Architecture Around the World

San Miniato al Monte
Florence, Italy


Facade completed during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.
The first order of the facade was initiated in 1070 and finished in the 13 C with the glowing colours of the mosaic of Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. Miniato.
The marble intarsia (white from Carrara and green from Prato), with its strict geometrical design, is the most important element of the facade.




Tuscan Romanesque ("Pre-Renaissance")

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

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Marble door surround
pedimented entrance
with supporting
Corinthian columns

Leaf-and-dart molding

Diaper pattern


Diaper pattern

Marble incrustation



Diaphragm arches


The Basilica di San Miniato al Monte (Basilica of St Minias on the Mountain) stands atop one of the highest points in Florence, and has been described as the finest Romanesque structure in Tuscany and one of the most beautiful churches in Italy.

St Minias

St Minias was Florence’s first martyr, possibly a Greek merchant or an Armenian prince, who left his home to make a pilgrimage to Rome. In about 250, he arrived in Florence and set up home as a hermit.

Minias was beheaded during the anti-Christian persecutions of the Emperor Decius and was then said to have picked up his head, crossed the Arno and walked up the hill of Mons Fiorentinus to his hermitage.

It began as a Benedictine monastery, then passed to the Cluniacs and then in 1373 to the Olivetans, who still run it.

A shrine was later erected at this spot and there was a chapel here by the 8th century. Construction of the present church was begun in 1013.

- Sacred Sites (online March 2013)
The geometrically patterned marble façade was probably begun in about 1090, although the upper parts date from the 12th century or later, financed by the Florentine Arte di Calimala (cloth merchants’ guild), who were responsible for the church’s upkeep from 1288. The eagle which crowns the façade was their symbol.

The campanile collapsed in 1499 and was replaced in 1523, although it was never finished. During the siege of Florence in 1530 it was used as an artillery post by the defenders and Michelangelo had it wrapped in mattresses to protect it from enemy fire.

- Wikipedia (online March 2013)

Photos and their arrangement © 2008 Chuck LaChiusa
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