Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t walk past a church here in Italy without stopping. And if it’s open, I just have to pop my head inside. In big cities and small towns alike, so many of Italy’s artistic treasures tucked away inside churches. Even if you’re not usually one to stop at religious sights while traveling, you’ll miss out a lot of Italy’s great works of art and architecture if you don’t. When I went to Florence earlier this year, I spent an entire day doing what I dubbed my “Church Tour.” This week Katie Greenaway from Olio di Olive e Sogni di Vino has stopped by to share about one of the churches in Florence that I missed during my short visit. All the more reason to return to Florence again soon!
The Church of Santa Trínita was once the church for the wealthy families of Florence, and not only the Medicis. Located outside the original city walls, it was founded by the Vallombrosan Order of monks in the 11th century. Located in Piazza Santa Trinita off of the famous Via Tornabuoni, the nearby bridge Ponte Santa Trinita is named after this church as well.
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. So the name is written without an accent; sometimes it is accented as Trìnita to indicate the unusual pronunciation.
The facade was done by Buontalenti in an elegant late Renaissance decor. I visited this church when I was student and was enthralled with the interior of it. There is quite a difference to the interior compared to the exterior. As you enter the church, turn around to face the door and you’ll notice Romanesque stonework that was found at the turn of the century. During that same time, the floor from the 11th century and a crypt was revealed. The floor mosaics from the 11th century floor are on display at the Bargello. If you want to visit the crypt, you will need to book an appointment.
The most famous work of art is located in the Sassetti Chapel inside Santa Trìnita. Francesco Sassetti, a merchant banker for the Medici family, commissioned Domenico Ghirlandaio to produce such a wonder for your eyes to look upon. Originally the fresco cyle depicting The Life of St. Francis was used to commemorate the death of the one of Sassetti’s sons and the birth of another. In scene of Francis Receiving the Order from Pope Honorius depicts the likes of Lorenzo de’Medici, Antonio Pucci, the Francesco Sassetti himself with his son Federico on the right. Ghirlandaio used real people in those times and painted them into the scenes of The Life of St. Francis. I could stare at this chapel for hours. The people come to life for me. Ghirlandaio positioned some of the figures so they could be looking out at you. You can really feel yourself in the fresco.
Ghirlandaio depicted some of the key architectural sights of Florence in these frescoes as well. In the background of the scene showing The Approval of the Rule of Saint Francis by Pope Onorio III, you can see the Palazzo Vecchio and Orcagna’s Loggia. When Saint Francis receives the Stigmata you can see a view of the Santuario della Verna, an abbey in the hills between Florence and Arezzo. Francesco Sassetti and his wife, Nera Corsi, were buried in the tombs in the Sassetti Chapel and are also shown kneeling facing the altar in the frescoes.
Santa Trinita is free to enter and is open Monday-Sunday 8am-12pm, 4pm-6pm, Sunday and Holidays 4pm-6pm.
Chiesa di Santa Trinita – Firenze
Piazza S. Trinita – Tel. 055 216912
Katie Greenaway is a freelance travel writer and is the Local Expert of Florence for Nile Guide where she also provides the secrets of Florence on her blog. She writes about her life in Florence on her personal blog Olio di Oliva e Sogni di Vino and contributes to MNUI Travel Insurance with travel articles.