San Miniato al Monte

The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte

San Miniato al Monte

 Saint Minias

San Minias by Della Robbia

Who was Saint Minias?

St. Minias, after whom San Miniato al Monte is named, was by tradition the first evangeliser and Christian martyr in Florence. Minias is thought to have been a Greek merchant or possibly an Armenian prince who left his home to make a pilgrimage to Rome. In about 250, he arrived in Florence and took up life as a hermit. He became a victim of the persecutions of the Emperor Decius (249-251 A.D.) and was beheaded. Legend has it that, after his decapitation, he picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders and went to die in the cave on Monte alle Croci where he had lived as a hermit. That cave is now the location of the oratory and the church that bear his name.

San Miniato al Monte is within walking distance of central Florence,
but the stiff uphill climb means taking the bus might be a good idea!

Please note - this is the web site for San Miniato al Monte overlooking Florence. The pretty town on San Miniato ("al Tedesco"), located in the lower Arno valley in the Province of Pisa, has its own website at www.san-miniato.com.

Architecture of San Miniato al Monte

Bishop Hildebrand had the present Basilica built in 1018 on the site of a 4th century chapel. The lower part of the facade is decorated by fine arcading; the upper part is simpler and has a fine 12th-century mosaic of Christ between the Madonna and St. Miniato. The Basilica has an unfinished 15th century campanile that was damaged during the siege of Florence in 1530. The Bishop's Palace, the fortifications, the monumental cemetery and the Basilica all stand at the top of a hill called Monte alle Croci, which overlooks Piazzale Michelangelo below and over the entire city of Florence. The interior of this magnificent example of Florentine Romanesque architecture (it originally belonged to the Benedictine monks and then passed to the Olivetan friars in 1373) is tripartite with a trussed timber roof.

The pavement in the centre of the Basilica includes marble intarsias representing the signs of the zodiac and symbolic animals. The walls retain fragments of 13th and 14th century frescoes. The crypt is a vast space closed off by an elaborate wrought-iron gate (1338). The altar (11th century) preserves the bones of St. Miniato. Fragments of frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi (1341) may be seen in the vaults of the crypt. The raised presbytery is of great beauty with its pulpit (1207) and an intimate choir with fine inlaid wooden choir stalls. The large mosaic of the Blessing Christ flanked by the Madonna and Saints (1297) is in the conch of the apse. The entrance to the Sacristy, completely frescoed by Spinello Aretino (1387) with the sixteen Stories of the legend of St. Benedict, is to the right of the presbytery. On the left, stairs lead to the Chapel of St. James, or "of the Cardinal of Portugal", designed by Antonio Manetti and decorated with five splendid roundels representing the Holy Spirit and the Cardinal Virtues, by Luca della Robbia (1461-66). To the right is the funeral monument of the Cardinal, a particularly lovely work by Antonio Rossellino (1461). The Chapel of the Crucifix, designed by Michelozzo, and with delicate glazed vaulting by Luca della Robbia or his family, stands at the centre of the church.

To the right of the church is the Bishop's Palace (1295- 1320), the ancient summer residence of the bishops of Florence which then became a convent, a hospital and a Jesuit house.

Gregorian Chant at San Miniato al Monte

Gregorian Chant at San Miniato al Monte

On Sundays and Feast days, the monks accompany Mass with Gregorian chant at 10.00 and 17.30, in the crypt. During week days, Gregorian chant takes place at 17.30 in summer. This time might change to 16.30 in winter.

More architectural detail of San Miniato in our photo gallery.

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Off the beaten track!

Giovanni Sirabella
, an experienced professional tour guide,
conducts groups to the coast and the smaller art cities
in his comfortable minibus.

Portofino.

San Miniato al Monte photo gallery.

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Tuscany vacation rentals

Find a vacation rental in Tuscany - stay in the cool Chianti hills when you visit Tuscany. Click here for a large selection of beautiful farm house apartment and room vacation rentals in Chianti, plus all you need to know about Chianti.

San Miniato al Monte from the Forte di Belvedere

San Miniato al Monte from the Forte di Belvedere, Florence.

Casino del Cavaliere porcellain museum seen from San Miniato al Monte

Casino del Cavaliere museum from San Miniato al Monte

San Miniato al Monte photo gallery.

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