Santa Maria Novella (Florence (Firenze) - Italy)

Since my planned visit to Florence Duomo got flopped, I had quite a bit of time left in Florence to see something else after Uffizi. However I didn't want to go somewhere and get delayed for my bus to Pisa. So I opted to go to the Bus Depot instead. But then when I reached the Bus Depot, very close to it was this Church. So it was by chance, that I visited this Santa Maria Novella and I was & am glad that I did. Going by its name, I thought it would be a new church but..........

The church was originally called Novella, because there was old chapel in the same site called Santa Maria delle Vigne of 9th C CE. This 'new' church was built in 1221 and I was so fooled by its name!!!! Plus this also comes under the Historic Centre of Florence UNESCO Sites!!!!! I honestly got lost in its beauty and antiquity. There was so much to see in the church that, at that point, I felt pressed for time!!! Each and every wall was filled with frescoes of 13-15th C CE (we're talking about something that pre-dates renaissance and ofcourse Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel!). If you're an art buff or into art history, this place is a treasure trove.

In 1219 CE, it was designed by Dominican Frairs as a simple church. Later on in 1279 CE, the present huge facade with all its marble detailing and adjacent convent which all got ready by mid 14th C CE. My first impression as soon as I got in - its so huge and every bit of the wall and ceiling is covered with frescoes. Behind the main altar are 3 huge stained glass windows. The frescoes all around are by Domenico Ghirlandaio made in 1485-90 incl a gorgeous Coronation of Madonna with angels, prophets and saints.

On either sides are 2 more altars and on the 2 sides are 2 more chapels all filled with frescoes. In Capella Maggiore, the entire life of Mary is painted since her birth to presentation to temple, wedding to Joseph, her adoration, birth of St John, baptism of Jesus & more.
At some places the frescoes are so worn out incl a coronation of Madonna painted in 1335 in Western Transept. The Gaddi Chapel has frescoes of Giovanni Antonio Dosio in 1575-77. However these too were very worn out.
Chapel Rucellai has frescoes of 1310 to 1540 painted by various artists. How is the sculpture above??? Well, that's a painting too!!!

Most of the nave is restored with the original frescoes forming panels in them. Along the walls are certain tiny chapel like structures with small stained glass windows and frescoes. On the facade, atop is a circular stained glass window depicting the Coronation of Virgin made by 1365 by Andrea di Bonaiuto. Around the door are fresco panels of Nativity and Annuciation made between 1366 - 1592 by multiple artists.

The cloisters are also painted and the crypt is filled with tombstones as usual. Then I went to the Spanish Chapel and..................... I didn't want to get out of it!!! This was originally the Chapter House of the monastery. 


Every bit of it was so well painted. On one wall of Triumph of St Thomas, story of St.Peter Martyr, Ascension of Christ, Scenes of Earthly life, Passion of Christ all by Andrea di Bonaiuto in 1365-67. 
Remember the good old 9th C CE church? After that a 2nd church was built in 1094. The present structure is the 3rd. There are remnants of that 1094 church below the present church at the nave. At one point on the right when you're in front of the altar, is a glass floor below which the old structure is visible.
It was a blessing in disguise that my visit to Duomo got flopped. I got to see the awesomeness of this church and guess what, there were hardly 20-25 people in this church when I was there and I got to see each and every fresco at my own pace and space!

My complete Florence (Firenze) travelogue: 
Firenze Town: David by Michelangelo, Galleria dell' Accademia, Uffizi Gallery, Historic Centre of Florence, Loggia dei Lanzi, Santa Maria Novella
Pisa Town: Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa Cathedral & Baptistery, Pisa Camposanto, Pisa Town

To Get There:
Nearest Metro Station: Santa Maria Novella
Nearest Bus Station: Santa Maria Novella
Entry Fee: €5

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

27 comments:

  1. Truly Amazing. Loved the post and photos.

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  2. All I can say is that it is really great that your original plans did not go ahead! This place is just so beautiful. I spent so long reading your post and looking carefully at the photos. Simply stunning in such amazing detail. Anyone visiting Florence should definitely visit this.

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  3. That is a good gem you stumbled upon! Such colorful and artistic work inside!
    I wish I had known such little offbeat places during my visit. Hope I get the opportunity.

