Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Church of San Miniato Al Monte

This magnificent Church of San Miniato Al Monte (Florence), built as a chapel in the 4th century, owes its structure to Bishop Hildebrand (1018). 

The Monastery's existence is documented right from the origin of the church, but only in 1426 did the Arte di Calimala decide to rebuild it. The buildings within the monastery have been used as a fortress, a hospital and a hospice. Since 1924 they have again been occupied by Olivetan Benedictine monks, whilst being extensively restored.

The inside of the Church is tripartite. The inlaid marble pavement, with signs of the zodiac and symbolic animals, stands out. On the walls are fragments of 13th and 14th century frescoes.

What stands out from the moment the visitor walks into the Church is the imposing mosaic of Jesus Christ between Mary and Saint Miniato in the apse, which is clearly an icon following the Byzantine style of iconography.

St. Minias was by tradition the first evangeliser and Christian martyr in Florence. Minias is thought to have been a Greek merchant or possibly and Armenian prince who left his home to make a pilgrimage to Rome. In 250 A.D. he arrived in Florence, where he became a hermit and eventually a victim of the persecutions of the Emperor Decius, where he was beheaded.

Legend has it that, after his decapitation, he picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders and went to die in the cave on Monte alle Croci where he had lived as a hermit. That cave is now the location of the oratory and the church that bear his name.   

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