Santissima Annunziata, Florence
History and museums
The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation) is a Renaissance-style, Roman Catholic minor basilica in Florence, region of Tuscany, Italy. This is considered the mother church of the Servite Order. It is located at the northeastern side of the Piazza Santissima Annunziata near the city center.
The church was founded in 1250 by the seven original members of the Servite Order. In 1252, a painting of the Annunciation, which had been begun by one of the monks but abandoned in despair because he did not feel he could create a beautiful enough image, was supposedly completed by an angel while he slept. This painting was placed in the church and became so venerated that in 1444 the Gonzaga family from Mantua financed a special tribune. Michelozzo, who was the brother of the Servite prior, was commissioned to build it, but since Ludovico III Gonzaga had a special admiration for Leon Battista Alberti, in 1469 this latter architect was given the commission. Alberti's designs were constricted by the pre-existing foundations. Construction was completed in 1481, after Alberti’s death. Though the structure was refurbished in Baroque-style in the seventeenth century, the basic scheme of a domed circular space flanked by altar niches is still evident.
The facade of the church was added in 1601 by the architect Giovanni Battista Caccini, imitating the Renaissance-style of Brunelleschi's facade of the Foundling Hospital, which defines the eastern side of the piazza. The building across from the Foundling Hospital, designed by Sangallo the Elder, was also given a Brunelleschian facade in the 1520s.
Pilgrims who came to the church to venerate the miraculous painting often left wax votive offerings, many of them life-size models of the donor (sometimes complete with horses). In 1516, a special atrium was built to house these figures, the Chiostrino dei Voti. By the late 18th century there were some six hundred of these images and they had become one of the city's great tourist attractions. In 1786, however, they were all melted down to make candles.
Pope Alexander VI, in appreciation for the survival of Rome after French occupation, paid homage and gifted a silver effigy to the church.
The Florentine brides traditionally visit the shrine to leave their bouquets.
This church is entered from the Chiostrino dei Voti. The Baroque decoration of the church interior was begun in 1644, when Pietro Giambelli frescoed the ceiling with an Assumption as a centerpiece based on designs by Baldassare Franceschini.
The 1st chapel to right contains a Madonna in Glory by Jacopo da Empoli, with walls frescoed by Matteo Rosselli. The 5th chapel on the right contains a Monument to Orlando de' Medici (1456) by Bernardo Rossellino. The right transept has a small side chapel has a Pietà (1559) by Baccio Bandinelli and graces his tomb.
The chapel-surrounded tribune or choir, known as the Rotonda, was designed in turn by Michelozzo and Alberti between 1444–76. Notable among the chapels is the fifth (aligned to nave axis), which has a crucifix (1594–8) by Giambologna for his tomb, with statues of the "Active and Contemplative Lives" by his pupil Francavilla, saints and angels by Pietro Tacca, and murals by Bernardino Poccetti. The next chapel has a Resurrection (1548–52) by Bronzino with a statue of St Roch attributed to Veit Stoss. The next chapel has a Madonna with Saints by a follower of Perugino.
In the sixth chapel to the left of the nave is a SS Ignatius, Erasmus and Blaise by Raffaellino del Garbo; the next chapel has one of the panels of Annunziata Altarpiece (1507) by Perugino, once at the high altar of the church (the Deposition, begun by Filippino Lippi, is now at the Gallerie dell'Accademia, while other panels are divided between other collections in the world). The altarpiece of the next chapel has a Trinity with Saint Jerome and two saints (c. 1455) by Andrea del Castagno, who also painted the mural of The Vision of St. Julian in the next chapel, called the Feroni chapel. This chapel was elaborately decorated in a baroque fashion by Gianbattista Foggini in 1692. The first chapel just to the left of the entrance has a tabernacle of the Annunciation (1448–52) by Michelozzo and the sculptor Pagno di Lapo Portigiani .
The organ (1628) is the oldest in Florence and the second oldest in Italy. The church contains the tomb of the Italian writer Maria Valtorta.
The Chiostrino dei Voti was designed by Michelozzo. Baldovinetti painted the first lunette in the chiostro in c. 1460. In about 1476, Rosselli began a cycle dedicated to the then Blessed Filippo Benizzi, fifth Prior General of the Servites, which was then completed (1509-1510) by Andrea del Sarto.
Another cloister, known as the Chiostri dei Morti, contains the famous Madonna del Sacco (1525) by del Sarto. The Cappella di San Luca, which opens off it, has belonged to the artists confraternity or the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno since 1565. Many artists are buried in its vault, including Benvenuto Cellini, Pontormo, Franciabigio, Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli and Lorenzo Bartolini. Inside is Pontormo’s Holy Family (c. 1514) painted for church of St. Ruffillo and murals by Alessandro Allori: Trinity; Vasari: St. Luke paints Madonna; and Santi di Tito: Solomon directs the construction of the temple of Jerusalem. The ten large stucco figures were sculpted by Vincenzo Danti, Montorsoli and others.
Most part of the Cloister of SS. Annunziata is today the seat of Istituto Geografico Militare (IGM). In 2007, in the west part of the cloister occupied by the Istituto, the group found a monumental stair by Michelozzo, previously hidden, an Annunciation attributed to Paolo Uccello, some 'Grottesche' frescoes by Morto da Feltre.