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San Miniato al Monte

The Jewel on the Hill

San Minato

High atop its monumental steps, San Miniato’s distinctive and beautiful façade can be seen from almost anywhere in Florence, although relatively few visitors take the time to visit one of the finest Romanesque churches in Italy. San Miniato was built in 1015, over an earlier church that marked the spot where the head of St Minias, a 3rd-century Roman soldier, bounced when the Romans axed it off.

The Façade

The church has always been one of the dearest to Florentine hearts. The remarkable geometric pattern of green, black and white marble that adorns its façade was begun in 1090, although funds only permitted the embellishment of the lower, simpler half of the front.

The upper half, full of curious astrological symbolism (someone has just written a whole book about it), was added in the 12th century, paid for by the Arte di Calimala, the guild that made a fortune buying bolts of fine wool, dyeing them a deep red that no one else in Europe could imitate, then selling them back for twice the price; their proud gold eagle stands at the top of the roof. The glittering mosaic of Christ, the Virgin and St Minias came slightly later.

The Interior

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Churches, Cloisters and Convents

Outside the Centre

Top Sights

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by Goldmund100, Creative Commons License, Luca Aless, Creative Commons License