Orsanmichele


Info

The church of Orsanmichele open daily 10am-5pm 
Admission: Free.

The museum on the upper floors of the building (only open Mondays 10am-5pm) has beautiful views and houses most of the original sculptures from the outside niches (Donatello's St George, however is housed in the Bargello museum). Enter through the Palazzo of the Arte della Lana (Wool Guild Building) opposite the entrance of the church and climb up to the higher floors for this recently accessible experience.

Admission: Free.


Description

Orsanmichele is an unusual and interesting building, being a church and a sort of outdoor street-view museum, a celebration of the city's guilds and artisans and holder of some of the Renaissance's most important sculptures. It was originally a grain market until a miraculous image of the Virign Mary on a pillar inside became so popular with pilgrims and praying plague-victims that the building was rebuilt as a church in the 1300's. Florence's most important commercial guilds (associations or labour unions of businessmen created to promote their trade) financed the decoration of the outside of Orsanmichele, each donating a sculpture of their guild's patron saint in fourteen separate niches, the three most wealthy guilds choosing to create their sculptures in bronze, about ten times the cost of those in marble: the Guilds of the Wool Makers, the Merchants and the Bankers.

Circle the square-shaped church to get a good look at each individual sculpture. Starting from the niche to the left of the entrance on via dell'Arte della Lana and going anti-clockwise you have:

  1. 1. St Matthew, patron saint of the Guild of Bankers, by Lorenzo Ghiberti c.1419-20
  2. 2. St Stephen, by Ghiberti, created for the Guild of Wool Makers in 1428
  3. 3. St Eligius by Nanni di Banco, created for the Guild of Farriers (horse shoe makers) 1411-15
  4. 4. St Mark by Donatello, created for the Guild of Linen Weavers in 1411
  5. 5. St James, patron saint of the furriers (fur dealers) attributed to Niccolo di Piero Lamerti around 1415
  6. 6. Madonna of the Rose attributed to Piero Tedesco representing the Guild of Doctors, the earliest sculpture from 1399
  7. 7. St John the Evangelist, created for the Silk Guild by Baccio da Montelupo, 1514
  8. 8. Lorenzo Ghiberti's St John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence and the wealthy Calimala or Merchants' Guild, created around 1414-16
  9. 9. Doubting Thomas by Verrocchio for the Merchants' Tribunal, 1467-83
  10. 10. St Luke by Giambologna for the Guild of Judges and Notaries, 1601
  11. 11. St Peter, patron saint of the butchers by Ciuffagni, perhaps with a little help from Brunelleschi, 1415
  12. 12. St Phillip by Nanni di Banco, the Guild of Shoemakers' contribution, 1412-14
  13. 13. The Four Saints, martyred Christian sculptors, by Nanni di Banco, paid for by the Wood and Stone Workers' Guild (see the figures hard at work underneath the saints) from 1408
  14. 14. Donatello's celebrated St George, aptly created for the Guild of Armourers and Swordmakers in 1416

Comments

4

We found this by mistake and we are so glad we did. We had seen the outside before but there is a beautiful museum space on the upper floor with the original statues from the outside of the building and it is free.

5

A beautiful little church hidden in plain sight in the heart of the city! Orsanmichele makes for a relatively quick visit but is totally worth that visit. Outside and within it features some beautiful sculptures which highlight the importance of the guilds of medieval Florence. If you want to see the real statues and not just the copies, the museum on the upper floors is usually only open on Mondays.

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