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La Collegiata – San Gimignano

San Gimignano - La Collegiata - Fresco
San Gimignano - La Collegiata - InteriorSan Gimignano - view from the topSan Gimignano - day view

The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta, simply called the Collegiata, is the most important church of San Gimignano. Located in Piazza Duomo it is mostly famous for its stunning frescoes’ cycles by Ghirlandaio, Gozzoli, Di Bartolo and many other important artists. In 1990 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in particular the frescoes were described as “works of outstanding beauty”.

The original church was built around the 10th century and dedicated to San Gimignano, its remains are buried here. However in less the two centuries the importance of the city had grown so much that a new church was needed. In the following centuries many statues and frescoes were added.

The Collegiate was built in Romanesque style, except the two chapels added later in the Renaissance style. The façade is very simple, there are two doors on the side and no central portal.

The interior is characterized by the use of colors: the nave colonnades are decorated with black and white marble, the volt is painted with lapis lazuli and gold stars.

The famous frescoes were added mostly during the 14th century. They are divided in cycles: Old Testament, New Testament, Last Judgement, Annunciation, San Sebastian and the one dedicated to the local Saint Fina. The different artists, all coming from the Sienese School, were deeply influenced by the Byzantine style and the Giotto’s renaissance style.

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Also one of the Collegiata’s Chapel was dedicated to the local Saint Fina. The legend says that when this young girls passed many miracles occurred. The chapel is considered a stunning example of the Renaissance style.

During the Second World War the church was seriously damaged, luckily a restoration in 1951 bring it back to its original splendor.

San Gimignano

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Located in the province of Siena in Tuscany is San Gimignano, a small medieval hill town surrounded by a lush green landscape. Famous for its architecture and the many towers that mark its unmistakable skyline, San Gimignano is a fascinating town well worth the visit.

The walled town grew around the Church of San Gimignano, later nicknamed Castle San Gimignano, during the 6th century, adopting its name. During the middle ages, the town was located right along Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrim route, and as a result became a popular stopping point for travelers. The richness of the land around San Gimignano also influenced its importance and wealth, birthing an active trade industry.

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In 1200, San Gimignano claimed independence from the bishops of Volterra, who had ruled it up to this point. Many churches and public buildings were erected during this time. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, during a period of conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the wealthy families of the town built tower houses, one more impressive than the last, to both defend their land and rival each other. By the end of the medieval period, there were 72 towers, the tallest reaching nearly 70 meters in height. Although San Gimignano escaped destruction from wars, catastrophes or urbanization, sadly only fourteen of these towers remain standing today.

Other notable examples of the medieval architecture of the town are the historic city centre, deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, the Piazza della Cisterna, and the Palazzo Comunale. The two biggest churches, the Collegiata in the Piazza del Duomo and the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, both contain beautiful frescoes and other important artworks by artists such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Benozzo Gozzoli and Taddeo di Bartolo.

Academia Gallery

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Florence - Academia GalleryFlorence - Academia Gallery - statuesFlorence - David Michelangelo - detail

Founded in 1562 by Cosimo I de’Medici, with the help of artist and architect Giorgio Vasari, the Accademia di Belle Arti was the first institution of its kind. The Accademia Gallery, located in the same complex, was later founded in 1784 by Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Home to an impressive art collection by various Italian masters, its most famous piece by far is Michelangelo's David. Created in the early 16th century, this sculpture is a marble masterpiece that stands over five meters tall, towering above visitors from its pedestal. Originally meant as one of a series of biblical figures to decorate the roof of the Duomo di Firenze, it was deemed too heavy by the time it was completed and was instead installed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, in the Piazza della Signoria, in 1504. The David was not moved to its current place in the Accademia Gallery until 1873 to preserve it from both human and weather damage. The replica that now takes its place in the Piazza was added in 1910.

Things to see

Some of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures, sketches and lesser known art can also be found in the gallery. Other works housed by the Academia Gallery include Florentine paintings by artists such as Paolo Uccello, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Sandro Botticelli; several Florentine Gothic paintings; and even Giambologna’s original full-scale plaster for “The Rape of the Sabine Women” (one of the sculptures displayed in the Loggia dei Lanzi).