Tuesday, October 12, 2010
San Miniatro, Florence
This is one of those spots where there was an overwhelming feeling of spirituality, calmness, solitude, quietness, contemplation. A magical, warm embrace.
After Ty and I spent the morning walking the banks of the Arno, we crossed Ponte alle Grazie which offers a picturesque view of all the bridges spanning the Arno. From there we followed the directions I found on SlowTravel by JeffWhiteaker which were very precise (thank you!). School children were just returning home from school - a treat to see families together - veered down the narrow streets and crossed under the old gate/wall. From there we trekked the pedestrian stairway up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Stunning panoramic views are afforded from this perch although it is very crowded with tourists. We had wanted to time our arrival here at sunset as we heard it was quite a romantic spot for views of Florence, but felt we had already witnessed sunsets while having a cappuccino on the top deck restaurant of La Rinascente, the Florentine department store, and the banks of the Arno.
But away from the busyness of this location, stands the Basilica di San Minatro al Monte (St. Minias on the Mountain), a Romanesque structure, which is surrounded by a wall erected originally by Michelangelo and expanded by Cosimo in 1553. On the grounds of the church is a cloister, cemeteries (Carol Collodi, Pinocchio creator is buried here as well as Florentine politicians), chapel, crypt. But the highlight of this trip is the interior of this shrine to St. Minias, possible Florence's first martyr. We were lucky to enter the church to the sounds of the Olivetan monks singing Gregorian chant at late-afternoon vespers. It was a surreal experience that brought both of us to sit on the wooden benches in hushed silence with only the muted song echoing from the chapel behind the main altar.
Like many churches in Florence, this one is filled with frescos. The center of the nave is dominated by the Chapel of the Crucifix by Mihcelozzo in 1448. Panels of frescos decorated by Gaddi can be found here, as well as the work of Rossellino and Baldovinetti and Luca della Robbia. There is a spectacular mosaic of Christ with the Mary and St. Minias which dates back to 1260.
We took Bus 13 back to San Maria Novella as pressure on my toe, which I stubbed prior to our trek, was more pronounced descending the steps. Ty, an advocate of public transportation, didn't seem to mind tho.