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  4. It is cool to see that the cost is not a lot. When I travel with my son the costs of places like this can often add up as there is three of us. This place is new to me so I am glad I heard about it from this post of yours

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  5. It's so easy to get lost in such beautiful art. And of course, churches are the perfect place to do some soul searching!

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  6. I really love Florence this post has brought back some good memories. When I went I was gobsmacked at how beautiful all the buildings were and your pictures are showing that too. I cant wait to go back one day and explore more as the Spanish Chapel looks so interesting

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  7. What a beautiful church the Santa Maria Novella, a really nice surprise. I can totally see why it is a UNESCO site. Especially the windows are so colorful and detailed. Luckily you had all the space to walk around.

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  8. Very grand and splendid Santa Maria Novella church. Buildings are very beautiful and also the stained glass windows. As your Duomo plan planned you got chance to see something very unique and also not many people know about it. Beautiful pictures.

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  9. That is a gorgeous church. Love the open space and the striped tops on the arches too. As you say an absolute gem.
    It's funny how when things go wrong something better happens. Looks like this was the case here.

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  10. All your Florence posts remind me of my visit and get me all nostalgic! :) Loved the details of the Santa Maria Novella. The windows are love and so are the ceilings. I almost got a neck sprain trying to click them all :) So happy you got time at each fresco and it was devoid of the crowds!

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  11. I'm not religious at all but loved walking through these old churches. So much beauty. I love how your photos have captured the delicate artwork. It really shows how much time and energy goes into these buildings.

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  12. I too will take a bus from Florence to Pisa (I'll be following in your footsteps!) so I hope i stumble across the Santa Maria Novella church too. I will make sure i will as it's part of the UNESCO listed sites if Florence. You photographed the church beautifully.

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  13. What a beauty this Santa Maria Novella church! It's always great to discover sights or buildings by chance without planning so. It definitely makes your adventure more special :-)

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  14. The structures are so massive and amazing. Can't get over the wall paintings either....so intricate and detailed esp in Chapel Rucellai.

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  15. Isn't it great that sometimes when we change our plans, good things seem to happen? I cannot believe you found a church with such history and amazing pieces of artwork.

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  16. Some plans get cancelled for a reason and see you already have an awesome answer for your this plan cancellation. The Church is really massive. The ceilings, wall paintings and the intricate detailing on them is beyond words. I should say you actually explored out a hidden gem.Your pictures speak out for the beauty of the place.

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  17. The church looks very beautiful, with the wall paintings and the high ceilings. I like that there is a lot of light inside as well. I will be spending a month in Tuscany in autumn so I'll make sure to pass by and visit it.

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  18. The church is so grande and beautiful with the high ceilings, painted walls and those beautiful stain-glass windows. It's just splendid. Would love to have a look at this place in person.

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  19. What a fascinating architecture of this church! From its painted walls to its massive ceiling to its glass-painted windows, everything looks surreal! Glad that you made it!

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  20. I love that you found this place by just being at the bus stop and wanting to explore more! A true traveller. There's always something to explore!

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  21. This is something we did not see in Florence, Santa Maria Novella looks really exquisite. Florence is indeed such a place that you will discover a work of art rich around every corner. After all the likes of Michael Angelo and other great masters walked here once upon a time.

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  22. Whoa! The architecture of the Santa Maria Novella complex is simply breathtaking. Look at all those frescoes and stained glass windows! But what I'm amazed at are the archs; they look thin and graceful, but they could hold up the entire building!

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  23. How interesting! The church looks very beautiful, I love finding hidden gems totally by accident :)

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  24. I'm obsessed with Florence and all the wonderful marble fronted buildings! We went here, but sadly it was raining so didn't see it at its bets - these pictures fill my heart with joy!

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  25. What an adventure! Your post also bright back my memories of Italy and Florence. I look forward to read at you Pisa adventure. Keep exploring :)

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  26. We came in to the main Firenze train station, Santa Maria Novella, several times while in Italy. We happened upon this church one time while we went through Firenze and really enjoyed the outside of it. We were pressed for time and were unable to see the inside. We had no idea there was as much to see inside.

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