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Santa Maria Maggiore

Medieval Meets Baroque

Santa Maria Maggiore

Founded sometime before the 10th century, this is one of the oldest if not the oldest church in Florence dedicated to the Virgin Mary and site of the tomb of Brunetto Latini, the Chancellor of the Republic who taught Dante.

Rebuilt as a tall Gothic church by the Cistercians in the 14th century, and given a Baroque coating by Gherardo Silvani and other decorations and stuccoes in the 18th century, some of which were taken down a century ago, along with the stucco that once covered the facade.

The amputated Romanesque bell tower still has cannibalized Roman marbles including a female head nicknamed Berta, who supposedly made fun of a condemned prisoner, who cursed her and turned her into stone.

The interior looks rather odd with its Baroquely ornate aisles and rather austere apse (much of its original art, including works by Orcagna, Botticelli and Masolino has gone elsewhere. Damaged trecento frescoes of the Story of Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents by Orcagna's brother Jacopo di Cione and Mariotto di Nardo flank the high altar.

Madonna enthorned, by  Coppo di Marcovaldo

In the Cappella Carnesecchi to the left of the apse, where the tomb of Latini was discovered in the 18th century, is the recently restored Madonna Enthroned believed to be the 13th-century painter Coppo di Marcovaldo, a contemporary of Cimabue who also designed the mosaics of the Last Judgement in the Baptistry. The plaster heads of the Virgin and Child held cavities for relics.

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Vicolo di Santa Maria Maggiore 1

Hours 7am-noon & 3.30-5.30pm

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Sailko, GNU Free Documentation License