Basilica of Santa Maria Novella - Table of Contents  ...........................  Architecture Around the World

Exterior - Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy

Name origin: A Dominican church replaced a smaller 10th c. church; hence, the name "Novella."

Architects:

1279-1357:  Dominican friars, Fra Sisto, Fra Ristoro, Fra Jacopo Talenti.
             
1458-1470 facade:  Leon Battista Alberti (LAY on ba TEES ta al BER tee).

Style:

1279-1357: Romanesque

1458-1470: Early Renaissance

Building materials:

Green marble of Prato, located a few kilometers from Florence, which can display different shades of green, from light green to almost black, as well as yellow and green streaks  (also used at the Florence Baptistery and at the church of San Miniato

On this page, below:

History

Upper facade

Rectangular base

South elevation and Cemetery


Excerpts

Funding the Facade of Santa Maria Novella 
Walking Tours of Florence (online May 2020)

Emblazoned across the top of the beautiful facade of the church of Santa Maria Novella is an inscription: IOHANES.ORICELLARIUS.PAV.F.AN.SAL.MCCCCLXX (Giovanni Rucellai. Son of Paolo. Year of Salvation. 1470). 

Rucellai’s name derives from the nature of the trade which was the source of his family’s initial wealth. The family were once importers of oricello (orchil), a plant which was treated with ammonia to produce a precious dye used for the colouring of cloth. The family had originally been called the Oricellari and it is the Latin form of this name that we see on the facade.  The facade is also adorned with the emblem of Giovanni Rucellai, which took the form of a sail billowing in the wind.

Work on the facade began in 1350, thanks to a bequest by Turino di Baldese, who had died in 1348. However, the funds ran out with only the lower half completed. A century later Giovanni Rucellai (1403-81), a member of a wealthy family of wool merchants, offered to finance the completion of the facade, on the condition that his name be incorporated in the design. The church agreed.

The designer of the project was that great all-rounder of the Renaissance Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72), who also designed the Rucellai family pile [group of buildings], which lies nearby. The work was carried out by Giovanni di Bertino between 1458 and 1470.






Romanesque bell tower/campanile with tall pyramidal  spire behind left scroll buttress   ...   The combined facade can be inscribed by a square; many other repetitions of squares can be found in the design.   ...   Photos below divided by upper facade and rectangular base:





Upper facade - designed by Leon Battista Alberti, 1458-1470


Upper facade
Romanesque bell tower/campanile with tall pyramidal  spire behind left scroll buttress     ...     Inlaid green and white marble   ...   Top tympanum  above frieze which reads IOHANES.ORICELLARIUS.PAV.F.AN.SAL.MCCCCLXX (Giovanni Rucellai. Son of Paolo. Year of Salvation. 1470)     ...   
Flanking scroll buttresses     ...   Four striped pilasters    ...   Circular window 


Upper facade
Triangular pediment   ...   
Tympanum (pediment interior)



Upper facade
Tympanum detail:    Modillions   ...   Egg-and-dart molding   ...   Dentil molding   ...   Sun face: Dominican solar emblem with the face of baby Jesus



Upper facade
  Tympanum detail: Modillions   ...   Egg-and-dart molding   ...   Dentil molding   ...     Spandrel



Upper facade
Frieze text, in Latin: IOHANES.ORICELLARIUS.PAV.F.AN.SAL.MCCCCLXX (Giovanni Rucellai. Son of Paolo. Year of Salvation. 1470).     ...   See explanation ABOVE on this page



Upper facade
One of two scroll buttresses, two "ears" decorated with rosettes of inlaid marble on either side.   ...   The buttresses solve a longstanding architectural problem:   How to transfer from wide to narrow storeys    ...    Churches all over Italy draw their origins from the design of this church.   ...  

"Today the church has been opened up into a single level elevation with a high ceiling, but during the 15th century when Alberti was alive, the interior was broken up into two levels.  There was an upper level for the friars and a lower level for the general congregation. One problem that Alberti had to solve in his design for Santa Maria Novella was the fact that the two levels of the church were of quite different heights.  He solved this by tying them together visually with the use of the ornate scrolls on either end." - The Facade of Santa Maria Novella  (online May 2020)
Two details below:


Upper facade
Rosette deign using inlaid green and white marble



Upper facade



Upper facade
Frieze corner:  Ribbons and ancone   ...  Romanesque  chevrons   ...  Lion



Upper facade
Frieze  , flanked by the corners illustrated just above, features decorated squares



Upper facade
  Bottom frieze features Rucellai family emblem: billowing sails




Rectangular base


Rectangular base - finished by Talenti in Gothic style in 1357
Between 1458 and 1470,
Leon Battista Alberti added  two  striped end columns,  four dark green engaged columns,     ...    Three portals   ...    Three lunettes above the doors  painted by Ulisse Cocchi   ...   In 1360,  a series of Gothic  arcades were added to the facade; these were intended to contain sarcophagi.



Rectangular base



Rectangular base
One of five pilaster  Corinthian  capitals



Rectangular base
Left lunette over portal :    ...   The three lunettes above the doors were painted in 1616 by Ulisse Cocchi.   ...   Crockets



Rectangular base
Corinthian  capitals



Rectangular base
The three lunettes above the doors were painted in 1616 by Ulisse Cocchi. This central one shows St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Dominican friar



Rectangular base
Romanesque  chevrons and lion    ...   Bead-and-reel molding    ...   Guilloche molding



Rectangular base  
Coffered soffit features rosettes   ...   St. Thomas Aquinas mural



Rectangular base   ...
2008 photo   ...  
Lunette   ...    St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican



Rectangular base   ...
One of six arcaded funerary niches with pointed Gothic arch   ...    At the bottom of the niche are emblems and coats-of-arms of the families buried here.


Rectangular base
Corinthian  columns with (Greek) fluted shafts




Rectangular base   ...
 
Emblems and coats-of-arms of one of  the families buried in the six niches.




Cemetery and South elevation


Cemetery
Left:  South elevation of the basilica   ...   Gothic style pointed arches over cemetery niches   ...   Family emblems at bottom identify the family niche   ...  
"To the right of the church of Santa Maria Novella is a walled-in cemetery, the last resting place of numerous wealthy Florentines. In the walls around the cemetery are eighty avelli (funeral niches), similar to those in the church's front facade, where members of noble Florentine families are buried. Coats-of-arms on the niches represent the families." - A View on Cities (online May 2302)



South elevation
Marble facing is reserved for the facade of the basilica   ...   Two corbel tables  detailed below:


South elevation
Two corbel tables     ...   Gothic arch



South elevation
Gothic style stained glass window



South elevation 
Portal employs compound arch surround    ...   Doors detail below:





Cemetery
Three of eight front arcaded funerary niches



Cemetery
Gothic pointed arch



Cemetery
Acanthus leaf  capital







Photos and their arrangement 2020 Chuck LaChiusa
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