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San Miniato al Monte, Florence

 

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Get there (in a car) by driving West from Piazzale Michelangelo and then turning hard left up a road which goes to the base of the steps leading up to the church.

 

 

 

 

A fine romanesque church overlooking Florence from the South.  The Armenian (son of a King?) St Minias lived a hermetic life on the site, and after escaping a number of execution attempts was finally beheaded in the city on the orders of the Emperor Decius on 25 October 250.  Not yet done, Minias waded back across the Arno carrying his head in order to die on the mountain which was his home. 

 

A Carolignian donation facilitated the first church on the site in the 700s, followed by a Benedictine church and monastery sponsored by Bishop Hildebrand in the ten hundreds. 

 

The Benedictine community later went into decline, but was reinvigorated by "White Benedictine" monks from Monte Oliveto in 1373, and they are still there in buildings largely dating back to Renaissance times, after many vicissitudes including dissolutions and replacements (two) by Jesuits.  The buildings were secularized as part of Cosimo I / Michelangelo's Florence defence systems in the fifteen hundreds, then much later the redundant defence bulwarks were transformed into revenue generating cemetery areas with a view.

 

The central pavement of the basilica contains the signs of the Zodiac and various animals depicted in marble intarsia panels.

 

 

The facade and facade mosaic

 

 

 

Byzantine style Apse mosaic - Christ the Pantocrator between St Mary and St Minitas (c 1260)

 

 

 

A set of Zodiac signs imbedded in the nave - Photo Holly Hayes, Sacred Destinations

 

 

Those familiar with the great Puglian Romanesque Cathedrals will recognize immediately the look of San Miniato's marble ambo (? pulpit) dated 1209.  One of the sad costs of the Renaissance was the almost complete destruction of pre Black Death (1348) / Romanesque architecture and "furniture", which is another reason why it's worth climbing this hill.

 

 

Ceramic ceiling by Luca della Robbia in the vault of the Cardinal of Portugal's Chapel (c1460-70)

 

 

You know where, from the terrace.

 

 

St Benedict, captured by Spinello Arentino around the mid thirteen hundreds, welcoming King Totila.

 

 

 

More photos of Florence from San Miniato

 

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All original material Adrian Fletcher 2000-2014 -  may not be hotlinked, or reproduced without permission