- Type: Religious Sights
NileGuide Expert Says:
Respect the rules of not taking flash photography inside.
NileGuide Expert tip:
The Tabernacle by Orcagna is a gorgeous piece of work that mesmerizes the people who view it.
This tall structure halfway down Via dei Calzaiuoli looks more like a Gothic warehouse than a church -- which is exactly what it was, built as a granary/grain market in 1337. After a miraculous image of the Madonna appeared on a column inside, however, the lower level was turned into a chapel. The city's merchant guilds each undertook the task of decorating one of the outside nichelike Gothic tabernacles around the lower level with a statue of their guild's patron saint. Masters such as Ghiberti, Donatello, Verrocchio, and Giambologna all cast or carved masterpieces to set here. Since 1984, these have been removed and are being replaced by casts as the originals are slowly cleaned and exhibited up on the second story.
Unfortunately, the church now keeps erratic hours due to a lack of personnel, so there are no set opening hours; however, you may get lucky and find the doors thrown open when you pass by (or, though this may take even more luck, someone might actually answer the phone number below and give you details on when it will next open). Since it's pretty nifty, and there's a chance you'll be able to pop in, I'll go ahead and describe it all.
In the chapel's dark interior (emerged in 1999 from a long restoration and entered around the "back" side on Via dell Arte della Lana) are recently restored 14th- to 16th-century paintings by the likes of Lorenzo di Credi and Il Poppi. The elaborate Gothic Tabernacle (1349-59) by Andrea Orcagna looks something like a miniature church, covered with statuettes, enamels, inset colored marbles and glass, and reliefs. It protects a luminous 1348 Madonna and Child painted by Giotto's student Bernardo Daddi. The prominent statue of the Madonna, Child, and St. Anne to its left is by Francesco da Sangallo (1522).
Across Via dell'Arte della Lana from the Orsanmichele's main entrance is the 1308 Palazzo dell'Arte della Lana. This Gothic palace was home to medieval Florence's most powerful body, the guild of wool merchants, which employed about one-third of Florence in the 13th and 14th centuries. Up the stairs inside you can cross over the hanging walkway to the first floor (American second floor) of Orsanmichele. These are the old granary rooms, now housing a museum of the statues that once surrounded the exterior. A few are still undergoing restoration, but eight of the original sculptures are here, well labeled, including Donatello's marble St. Mark (1411-13); Ghiberti's bronze St. John the Baptist (1413-16), the first life-size bronze of the Renaissance; and Verrocchio's Incredulity of St. Thomas (1473-83). This museum, too, does not always adhere to its posted hours, as those are dependent on someone being around to honor them. Still, it's at least worth a try.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2010
- visit website
- tel: 055-284-944
- fax: +39 055 234 6286
- Via Arte della Lana 1
- Via de' Calzaiuoli
- Florence 50122
- Church open erratic hours (though never open during riposo). Museum daily 9-9:45am, 10-10:45am, and 11-11:45am (plus Sat-Sun 1-1:45pm)
- No Sweat