The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

Hello everyone from Florence, Italy!

Today, I am going to talk about the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a Dominican monastery that serves as a distinguished monument to the religious and artistic history of Florence. Inside Santa Maria Novella, visitors can appreciate paintings and artwork from the 14th and 15th centuries.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is in the Piazza of the same name, you can see people gathering in this Piazza to take a break and sit down for a while at the same time appreciating the magnificent architecture of the Basilica. It is surrounded by the train station of the same name, as well as by many stores, food shops, gelato shops (ice cream shops) for entertainment in this area.

The façade of the church is in Gothic style, but the lower part is in Romanesque and classical style, and surprisingly, in the façade of the church, the name of the Basilica cannot be found, instead the name of the patron, or person who was financing it is there – his name is Giovanni Rucellai. The façade was built from 1456 – 1470.

The interior of the Basilica is considered Gothic. It contains various beautiful frescoes. In the nave by the main altar, we can appreciate a crucifix by Filippo Brunelleschi, who made the crucifix as a response to the crucifix made by Donatello, which is placed at the Basilica of Santa Croce. We can make connections to the competition between great artists to come up with the best art piece. More to the center of the Basilica, there is a crucifix hanging from the ceiling painted by Giotto, another great artist of the Florence Renaissance.

The pulpit inside the Basilica was made by Filippo Brunelleschi, who is considered the father of architecture. Inside the Basilica, the Strozzi Chapel can be found, which was commissioned by Filippo Strozzi, and Filippo Lippi was the artist. The Strozzi Chapel is beautifully decorated with frescoes depicting the life of Saint Philip and St. John the Evangelist. The work was not completed until 1503, thus, the client did not experience the final work.

Santa Maria Novella has a collection of artworks made by the very finest and great artists of the Renaissance. In addition to the Strozzi Chapel, we can find the fresco Adoration of the Magi by Botticelli. Santa Maria Novella is also famous for its glass windows by Andrea di Bonaiuto. The painting on the altar, The Madonna of the Rosary, is by Vasari.

Underneath the church, basically in the basement, more chapels and cloisters can be found. In particular, the Spanish Chapel that used to serve as the meeting place of the visitors for Eleonora di Toledo, who was from Spain, and the wife of Cosimo I, and a patron of the arts and everything related to the nature while she was alive. The Spanish Chapel is decorated with frescos by Uccelo.

An interesting fact about Santa Maria Novella is that it has a Chapel specifically dedicated for daily masses. It is on one side of the Basilica, but at the time of mass there is no access to the Basilica through the Chapel. The door remains closed. Santa Maria Novella has been used as a center for dialogue of the different Catholic denominations.

The visit to the Basilica Santa Maria Novella was the culmination of our tour guide to museums and basilicas. These visits provide the visitor with the opportunity to see every masterpiece with a personalized approach and appreciate each artwork without any interference. The images on the internet and pictures do not capture as many details as can be appreciated in person.

Finally, I want to express that this study abroad experience has been great. The studies we did in advance in preparation for the tour guide and the visit to the places are complements of each other and help to materialize what we have been learning.

It is the first time I have had the experience of studying abroad with a group of fellow students. My roommate has been very supportive, respectful, and kind. I am grateful that we shared the same room. In the other hand, I want to state that the Professor who is teaching our study abroad course is very knowledgeable of the class and themes he is teaching. He has taken us for field trips to complement the lectures; and went above and beyond to get permission to take us to Villa Di Pietra, who is now a possession of New York University in Florence.

A little background of the acquisition of this villa is that the owner of the villa was a Chicagoan lady who married an English man that came to study abroad in the United States, probably at the University of Chicago, and she was the daughter of the owners of a National Trust Bank in Chicago back in the beginning of the 1900. Later, New York University acquired it and it is used now for forums, scholar discussions, conferences and everything related to arts and literature.
I want to thank Dr. Raposo for making these opportunities available for students. Without her vision, insights and support this Study Abroad Program would have not happened. She has gone above and beyond to provide a cultural learning experience for all of us.
Thank You Dr. Raposo! It has been a great experience!


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