I mentioned last time how I’m a sucker for ancient cathedrals and other historic places of worship. Picking up where I left off, this post touches upon the basilicas (i.e., churches) of the Italian city of Florence, long recognized as the birthplace of the Renaissance. In case you’ve forgotten whatever art history you ever knew, the Renaissance, which promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art, is generally believed to have started in Italy during the 14th century after the end of the Middle Ages, reaching its height in the 15th century before spreading to the rest of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. I mean, we’re not just talking old, we’re talking really really old.
The featured image depicts the façade of the Basilica of Santa Croce, a Franciscan church built near the end of the 1200’s with one of the greatest assemblages of frescos, paintings, sculptures, and funeral tombs in the entire world. Impressively, it is the final resting place of storied Renaissance luminaries like Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, and Machiavelli. To be honest, I initially didn’t care for this shot all that much. It was wet and rainy, which forced me and my tripod to seek refuge in a cramped (but covered) passageway. There was spray paint graffiti on the left wall and a crooked traffic sign in the right foreground. And I strongly resented the multiple service vehicles parked directly in front of the church. But with time, my attitude has changed. With a less critical (or maybe more observant?) eye, I now appreciate how a stunning basilica with an amazing history and priceless art can be so harmonious with an unpretentious residential neighborhood. While many of us tend to take our surroundings for granted, I’ll bet that rarely happens for most Florentines.
The side image depicts the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, which is located on top of one of the most beautiful hills of Florence and has a spectacular view of the city. (Shame on me, I was so obsessed with the view that I didn’t snap many shots of the church). Viewed by some as Florence’s “crowning glory,” it’s easy to understand why San Miniato, which dates back to 1018, is the most favorite church for weddings in Florence. Decorated with the city’s emblematic green and white marble in geometric patterns, the façade sports a beautiful golden mosaic that dates back to the 13th century. The highlight of the visit, however, took place in the crypt where the resident monks sang their Gregorian chants by candlelight at a daily service in the early evening. As partner Carol and I listened in the intimate darkness, it momentarily felt like we had stepped back centuries in time.
There are a dizzying number of lovely churches in Florence, over 100. If you’d like to read one writer’s assessment of the top 15, click here.
Although the Italy gallery of our online store is still on the drawing board, we have a plentiful supply of prints from Florence, Siena, and Venice at our gallery on Bainbridge Island. If you happen to be in our neck of the woods, please feel free to stop by! (Or, if you shoot me an email, I’d be happy to send you a contact sheet of our images from Italy.) In the meantime, as we continue to extra-cautiously deal with the pandemic, Carol and I sincerely hope that you and everyone in your world are staying healthy, safe, and strong.
Ciao for now,
Andrew (“Andy”) Bergh