While in Florence, one of the places we were determined to visit was Santa Maria Novella, the beautiful basilica in the heart of the city, a stone's throw from the train station and our hotel, the lovely Hotel Diplomat.
Chronologically, it is the first great basilica in Florence, constructed before the magnificent Duomo (more on which soon!).
The church is stunning, and full to the brim with gorgeous art, sculptures and stained glass windows. The detail and beauty of the pieces was quite something - for centuries the most powerful and wealthy families of Florence would finance great pieces in the church. Most famous are frescoes by masters of Gothic and early Renaissance, but there are also stunning pieces from more modern eras and beautiful works in marble and glass.
The church was designed by two Dominican friars in the twelfth century. The 'Novella' in the name comes as it is built on the former site of a previous church which had been in the same place since the ninth century. Building was finished about 1360 with the completion of the bell tower and sacristy.
I loved the details and vibrant colours of the many stained-glass windows.
The little chapels to the side of the many building were all beautiful and I loved trying to translate the inscriptions as best I could. Which wasn't very well at all - oh, to have learned Latin at school.
The sheer wealth of beautiful and important art on display was quite something!
I loved the vibrant colours in many of the pieces we viewed.
I was excited to see The Holy Trinity. I had read about this piece prior to our visit, and had been reminded of it while we were touring the museums in Rome. The piece is a pioneering early Renaissance work by Masaccio, which puts into play his (for the time) new ideas about perspective and mathematical proportions.
The pulpit was designed by Brunelleschi. This pulpit has a historical significance, since it was from this pulpit that the first verbal attack was made on Galileo Galilei for his beliefs, leading eventually to his indictment. It was so cool to see such an important part of history close up.
Santa Maria Novella was a beautiful basilica to tour and enjoy. If you're in Florence I would definitely add it to your itinerary, particularly if you enjoy art, history, or architecture.
If you're planning a visit to Florence, I found these books helpful (the first and third for planning, the middle one for a little history!):