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Basilica di Santa Trinita, Firenze
Travel guide for Tuscany

Tuscany Travel Guide | Art in Florence | Basilica di Santa Trinita


The Basilica di Santa Trinita (Holy Trinity) is the mother church of the Vallumbrosan Order of monks, founded in 1092 by a Florentine nobleman. Nearby is the Ponte Santa Trinita over the river Arno.
The church is famous for its Sassetti Chapel, containing notable frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio, ranked amongst 15th century painting's masterworks. The church was built in the second half of the XI century by the Vallombrosian monks, and included within the ring of city walls built in 1172-75. It was expanded and transformed according to the dictates of the Gothic style between 1300 and 1330. Despite the late sixteenth century stone façade built by Buontalenti, the interior of the church is 14th century Gothic, and is laid out in an Egyptian cross. It is divided into three aisles separated by pilasters that rise up to gothic archways and a cross-vaulted ceiling. During the restoration carried out following the 1966 flood the 'embellishments' added in the early 1900s were stripped away, returning the frescos of the chapels to their original splendour.

Beyond Bernardo Buontalenti's late-16th-century facade lies a dark church, rebuilt in the 14th century but founded by the Vallombrosans before 1177. The third chapel on the right has what remains of the detached frescoes by Spinello Aretino, which were found under Lorenzo Monaco's excellent 1422 frescoes covering the next chapel down.

The fourth chapel on the right has Lorenzo Monaco's Saints, Prophets, and the life of Mary (1420-25), and his Annunciation. The frescos on the wall of the right transept and those in the Sassetti Chapel are among Domenico Ghirlandaio's greatest masterpieces (especially his Adoration. Note also Santa Trinita as it appeared before Buontalenti's façade, in the frescos). the marble sarcophagus of the Federigi tomb is by Luca della Robbia.

The Church of Santa Trinita, or St. Trinity Church, overlooks the square of the same name and can easily be reached by walking down via de' Tornabuoni, one of the most elegant streets in Florence's city center, down towards the Arno River.
The Santa Trinità church was erected in the 13th century. It was rebuilt several times and the present Baroque façade was made only at the end of the 16th century by Bernardo Buontalenti. The interior was restored in Gothic style at the end of the 19th century. The church is famous for the Sassetti Chapel decorated in 1486 by Domenico Ghirlandaio with frescoes of the life of St Francis.
Commissioned by Vallombrosan Benedictine monks, the Santa Trinita Church was founded in the middle of the 11th century. Originally located just off the ancient city walls, the church was incorporated into the city center when the second walls were built in 1172-1173.
The ancient medieval building is still partially visible inside as you look at the "counter-facade". The current facade was designed in 1500 by Bernardo Buontalenti, one of the main Mannierist artists in Tuscany, and displays scuplteres by Giovanni Caccini.
The Church of Santa Trinita belonged to the Strozzi family and then passed to the Medici family. In 1400 many important painters worked for the church (the Sassetti Chapel by Ghirlandaio was completed between 1483-1486).

