Orsanmichele – A Chapel for Florence’s Powerful Guilds

Orsanmichele – A Chapel for Florence’s Powerful Craft and Trade Guilds:

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Chiesa Orsanmichele

In its former life, Orsanmichele was a grain market (Loggia de Mercato del Grano) on the main road that linked Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria.

Commissioned by the Signoria, the building was converted into a church and used as the chapel for Florence’s powerful craft and trade guilds.  The Signoria was the government of medieval and renaissance Florence and its nine members were drawn from the ranks of the guilds.

On the ground floor of the square building are the 13th century arches that originally formed the loggia of the grain market. The Signoria wanted the fourteen exterior niches to hold the statues of the patron saints of the various Guilds that were the source of the city’s prosperity.

The building is an unusual two-story structure: the upper floor was used to store grain and the lower was converted into a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

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Orsanmichele – Four Crowned Saints..

The guilds were entrusted by the city to commission statues of their patron saints to embellish the facades of the church. The decorations were done by the greatest artists working in Florence and present a rich overview of Florentine sculpture.

The church was completed after a lengthy interruption of work between 1380 and 1404. However, today it is still a unique example of a combination of several decorative styles of late Gothic European architecture.

Orsanmichele took its name from Orto di San Michele, a kitchen garden of the monastery of San Michele which has long since vanished.

The interior of this tranquil church contains a bejewelled 14th century altar by Andrea Orcagna, Bernardo Daddi’s Virgin and Child and an icon of the Madonna and Child.

The main attraction on the exterior is the 14 architecturally designed niches and the sculptures of the various guilds’ patron saints. These however are copies as the originals have been moved to museums.

You can now also enjoy orchestra and classical music in this fascinating church.  See what’s on at Orsanmichele and book concert tickets online Here.

Chiesa di Orsanmichele
Via dei Calzaiuoli

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