Within the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation), a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Florence, is situated this amazing tabernacle.
The church was founded in 1250 by the seven original members of the Servite Order. Arguably, however, the most important aspect of this particular church is that in 1252, a painting of the Annunciation was begun by a friar Bartolomeo. Commissioned by the Servite monks, and according to legend, the artist despaired about being able to paint a virgin with a beautiful enough face to truly represent the Virgin Mary. During his despair, he allegedly fell asleep, only to find the painting completed. Thus, the painting is “miraculous.”
The cleaning of the painting of the Annunciazione has just been completed, and the scaffolding around the tabernacle was removed. The whole was revealed to the pubic again on 8 December 2020.
Here it is in all of its renewed glory!
The painter of this venerated painting, a friar Bartolomew, is said to have attributed the completion of the face of the Virgin to an angel.
The painting, still housed within the church, acquired increasing veneration over the centuries, such that in 1444 the Gonzaga family from Mantua financed a special tribute. They commissioned Michelozzo, who was the brother of the Servite prior, originally to build it, but since Ludovico III Gonzaga had a special admiration for Leon Battista Alberti, this latter architect was given the commission in 1469.
Alberti’s designs were constricted by the pre-existing foundations. Construction was completed in 1481, after Alberti’s death. Though the structure was refurbished in Baroque-style in the seventeenth century, the basic scheme of a domed circular space is still evident.