The Davanzati Chapel is dedicated to Giuliano Davanzati. Inside the chapel stands the Sarcofago del buon pastore - Sarcophagus of the Good Shepherd by Rossellino (1444) who used a Roman sarcophagus. On it, a shepherd is depicted with lambs portrayed in a very dour way; in fact the man almost seems a monk.
In the chapel a beautiful Crowned Virgin by Bicci di Lorenzo is displayed.
The chapel also has a fresco portraying Saint John Gualberto (founder of the Vallombrosan Order) by Neri di Bicci (mid 1400) was moved here from the Church of San Pancrazio. The fresco reminds one of works by Masaccio, but the figures look stiller. There is also an Annunciation by Neri di Bicci.
The Spini Chapel houses the fresco of the Holy Bishop by Alessio Baldovinetti. In the chapel a wooden statue (almost full size) depicts Magdalene by Desiderio da Settignano that looks like the Magdalene by Donatello.
The Saint John Gualberto Chapel commemorates the founder of the Vallombrosan Order whose relics are preserved here. It was built as a gift to the church by the monks, and it was designed and created to look like a real yet small casket. Frescoes were painted by Passignano at the end of the 1500s.
Commemorating Benozzo Federighi, Bishop of Fiesole who died in 1450, the Benozzo Federighi funerary monument was created by Luca della Robbia (1454). The monument's frame is made of majolica using the "opus sectile" technique: every oval is made of small tiles that create a mosaic (it's one of the first examples of the use of majolica for funerary monuments).
Main Altar | In 1500, the original chancel was taken apart by Buonatalenti, one part was completely removed while another was just moved back. The altar houses a beautiful polyptych: S. Anthony, S. Michael, S. Francis and S. Julian and in the center God and Jesus (in smaller proportion).
The Doni Chapel houses a fresco depicting a Blessing Christ by Bicci di Lorenzo. Inside, a crucifix also stands.
The Sassetti Chapel is one of the most beautiful and rich chapels in the church. In the center is a painting depicting the birth of Jesus "The Adoration by the Shepherds". It dates back to 1585 and is signed by Ghirlandaio, as well as all of the frescoes in the chapel. The members of the Sassetti family who commissioned the work are themselves portrayed within the frescoes, as in Masaccio's Trinità.
The frescoes depicting Stories of San Francis are really beautiful. These date back to the same period (1500s). In the middle, a miracle attributed to San Francis is portrayed: it depicts a child fallen down from a window in the Palazzo Spini ("revived child"), the palace right in front of Santa Trinita, an event that horrified the population. Because it heppened in Piazza Santa Trinita, the fresco shows how the square looked like at that time (the church frescoed doesn't have the Romanesque facade).
The sacristy entrance stands to the right of the Sassetti Chapel. Originally it was the Strozzi Chapel, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. On the altar used to stand the Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano, now displayed at the Uffizi Gallery. Onofrio Strozzi wanted a monument to commemorate Saint Onofrio and Saint Nicholas, which was made by Michelozzo. The chapel also houses also a Pietà by Barbieri.
The last chapel by the entrance on the right, the Bartolini - Salimbeni Chapel, is enriched by a valuable cycle of frescoes, Life of the Virgin, a work by Lorenzo Monaco (1420-25). Signed by the same artist is also the beautiful wooden painting of the Annunciation in the same chapel.

Even though the Italian word for trinity is trinità, with an accent indicating stress on the last vowel, the Florentine pronunciation puts the stress on the first vowel, and the name is therefore written without an accent; sometimes, it is accented as trìnita to indicate the unusual pronunciation.


View of the Sassetti Chapel

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Confirmation of the Rule (Detail), Fresco Santa Trinità, Florence.

Portrayed (ltr): Antonio di Puccio Pucci, Lorenzo de' Medici and Francesco Sassetti

Domenico Ghirlandaio | The Sassetti Chapel in the Santa Trinita church in Florence

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Death of St. Francis, 1482-1485, Cappella Sassetti, Santa Trinità, Florence

Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Spinello Aretino

Spinello Aretino, Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Spinello Aretino, 1390, fresco, Santa Trinita, Firenze

Beyond Bernardo Buontalenti's late-16th-century facade lies a dark church, rebuilt in the 14th century but founded by the Vallombrosans before 1177. The third chapel on the right has what remains of the detached frescoes by Spinello Aretino , which were found under Lorenzo Monaco's excellent 1422 frescoes covering the next chapel down.

Bartolini Salimbeni Chapel

The Bartolini Salimbeni Chapel (Italian: Cappella Bartolini Salimbeni) is a chapel in the church of Santa Trinita, Florence, central Italy. Its decoration by Lorenzo Monaco, dating to the 1420s, are one of the few surviving examples of International Gothic frescoes in Italy. The chapels has kept other original elements, such as its altarpiece, an Annunciation, also by Lorenzo Monaco, and the railings.
Lorenzo's paintings of events from the life of the Virgin in the Bartolini-Salimbeni Chapel was commissioned by the Bartolini family. They cover an earlier fresco cycle by Spinello Aretino believed to have been commissioned by Bartolomeo Salimbeni in 1390.
The painted architecture of the frescoes extends over the entire narrative, stepping back along sharp diagonals, while the row of figures moves in a gradual diagonal back into space.

Lorenzo Monaco, Marriage of the Virgin, 1420-24, Fresco, 210 x 230 cm, Santa Trinità, Florence

The chapel, created during the Gothic renovation and enlargement of the church started in the mid-13th century, was owned by the rich merchant family of the Bartolini-Salimbeni since as early as 1363. Their residence, the Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni, was located in the same square of the church.
Around 1390 the chapel had been already decorated by Spinello Aretino: traces of his work were found during the 1960s restorations. Lorenzo Monaco's frescoes date to 1420s, when a re-decoration program was carried on in the whole church, as testified also by fragments of Giovanni Toscani's frescoes in the annexed Ardinghelli Chapel.
Lorenzo Monaco's was inspired by numerous contemporary examples of Histories of the Virgin cycles, such as the Baroncelli Chapel by Taddeo Gaddi, the Rinuccini Chapel by Giovanni da Milano and others, in the church of Santa Croce, Orcagna's frescoes in Santa Maria Novella, the Holy Cingulum Chapel by Agnolo Gaddi in the Cathedral of Prato and the stained glasses of Orsanmichele, which perhaps Lorenzo Monaco had collaborated to.

