the love and longing in their stance. I loved how wistfully they look into each others eyes and lean in to hold hands.

A view of Florence from San Miniato

Our whole class



  1. I see the photo of yourself is a representation of the statue/headstone that you have posted above. Are the "children" you are looking down upon your birds?

  2. Did you see the Zodiac detail, from the opus sectile pavement in San Miniato?