Church of Orsanmichele
Church of Orsanmichele is a ten-minute walk from most attractions in Florence. (Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Repubblica, and Piazza della Signoria)
Church of Orsanmichele itself was once a grain market. However it burnt down in 1304. A painting by Bernando Daddi survived the fire. People saw that as a miracle so they kept coming to pray at the location. The Florentine's decided to make it into a proper church.
Some of the most magnificent Gothic sculpture is on the façade of the Church. The guilds of the city commissioned sculptures for the niches on the exterior of the building. They would be filled with stunning bronze and marble statues by some of the greatest names in Florentine sculpture: Donatello, Ghiberti, Nanni di Banco and Verrocchio. Today they are excellent replicas of the originals; they are very decorative and artistic. The originals having been removed one by one for restoration. They are now displayed on the first floor of the church, however access is restricted to Mondays. You might notice the sculpture by Donatello's St George, which is on the most famous pieces is missing. It is now located in the Bargello Palace. I really liked seeing the sculptures of Saint Stephen and Saint Thomas. Saint Thomas was my favorite. He was created by Andrea del Verrocchio (Leonardo di Vinci's master). Saint Thomas is delicately balanced with his foot held high outside of the niche while he has his hand on Christ's side.
Church of Orsanmichele is quite beautiful with its chapels. The main altar is a masterpiece and I found it emotionally overwhelming. I spoke to a friendly and informative monk inside this beautiful basilica. He told me where to see the spots where two very important people were buried. One was Amerigo Vespucci (he was one of the early explorers of the New World). You can see where his name is engraved in the marble on the floor. The other famous person buried in the church is Sandro Botticelli (he was a Florentine painter of the Early Renaissance). He is at the very end of the chapel on the floor on the right hand side where a marker with the name Mariano in the marble (Botticelli’s original last name).
I saw an amazing crucifix beaming with bright colors. It was a blue-green crucifix and is terrific rendering of Jesus on the cross. The monk told me that it had been recently refurbished and was now accredited to Giotto. Wait until you see this, it is truly breathtaking.
If you want to see the magnificent fresco of the Last Supper by Ghirlandaio, it is in a separate building next door and is only open Monday, Tuesday and Saturday from 9 am until 12 pm.
While I was here the chanting of the monks being heard throughout the church this was a visually and spiritually moving place to be.
The atmosphere in Church of Orsanmichele is very peaceful and not as crowded. For some reason it isn’t a big tourist attraction, however I really think it is worth a visit.