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Ognissanti (Firenze)

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The Church of Ognissanti, on the North bank of the Arno just to the West of the city centre, dates from 1249, and owes its origins to a group of Umiliati monks from Lombardy (North Italy) who set up Florence's first wool mills there, powered by water diverted from the Arno by a weir.   Wool was to become the powerhouse of the first phase of Florence'c wealth.


Ognissanti became the parish church of several wealthy merchant families, including the Vespucci, one of whose members (Amerigo) gave his name to the Americas.  Sandro Botticelli (1444 - 1510) and Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449 - 1494) were also members of the congregation, and the latter left behind one of his best "Last Suppers" in the convent (equals monastery) refectory.


In 1561 the Umiliati, now on the verge of suppression (this happened in 1571), vacated the premises and were replaced by Franciscan Spiritual Minors.  The church was reconstructed in 1582, and again in 1748.  During the eighteen hundreds there were two suppressions (1810 and 1866) and by 1923 the place was in use as a store and Carabinieri base (which it still partly is).  More recently the Franciscans (who had regained possession earlier in the nineteen hundreds) handed over to the Benedictines for the next watch! 



Unlike many baroqued reconstructed basilica churches in Italy, the space inside Ognissanti is open, light and attractive.  It's a good space!  Inside the door is the ubiquitous Medici coat of arms set in an expensive floor arrangement.

The star attraction is the superbly restored Last Supper (1480) by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the next door convent refectory.  Because the place is off the main tourist drag, is not obvious and not open that often (9am to midday - Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays), there's usually the opportunity to sit in one of the four chairs provided and soak up the detail of the faces and body postures.  It's interesting also to read the notes provided about the symbolism of, for example, apricots (sin), lettuce (penitance), cherries (the blood of Christ), oranges (paradise).  Then there are the birds (especially the many pheasants) symbolising resurrection and the care of spiritual well-being.


Saint Jerome (San Girolamo) (1449) by Domenico Ghirlandaio 

Saint Augustine (1445) by Sandro Botticelli

Crucifixion (1366) by Taddeo Gaddi

Deposizione (1449) by Domenico Ghirlandaio




Above the Depozitione (to the right after you enter the church) is the Madonna della Misericorde (1494) by Domenico Ghirlandaio, featuring (face immediately to the left of the Madonna) Amerigo Vespucci (1454 - 1512 (58)), an Ognissanti parishioner after whom the two continents of the Americas were later named.





A terracotta Madonna from the Ognissanti Convent




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