I visited Santa Maria Novella yesterday afternoon. Although I’ve never thought of it as my favorite, I always seem to spend time there soon after I arrive in Florence. This time I took a notebook tour, computer notebook that is. A very leisurely, solitary way to do it. In fact, I’m considering doing so at other churches I tour.
This Dominican church has a rich history in Florence, beginning in the mid-thirteen century when monastic orders were building churches all over Europe as a base to carry out their mission (with public assistance). Florence was no exception.
The Dominican mission is to preach, teach, and confess. Interesting to note that the Dominican Fra Girolama Savonarola (1452-96), who became over zealous in the order’s mission until he was burned at the stake in Piazza della Signoria, was not mentioned in the tour. Maybe he’ll appear when I tour the Convent of San Marco where he lived, but I’m thinking the text on these tours is committed to giving a positive spin.
This is a marvelous church for prayer, even in the midst of tourists. It is never crowded and it’s spaciousness provides quiet and solitude. The Trinita by Masaccio, offers visual lectio divina, as do the Ghirlandaio’s frescoes on the life of Mary, Brunelleschi’s carved crucifix, and Giotto’s crucifix hanging in the nave. Also, through a separate entrance, there is a chapel just for prayer. There is an entrance fee for this church, but not for this chapel.