The frescoes, fragments of which are now lost, occupy the chapel's walls, vault, arch and lunette. Lorenzo Monaco was mostly a miniaturist, and his (or his assistants', since he was aged at the time and perhaps at his death in 1424 the work was unfinished) lack of confidence with the fresco technique is shown by the presence of figures completed in different days, or the use of dry painting in some places.
The theme of the frescoes are connected to the contemporary dispute about the Immaculate Conception of Mary, involving the question if she had been born without the original sin: the dispute saw the Franciscan and the Benedictines (including the Vallumbrosan Order holding the church at the time) against the Dominicans. Lorenzo Monaco's frescoes were inspired by the apocryphal Gospel of James, dealing with Mary's infancy and supporting the Vallumbrosan's view that she had been not naturally born by her father.


Bartolini Chapel


The cycle begins in the lunette on the left wall, portraying the Espulsion of Joachim from the Temple and the Annunciation to Joachim. Below are the Meeting of Joachim and Anne and Anne at the Golden Gate, set in a fanciful Jerusalem with high tower, belfries and other edifices painted in pink. The water of a stream where several youths are drinking is a symbol of Mary as the source of life, while the sea is a hint to her attribute as Stella Maris ("Star of the Sea") and the islet a symbol of virginity. The stories continue in the middle part of the end wall, with the Nativity of the Virgin, following the same scheme of Pietro Lorenzetti's Nativity of the Virgin, with Jesus bathing, and the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple. The latter scene contains several numerology hints in the steps (three and seven, the number of the Theologic Virtues and all the Virtues respectively) and in the arches of Solomon's Temple (three like the Holy Trinity).

The scene on the mid-left wall, perhaps the sole executed by Lorenzo Monaco alone, depicts the Marriage of the Virgin. The pretenders who are refused by Mary walk from the right to left such as in the artist's Adoration of the Magi at the Uffizi; one of them (that in the background, behind the arcade) is a possible self-portrait of Lorenzo Monaco, although his age does not correspond to the artist's one at the time. The next scene is that of the Annunciation, whose predella has scenes of the Visitation, Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds, Adoration of the Magi and the Flight to Egypt.

The next episodes depicted include some miracles connected to Mary: the Dormitio, the Assumption and the Miracle of the Snow. In the cross vault are portrayals of Prophets David, Isaiah, Malachi and Micah.

The frescoes were covered by white plasters in 1740, and were rediscovered in 1885-1887 by Augusto Burchi. In 1944 the German invasion forces blew the nearby Ponte Santa Trinita, causing damages also to the frescoes. They were restored in 1961 and again in 2004.


Chiesa di Santa Trinita | Piazza S. Trinita (055 216912).
Open 8am-noon, 4-6pm, holidays 4-6pm. Admission: free.


Orvieto, Duomo

Tigler, Guido (1998). "La Cappella Bartolini Salimbeni a Santa Trinita". Cappelle del Rinascimento a Firenze. Florence: Giusti.

Walking in Tuscany | Florence | A Walk Around the Uffizi Gallery and he Chiesa di Santa Trinita


Damien Wigny, Au coeur de Florence : Itinéraires, monuments, lectures1990

This article incorporates material from the Wikipedia articles Domenico Ghirlandaio and Bartolini Salimbeni Chapel, published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cappella Sassetti.



Podere Santa Pia, a formal cloister in the Tuscan Maremma is situated on the outskirts of Castiglioncello Bandini, and dominates one of the most beautiful setting that nature can offer: the Tuscan countryside.

Tuscan Holiday houses | Podere Santa Pia


Podere Santa Pia, with a stunning view over the Maremma and Montecristo

Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, garden
Montecristo, view from Santa Pia


Abbazia di Sant' Antimo    
Sant'Antimo, between Santa Pia and Montalcino
Siena, Duomo
Crete Senesi, surroundings
of Podere Santa Pia
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