The Christmas season in Florence

PctF17aNQPSrpMf+BuI2og

 

It’s here! The city is geared up for Christmas.

 

The tree was placed, awaiting the lights.  It was lit up on the evening of 8 December.

 

The fancy stores and hotels have lovely decorations:

 

 

 

I love the way the statue of justice is reflected on the wall to the left:

 

I like the simple, natural decorations the best. Below this church uses garlands of evergreens and citrus:

 

 

 

A local charity had a bazaar the other weekend and I spotted this Santa Claus there.  Can you tell that Santa Claus is not a natural part of the Italian holiday of Natale?  I think it is obvious. There were some kids around, but no one wanted to sit on his lap!

qhGzXGWpSz2V6eElcc9m9Q

dBMWa+CaTgWpFaTAMgI1ZA

 

 

 

The church and convent della Calza, with a Last Supper by Franciabigio

Just inside the ancient gate of Porta Romano, lies a simple church and attached convent (in Italy, convent can mean monastery or convent or both) dating to the 13th century. An almost unknown (relatively speaking, at least, to the hordes of tourists who descend on Florence every year) masterpiece of  Renaissance paintings is housed here: a beautiful cenacolo, or a painting of The Last Supper. Florence is so fortunately rich in these frescoed depictions of that fateful dinner.

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 16.54.42

fullsizeoutput_1fb0

fullsizeoutput_1fae

fullsizeoutput_1fb4

The church dedicated to San Giovanni Battista, in Piazza della Calza, was founded as a hospital in 1362.  There were once many oratories, hospitals and shelters for pilgrims and travelers along the present via Senese and via Romana. These were major roads leading to Florence.

At the end of the 14th century, the convent was established by the Gerosolimitan nuns. They commissioned Franciabigio to paint The Last Supper in 1514 in their refectory. Unfortunately, the sisters soon had to leave the hospital, during the 1529 siege of Florence.

The nuns were replaced in 1531 by Jesuati friars (not Jesuits) who changed the dedication of the church from Hospital of Saint John the Baptist  to San Giusto. They  used the hospital as a charity for children, an ecclesiastic boarding-house, and eventually as a seminary. The church and the convent became known by the name “della calza” (sock) which was a name derived from the long white hoods that the monks wore over their left shoulders. The hood was shaped like a sock and the name stuck.

The picture below is not authentically one of the della calza habits, but it shows the shape of the hood and how it was worn.

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 17.43.26

From this nickname of “the sock” came the name of the church, the convent, and even the square.

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 16.36.20

The true hidden gem kept inside is the Cenacolo by Franciabigio, still preserved in the ancient refectory.

fullsizeoutput_1f92fullsizeoutput_1f98

Mother Superior Antonia de’ Medici entrusted Francesco di Cristofano, called Franciabigio (1482-1525), to portray a specific scene, during the Last Supper, just after Christ says: “Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

Franciabigio thus knowing, deep sadness in the countenance of Christ. Judas, the only figure on the outer side of the table, reacts strongly to the words of Jesus: his sudden movement causes his wooden stool to tip over. All around the table, the expressions of the Apostles register various states of confusion.

img_1640

fullsizeoutput_1f78

fullsizeoutput_1f7c

fullsizeoutput_1f80

One can notice each reaction and recognize each Apostle because the artist added their names, painted along the strip which runs above their heads. The painter added here the date A(nno) S(alutis) MDXIIII (A.D. 1514) and his signature, through a twisted shortened monogram (FRAC).

img_1647

On the painted floor, you can even distinguish the name of the Mother Superior Antonia (SVORA AN), marked on the lower left side, under the table, between the second and third Apostle.

Franciabigio carefully fashioned magnificient details; along the fine linen tablecloth you see ceramic jugs, breadrolls, glasses with red wine, and sliced watermelon. Some of the jugs feature the typical Medici coat-of-arms (the one with the red spheres) referring to Mother Superior Antonia and the Red Cross of the Order of Knights of Malta to whom the nuns originally belonged.

Giorgio Vasari describes (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects) how Franciabigio “was very keen on studies of perspective” and human anatomy. We see that throughout and especially in the accurate position of the wooden shutters painted along the wall.

img_1639

 

img_1638

 

img_1637

A fascinating contrast is given by the dark green wall and the light of the crystal clear sky in the background, where the painter depicted the old Florentine town walls (the destroyed gate of San Pier Gattolino).

For the Jubilee in 2000, the fresco was restored.

Just a quick word about the Church of San Giovanni Battista della Calza:

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 16.36.20

My quick walk through the church introduced me to this arresting sculpture near the entrance to the small church.

I was alone in the church and had free rein to poke around.  In a small room off the church itself I noticed an amazing della Robbia fountain.  You never know what treasures you will happen upon in this fascinating city.

And, finally, I can’t leave this post without mentioning that, depict the austerity of this church, some major paintings were once a part of the church.  They are now in the Uffizi:

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 16.38.52

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Trinita, another look

Recently I posted about Santa Trinita and I just had another chance to pay it another visit.  It was a sunny day following a week of rain, and it just felt good to be out and in the sunshine.  You might notice that the city of Florence has begun decorating for Christmas already!

The Mannerist facade by Buontalenti:

The beautifully carved central doors:

You must never forget the fabulous column and Roman statue in the piazza outside the church:

 

Once more, the facade:

 

 

Inside the church we are fortunate to see the extant old Romanesque facade of the church. Luckily for posterity, they didn’t destroy it when they constructed the new front for the church:

 

One either side of the central door, inside the church are these tombstones and paintings:

 

The interior:

 

 

 

 

 

The Chapel containing the (presumed) Donatello:

 

 

 

The statue of Mary Magdalene by Desiderio di Settignano: