ORSANMICHELE, Church

Audio File length: 2.23
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, I'm James, your personal guide. Together with MyWoWo, I'd like to welcome you to one of the wonders of the world.

Today I'll accompany you through Orsanmichele, which is one of Florence's most artistically cherished churches!

The imposing and original three-story Gothic building you are facing is halfway between Cathedral Square and Piazza della Signoria, and therefore located between the two squares that have been the homes of Florence's religious power and political since the Middle Ages. Animated on the ground floor by large, richly decorated three-arched windows, and on the upper floors by slender double-arched windows, Orsanmichele is an unexpected monumental sculpture museum in the heart of a lively medieval district.

Consider that the importance of this church is especially due to the fact that it's the result of collaboration between medieval corporations, which wanted to contribute to the city's cultural development through a high level of artistic sponsorship.

You should know that this building's complicated and fascinating history goes back 1300 years ago when a little church called Orsanmichele was built here, which is the abbreviation of "San Michele in Orto"; it was then demolished in the mid-1200s to make room for a covered loggia for a grain market. But the commercial building soon became an important place of devotion, because one of the pillars was frescoed with an image of the Madonna that was considered miraculous.

In 1304 a fire damaged the building and destroyed the fresco, and in the second half of the 1300s it was decided to close the ground floor's arches and turn the loggia back into a church again. Orsanmichele was thus created in the rectangular space that was obtained from closing the loggia.

In the Gothic interior of the church you can admire a marble tabernacle with the panel that replaced the miraculous fresco of the Virgin, a Madonna with Child and Angels that was made in the mid-1300s, just before the Black Plague struck Florence and wiped out half its population.

 

FUN FACT: Orsanmichele still has curious traces of its past as a grain market. If you look at the first two pillars, you'll notice strange holes: they are connected to the upper floors through a duct. The bakers would come here with their sacks and fill them with the grain that would be poured from above.

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