Italy TravelFlorence’s Basilica di Santo Spirito Opens Cloister

Florence’s Basilica di Santo Spirito Opens Cloister
Published on Saturday, April 29, 2017 by

The Basilica di Santo Spirito in Florence has opened its cloister to the public for the first time. The cloister of the former monastery and convent was a space that connected different parts of the complex, such as the basilica and the dining hall, that the monks who lived there used daily. It comprises two refectories and a sacristy.

To enter the cloister from the basilica square, go through the door to the left of the church – but stop to admire the door itself, which was built in 1620 by architects Giulio Parigi and Alfonso Parigi il Giovane. The building’s arched walls frame a peaceful inner courtyard that has a garden, pond, and fountain. On the walls surrounding the courtyard are gravestones dating back to the monastery’s founding – some of which are in very old Gothic lettering – that lend the cloister its name, Chiostro dei Morti (Cloister of the Dead). Above the tombstones, restored frescoes illustrate St. Augustine’s life.

In the main refectory, visitors can view a frescoed version of The Last Supper as painted by Bernardo Poccetti, in 1597. The painting, restored in 2013, depicts three dinner scenes: the Marriage at Cana, the Last Supper, and the Dinner at Emmaus. The “new refectory” is a small meeting room, but the church’s priest, Don Giuseppe, told ArtTrav he is considering hosting concerts there.

Michelangelo’s Crucifix hangs in the middle of the sacristy thanks to a donation from the American nonprofit Friends of Florence, which paid for its installation.

The Santo Spirito complex was built by Augustinian monks in the later part of the 13th century; the church, designed by Brunelleschi, was constructed in 1481 and the cloister was added in 1600. Entry to the basilica is free, but entry to the cloister is 3€.  Closed Wednesday. Guided tours are available on weekends.

By Kathy McCabe

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