The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is deemed the oldest cathedral in Florence and the most important Dominican establishment in the capital of Tuscany. The construction of Santa Maria Novella started around 1246, only to complete in the latter half of the 14th century, and it is an exquisite substantiation of the Gothic style – Santa Maria Novella being, at the same time, the most impressive Gothic edifice in Tuscany – boasting a huge artistic asset both inside and on the outer structure. Many decorative additions have been brought in time to this edifice, the nowadays church being, in fact, the result of centuries of finishing and embellishment works.

As it is the case with plenty other churches in Florence, Santa Maria Novella too has required the contribution of a large range of artists: Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Masaccio, Nino Pisano, Giorgio Vasari, just to name a few. One can never decide what to start with when entering Santa Maria Novella, since the basilica is replete with artistic highlights, each more valuable than the other. Thus, before entering the edifice, tourists should pay attention to the details of the façade, the portals, the columns and the arches, chiefly made of black, green and white marble (as Leone Battista Alberti saw fit at the time). However, once inside, visitors should focus on several masterpieces. Of these, the Tornabuoni Chapel is the most striking of all in Santa Maria Novella, being overtopped by a fresco of Ghirlandaio, though there is a noticeable contribution to this fresco from the part of Michelangelo, back than a mere apprentice in the workshop of Ghirlandaio.

Next, the Strozzi Chapel – where Filippo Strozzi is entombed – moves by a Filippino Lippi fresco, one of the latest works of the artist, complemented by the presence of a sculpture pertaining to Benedetto da Maiano. The Rucellai Chapel, the Bardi Chapel, the Della Pura Chapel, each of these put forward frescoes, tombs, statues, crucifixes and other works of art owed to Vasari, Giuliano Bugiardini and Baccio da Montelupo. However, by far, the most spectacular of all highlights in Santa Maria Novella refers to the so-called Spanish Chapel (Cappellone degli Spagnoli), also called the Chapterhouse, which is now displayed in the museum pertaining to Santa Maria Novella, the artistic value of this chapel consisting of the huge fresco conceived by Andrea Bonaiuti (otherwise called Andrea da Firenze), a fresco huge both by its dimensions and artfulness of details and overall coherence.

Another asset of the museum refers to the Green Cloister embellished by some frescoes by Paolo Uccello, the name of the cloister comes from the greenish hue of the frescoes. However, other major highlights refer to Giotto’s Crucifix in the very center of the central nave, and to Masaccio’s Trinita, a work of art later buried under the paintings of Vasari (the architect commissioned to restore the church in the 16th century) and subsequently (the 19th century) rediscovered and appreciated for its worth. A further benefit of this edifice is it is located nearby the homonymous train station, the largest one in Florence.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, Florence
Telephone number:
0039 (0)55 215 918