Home / Abbeys, basilicas and churches / Orsanmichele: a church built in the ancient grain market of Florence
Una finestra, Orsanmichele, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Orsanmichele: a church built in the ancient grain market of Florence

Originally, in the area where it is today Orsanmichele was the oratory of San Michele in Orto, which was demolished in 1239.

In its place, around 1290, Arnolfo di Cambio built a loggia for the sale of grain, then according to tradition the image of the Madonna painted on a pillar began to make miracles, and the place became a place of devotion of the faithful.

The loggia was badly damaged by fire in 1304 and rebuilt in 1349, the image of Our Lady’s was replaced by the Madonna and Child by Bernardo Daddi (1346), which is still inside the church.

In 1359, after other miraculous healings that took place during the plague of 1348, a monumental marble altar was built by Andrea di Cione said Orcagna.

In 1380 two floors were added to the building, where were held the stock of wheat, in addition, designed by Francesco di Simone Talenti, the loggias were closed in late Gothic style with elegant three-light windows and stained glass windows, the ground floor, where was the old market, was used as a place of worship.

Orsanmichele, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Orsanmichele, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The Signoria assigned to the 21 Guild of Arts and Crafts the care of the Church of Orsanmichele, so that the building be adorned with decorations in fresco and sculpture. The work was completed in 1404 with the construction of fourteen shrines belonging to Major Arts (Mercatanti o Calimala, Giudici and Notai, Cambio, Lana, Vaiai and Pellicciai, Medici and Speziali, Seta), the Median Arts (Beccai, Calzolai, Maestri di Pietra and Legname, Fabbri, Linaioli and Rigattieri) plus the Art of Corazzai and Spadai. In addition, the most important shrine in the center of the façade facing the Via de’ Calzaioli was assigned first to the Parte Guelfa and then to the Tribunale di Mercatanzia. Within the shrines were placed sculptures (made between the fifteenth and sixteenth century) depicting the saints executed by Nanni di Banco, Ghiberti, Donatello and Giambologna.

Above fourteen shrines, many medallions were created, in which thirteen Arts and the Court of merchandise play their signs, of these, ten were the coats of arms painted and only four were glazed earthenware made by Della Robbia.

Le logge chiuse con eleganti trifore in stile tardogotico e i tabernacoli con le sculture dei santi. Orsanmichele, Firenze, Italia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The loggias closed with elegant trifore in late Gothic style and tabernacles with carvings of saints. Orsanmichele, Florence, Italy. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The upper floor, where was the grain storage is now the home of the Museum of Orsanmichele and here were gathered most of the statues that adorned the shrines of the saints (those who are now in the tabernacles are copies). The Church, with a quadrangular plan, inside which is the magnificent marble tabernacle of the Madonna delle Grazie, retains the late Gothic aspect through the decorations of the late fourteenth century. Down the aisle, on the left, is the votive altar of St. Anne with the marble group (1526 approx) depicting St. Anne, the Madonna and Child by Francesco da Sangallo.

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10-17. Closed on Mondays. Free admission

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