Founded in 1250, Santissima Annunziata (The Most Holy Annunciation) is located in the homonymous and very harmonious square. This church is still a living one and has not become a tourist haunt. It is a place of worship that is far more typical of the rest of Italy than it is of Florence.

Compared to the rational interiors of so many of the city’s churches, this one is heavily ornamented. Devout Florentines come in and out all day to pray before the candlelit baldachin that is so cluttered with votive offerings that the object of their veneration is almost hidden; it is an image of the Virgin, said to have been painted by Fra Bartolomeo. Devout worshippers believe that the friar fell asleep, exhausted by his attempts to capture the spiritual beauty of the Virgin, and he awoke to find that the image had been completed for him, by angelic hands. It is from that legend that the church got its name.

The seven-bay portico of the church deliberately echoes the design of the Spedale degli Innocenti (the old orphanage which stands on the same square). It is interesting for its frescoes, several of which were painted by Andrea del Sarto. Though damaged, his Viaggio dei Magi is still a rich and colourful scene, in which the three kings are accompanied by an entourage of giraffes, camels and splendidly dressed courtiers.

A door from the left aisle leads to the Chiostro dei Morti (Cloister of the Dead), which contains more of his frescos and the burial vaults of many leading 16th- and 17th-century artists, including Cellini.

On the church’s left hand you’ll see Florentine Renaissance orphanage that we mentioned above. You can also find the previous article about that in our blog: Spedale degli Innocenti’s Museum in Florence