Fiesole - FirenzeAl centro di un’emozione
This was the ancient cathedral of Fiesole, it was dedicated to Saints Peter and Romulus and was the first Episcopalian seat of the Diocese. It was restored by Cosimo dei Medici together with the monastery and had a refectory, an infirmary, a novitiate, a dormitory and a library (Brunelleschi worked there as did Michelozzo later). The Romanic façade decorated with geometric designs in green and white marble is similar to the Baptistery in Florence and to San Miniato al Monte.It has a large 15th Century cloister in pietra serena which leads to other rooms. Today, the whole group of buildings is the seat of the European University Institute.The Badia used to possess land and mills near the old bridge over the river Mugnone which caught the notice of eighteenth Century travellers.
Approaching the building in piazza Mino from Florence, the visitor firstly sees the right-hand wall. Built in the basilica layout, it was constructed by bishop Jacopo il Bavaro in 1028 and extended in the 13th Century. The bell tower has an inscription at the base dated 1206 but its present aspect, with its crenellated top comes from twentieth Century renovation work by the architect G. Castellucci.The cathedral is dedicated to bishop Romulus martyr who founded the church in Fiesole. Major renovation works began in 1878 on the inner and outer walls which gave the façade its neo gothic look of today. Excavations in the crypt completed in 1990 revealed a continuity of life from the Hellenistic period up to the 14th Century. The interior of the church is markedly Romanic similar to S. Miniato al Monte. It has three naves separated by stone columns all different from each other with splendid capitals. The cathedral and its chapels house a number of prestigious works such as the frescoes by Cosimo Rosselli, sculptures by Mino da Fiesole and panels of the Ghirlandaio school. Furthermore, the high altar has a splendid polyptych by Bicci di Lorenzo and a canvas by Baccio Maria Bacci.
The monastery of St. Domenic, which stands halfway between Florence and Fiesole, was begun in 1406 and completed in 1435 by Bishop Jacopo Altoviti of Fiesole and Giovanni Dominici, both friars from Santa Maria Novella. This, therefore, was the second Dominican monastery in Florence before St. Mark’s was built to where the friars would later be transferred. It was an important training centre for young friars – indeed it was the training ground for Antonino Pierozzi, saint and Archbishop of Florence and Giovanni da Fiesole called Beato Angelico whose triptych (or table of St. Domenic of Fiesole, the Madonna of the benediction and the crucifixion of the chapter). Many of his works that were created here are exhibited in the Uffizi, the Louvre, the Prado and in the Hermitage.Next to the monastery stands the church which dates to the first half of the quattrocento. The building was renovated in the 17th and 18th Centuries with the addition of the bell tower and the portico and in that same period the choir and presbytery began to take shape. The interior has a single nave with three chapels on each side.
This oratory is perfectly aligned with the town hall or Praetorian Palace. It appears to date back to the 10th Century, however, its position atop a podium (stilobate) dominating the piazza, with a classic pillar in pietra serena lodged in its north wall and the recent discovery of a part of the east-west road alongside, indicate its construction on top of a temple from Roman times by the forum. The discovery nearby of sepulchres from the Longobard era point to a presence in palaeo-Christian times. The appearance today is well made and characteristic of the 16th Century for the façade and the 19th Century for the portico.
The ancient artistic image of the Virgin Mary points to undisputed faith throughout the centuries. Ancient tradition attributes it to St. Luke and it is the oldest mark of veneration of the Madonna in the Diocese of Fiesole (whence perhaps the attribute of “Primerana”).
The oratory was also where the Opera di Santa Maria Primerana was based, a mainly artisan, social organisation which looked after the square below and maintenance work, as well as having the task of compiling the bourses or lists for the election to the post of community magistrate
In the beginning, in the 1200s, there was a chapel on this site that was built by a family from Fiesole. Subsequently a number of Florentine ladies – the “Romite” – moved there and used it as a convent. At the dawning of the quattrocento, Bishop Andrea Corsini renovated and extended the earliest convent, called Santa Maria del Fiore, and gave it to the minor friars.The church and convent complex is in a dominating position overlooking the Mugnone valley to the west and occupies the ancient Etruscan rock. There is a remarkable fifteenth Century cloister with a well and another smaller cloister of the fourteenth century.The church itself boasts an “Annunciation” by Raffaellino del Garbo. A number of 15th Century cells may be visited. The convent houses the Franciscan Missionary Museum which contains an Egyptian and a Chinese collection put together by the missionary fathers to those lands
The church , situated on the highest point of Fiesole and erected over the ruins of a pagan temple of the “auguri”, probably was built by Teodorico in the VI century a. C. with the name of “Santo Pietro in Gerusalemme”. Here in the year 823 a.C. was buried the Bishop Sant’Alessandro, who claimed a right to the local Church from the Emperor Lotario to whom later the church was dedicated.
The original aspect of the church is almost lost, but the interior has preserved the original basilican plan with three naves separated by columns with capitals taken from the classical buildings of Fiesole.
In the 17th Century there was a group oh houses, fewer than a village, and some working quarries half way down the steep, north-west slope of the St.Francis hill, that looked as though they were about to tumble into the Mugnone below. The place name comes from a spring already known in the 15th Century which began flowing as the pietra serena was hewn from the quarry as so often happens when blocks of the sedimentary rock are cut away. The brilliance can still be seen as the water is struck by the light as it flows over the layers of rock.
Angelo Poliziano wished to convey a neo-pagan literary image of this place which perhaps was a concrete expression of the popular belief that there was a magical, enchanted presence linked to the water:
“Vicinus quoque adhuc Fesulano Ruscolo meo, lucens Fonticulus est; ita enimnomen habet, secreta in umbra delitescens, ubi sedem esse nunc quoque Lamiarum narrant mulierculae, quaecumque aquarum ventitant”(cit. in Bandini AM ,Lettere XII ad un amico [….], Florence 1880 p.91).
The Lamias, creature with a woman’s body, later assimilated with witches and vampires were supposed to live in that very place, or so local womenfolk said.
The reformation that took place following the Council of Trent attempted to uproot all forms of paganism that still remained in the countryside. Springs and sources of water were consecrated with sacred objects and the object of cults and devotions, their waters becoming health-giving.
There used to be a crucifix in pietra serena in Fontelucente which was undoubtedly the handiwork of stonemasons and protected within a tabernacle.
On the basis of popular devotion a highly visible oratory church was a built next the quarry that encompassed the crucifix and the spring which still flows inside it and out through a fountain.
Inside the church there is a triptych by Mariotto di Nardo from 1398 of the Madonna della Cintola.
Rete di Imprese
Via di Baccano 4, 50014 Fiesole (FI)
Telefono +39 055 5978381