I’ve walked by the closed doors of this church a hundred times and it is always closed. I nearly fainted recently when I walked by and found the doors open. Of course, I had to go inside! My first surprise upon entering was this lovely, green, cloister.
As always, I had happened upon a site with a very storied past.
Before exploring that past, let’s admire the masterpiece within the church:
The Cappella Maggiore, above, is, in fact, one of the cornerstones of the Baroque in Florence. It was built between 1677-85 to house the saint’s relics. Rich polychrome marbles, bronzes, gilding, statues, frescoes and painted canvases are all combined into one ensemble; it is typical of the decorative sensibility at the time of the Grand Duchy of Cosimo III de ‘Medici, and it is no coincidence that he promoted it.
The chapel was curated by the Roman Ciro Ferri, a pupil of Pietro da Cortona, and was completed by Pier Francesco Silvani. The dome features a fresco of an illusionistic sky showing the Ascent of Santa Maria Maddalena de ‘Pazzi with all the Florentine saints, by Pier Dandini of 1701.
The central altarpiece is by Ciro Ferri himself (Virgin and Saint Mary Magdalene of the Pazzi, 1684) and the two lateral altarpieces by Luca Giordano (Jesus and Saint Mary Magdalene of the Mad and the Virgin presents the Child to Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi, 1685).
The four allegorical Carrara marble sculptures in the niches near the corners are to the left of Antonio Montauti (Innocenza, 1723, and Religion, 1738, finished by Gaetano Masoni) and to the right of Innocenzo Spinazzi (Faith and Penance, 1781). The marble putti of the lower band are by Carlo Marcellini and the bronze oval bas-reliefs with stories of the saint by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi.
The church and former convent of Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi is located in Borgo Pinti in central Florence.
The Pazzi name was added after the Carmelite order nun Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, canonized in 1669, whose family patronized the church.
The original convent had been dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen delle Convertite, the patron of once-fallen, now converted women.
The Cistercian order from Badia a Settimo took control of the site in 1332 and moved to it in 1442, while the convent was transferred to San Donato in Polverosa. However, the church and chapter house were rebuilt between 1481 and 1500, with initial designs in 1492 by Giuliano da Sangallo.
The highlighted sentences in the next paragraph tell a sad tale:
The 13th-century interiors were redecorated in the 17th and early 18th centuries, which removed the altarpieces by masters such as Botticelli, Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Raffaellino del Garbo. They were replaced by new ones from minor masters such as Carlo Portelli, Alfonso Boschi, Domenico Puligo, Santi di Tito, and Francesco Curradi. In the chapter house is a fresco divided into three lunettes of the Crucifixion and Saints (1493–96) by Pietro Perugino, commissioned by Dionisio and Giovanna Pucci.
Ah, the vicissitudes of changing taste. Out went the masterpieces. In come the trendy.
The first chapel to the right of the entrance is the Cappella del Giglio (Chapel of St. Mary of the Lily) frescoed with depictions of Saints Filippo Neri, Bernard, Nereo, and Achilleo by the studio of Bernardino Poccetti, with an altarpiece by Domenico Passignano.
The fourth chapel on the right has a stained glass window by Isabella, the daughter of Georges Henri Rouault.
The choir chapel originally contained a fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio but was rebuilt from 1685 to 1701 by Ciro Ferri and Pier Francesco Silvani. Ferri painted the altarpiece and Luca Giordano the flanking pieces. The statues of Penitence and Faith on the right were sculpted by Innocenzo Spinazzi, while Innocence and Religion on the left by Giovanni Monatauti. The bronze reliefs on the altar were made by Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi.
The interior also contains works by Giovanni and Cosimo Bizzelli, Jacopo Chiavistelli, Ottavio Vannini, Cosimo Rosselli, Cosimo Gamberucci, Leonardo del Tasso, Giuseppe Servolini, and Giuseppe Piattoli.
I read the Italian Wikipedia article on this church and discovered that some of the art works originally found here were confiscated by Napoleon and taken to France. Some works remain there.
The simple cortile has some interesting funerary monuments:
Neoclassical sculptures of this type are rarely signed by the artist. I found this interesting signature carved onto the left of the funerary bier.