Address: Piazzale Michelangelo Area
Bishop Hildebrand had the present structure built in 1018 on
the site of a 4th-century chapel. The lower part of the facade is
decorated by fine arcading; the upper part is simpler and has a
fine 12th-century mosaic of Christ between the Madonna and St.
Miniato. The church, with its unfinished 15th-century campanile
that was damaged during the siege of Florence in 1530, the
Bishop's Palace, the fortifications, the monumental cemetery all
stand at the top of a hill called Monte alle Croci, which rises
up over the Piazzale Michelangelo below and over the entire city.
The interior of this magnificent example of Florentine Romanesque
architecture (it originally belonged to the
Benedictine monks and then passed to the Olivetan friars in 1373)
is tripartite with a trussed timber roof.
Outstanding is the pavement in the center with marble intarsias
of signs of the zodiac and symbolic animals. The walls retain
fragments of 13th and 14th-century frescoes. Of note is the
crypt, a vast space closed off by an elaborate wrought-iron gate
(1338). The altar (1lth-cent.) preserves the bones of St.
Miniato. Fragments of frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi (1341) can be seen
in the vaults of the crypt. The raised presbytery is of great
beauty with its pulpit (1207) and an intimate choir with fine
inlaid wooden choir stalls. The large mosaic of the Blessing
Christ flanked by the Madonna and Saints (1297) is in the conch
of the apse. Entrance to the Sacristy, completely frescoed by
Spinello Aretino (1387) with the sixteen Stories of the legend of
St. Benedict, is to the right of the presbytery. On the left,
stairs lead to the Chapel of St. James, or "of the Cardinal
of Portugal", designed by Antonio Manetti and decorated with
five splendid roundels representing the Holy Spirit and the
Cardinal Virtues, by Luca della Robbia (1461-66). To the right is
the funeral monument of the Cardinal, a particularly lovely work
by Antonio Rossellino (1461). The Chapel of the Crucifix,
designed by Michelozzo, and with delicate glazed vaulting by Luca
della Robbia, stands at the center of the church.
To the right of the church is the Bishop's Palace (1295- 1320),
ancient summer residence of the bishops of Florence which then
became a convent, a hospital and a Jesuit house.