Santo Spirito, Florence

Main façade.

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito ("St. Mary of the Holy Spirit") is a church in Florence, Italy. Usually referred to simply as Santo Spirito, it is located in the Oltrarno quarter, facing the square with the same name. The building on the interior is one of the pre-eminent examples of Renaissance architecture.



Interior of the basilica.

The current church was constructed over the pre-existing ruins of an Augustinian convent from the 13th century, destroyed by a fire. Filippo Brunelleschi began designs for the new building as early as 1428. After his death in 1446, the works were carried on by his followers Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Gaiole, and Salvi d'Andrea; the latter was also responsible for the construction of the cupola.

Unlike S. Lorenzo, where Brunelleschi’s ideas were thwarted, here, his ideas were carried through with some degree of fidelity, at least in the ground plan and up to the level of the arcades.[1] The Latin cross plan is so designed to maximize the legibility of the grid. The contrast between nave and transept that caused such difficulty at S. Lorenzo was here also avoided. The side chapels, in the form of niches all the same size (forty in all), run along the entire perimeter of the space.

Brunelleschi's facade was never built and left blank. In 1489, a columned vestibule and octagonal sacristy, designed by Simone del Pollaiolo, known as Il Cronaca, and Giuliano da Sangallo respectively, were built to the left of the building. A door was opened up in a chapel to make the connection to the church.

A Baroque baldachin with polychrome marbles was added by Giovanni Battista Caccini and Gherardo Silvani over the high altar, in 1601. The church remained undecorated until the 18th century, when the walls were plastered. The inner façade is by Salvi d'Andrea, and has still the original glass window with the Pentecost designed by Pietro Perugino. The bell tower (1503) was designed by Baccio d'Agnolo.

The exterior of the building was restored in 1977-78.

Chapel frescoes

Inside view.

The church has 38 side chapels (two chapels having been given over to doors), which contain a noteworthy amount of artworks. The most significant is the Bini-Capponi Chapel, housing the St. Monica Establishing the Rule of the Augustinian Nuns painting by Francesco Botticini. The Corbinelli chapels works are by Andrea Sansovino, Cosimo Rosselli and Donnino and Agnolo del Mazziere.

In the chapels of the transept are frescoes by Filippino Lippi. Also in the transept is a choir from which the Frescobaldi Marquisses could participate to the rites without being seen by the crowd.

The sacristy, accessed through a doorway in what would have been the left sixth chapel preceded by a monumental vestibule by Simone del Pollaiolo, was designed by Giuliano da Sangallo in 1489, and has an octagonal plan. It is home to a devotional painting of St. Fiacre curing the Sick (1597) by Alessandro Allori (1596) commissioned by Christine of Lorraine, Grand Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici's wife.

Chapels of Santo Spirito[2]

Side Chapel Artworks
R 1 (nave near facade) Disputa by Pier Francesco Foschi
R 2 Copy of Michelangelo’s Pietà (1549) by Nanni di Baccio Bigio
R 3 St. Niccolò da Tolentino by Nanni Unghero; flanking angels by Franciabigio
R 4 Expulsion of the Money Changers from Temple (1572) by Giovanni Stradano
R 5 Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1694) by Alessandro Gherardini
R 6 Martyrdom of St. Stephen (1602) by Domenico Passignano
R 7 Tobias and Angel (1698) by Giovanni Baratta
R 9 (transept) Transfiguration by Pier Francesco Foschi
R 10 (transept) Madonna del Soccorso (15th century)
R 11 (transept) Altar by Bernardo Buontalenti
R 12 (transept) Madonna and Child with Saints and Nerli Family Donors (1488) by Filippino Lippi
R 13 (transept) Copy of Perugino’s Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard by Felice Ficherelli
R 14 Marble sarcophagus (c. 1457) by Antonio Rossellino
R 15 (apse) Madonna with SS. John Evangelist & Jerome (early 16th century)
R 16 (apse) Madonna with child & 4 saints (c. 1340) by Maso di Banco
L 18 (apse) Martyrdom of the ten thousand (1574) by Alessandro Allori with altarpiece of St. Lucy with two angels (c. 1460) attributed to Neri di Bicci
L 1 (nave) Resurrection by Pier Francesco Foschi
L 2 Copy of Michelangelo’s Christ (1579) by Taddeo Landini
L 5 Madonna, St. Anne, and other saints by Michele Tosini
L 8 Madonna enthroned with SS Lawrence, Giovanni Gualberto, Catherine, & Bernard by follower of Fra Bartolomeo
L 9 (transept) Way to Calvary by Michele Tosini; window Doubting Thomas attributed to Bartolomeo di Giovanni
L 10 (transept) Madonna Enthroned with Saints (1505) by Raffaellino del Garbo with altarpiece of St. Lawrence distributing alms by Jacopo del Sellaio
L 11 (transept) Madonna Enthroned with Angels and Saints Bartholemew and Nicholas by Raffaellino del Garbo
L 12 (transept) Trinity adored by Saints Catherine and Mary Magdalene (c. 1485) by Francesco Granacci
L 13 (transept) Corbinelli altar (1492) by Andrea Sansovino
L 14 (transept) Madonna Enthroned and Child with Saints (1482) by Cosimo Rosselli, altarpiece of Doubting Thomas attributed to Neri di Bicci
L 15 (transept) St. Monica Establishes the Rule of Augustinian Nuns (1483) attributed to Botticini
L 16 (transept) Madonna and Child and Saints attributed to Raffaellino del Garbo
L 15 (apse) Nativity by a follower of Domenico Ghirlandaio
L 16 (apse) Annunciation (late 15th century)
L 18 (apse) Christ and the Adultress (1577) by Alessandro Allori

Michelangelo's Crucifix

Michelangelo's Crucifix.

Michelangelo Buonarroti when he was seventeen years old could make anatomical studies on the corpses coming from the convent's hospital; in exchange, he sculpted a wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Today the crucifix is in the octagonal sacristy that can be reached from the left, west aisle of the church.

Santo Spirito's Cenacolo.

The cloisters and the Cenacolo

The convent had two cloisters, called Chiostro dei Morti and Chiostro Grande ("Cloister of the Dead" and "Grand Cloister"). The first takes its name from the great number of tombstone decorating its walls, and was built around 1600 by Alfonso Parigi. The latter was constructed in 1564-1569 by Bartolomeo Ammannati in a classicistic style.

The former convent also contains the great refectory (Cenacolo di Santo Spirito) with a large fresco portraying the Crucifixion over a fragmentary Last Supper, both attributed to Andrea Orcagna (1360–1365). It is one of the rare examples of Late Gothic Art which can still be seen in Florence. The room also boasts a collection of sculptures from the 11th-15th centuries, including two low reliefs by Donatello, a high relief by Jacopo della Quercia (Madonna with Child) and two marble sculptures by Tino da Camaino (1320–1322).


  1. ^ Eugenio Battisti. Filippo Brunelleschi: The Complete Work. (New York: Rizzoli, 1981)
    • See also: Howard Saalman. Filippo Brunelleschi: The Buildings. (London: Zwemmer, 1993).
  2. ^ Borsook, Eve (1991). Vincent Cronin. ed. The Companion Guide to Florence, 5th Edition. HarperCollins; New York. pp. pages 317–320. 

External links

Coordinates: 43°46′3.50″N 11°14′54.37″E / 43.767639°N 11.2484361°E / 43.767639; 11.2484361

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