Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence

The Festa delle Donne (Women’s Day) occurred while I was in Florence. Among venues that offered free admission to women was the Church of Santa Maria Novella.

Firenze 149

On the façade of this church, on either side of the entry, you will note some interesting structures. The one below is on the left, and is an armillary sphere, the work of Ignazio Danti, a Dominican monk and astronomer. Using this sphere, and the sundials shown below, he calculated the discrepancy between the Julian calendar and the solar year. His work with a committee of scientists was responsible for the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, in 1582. (This involved losing 10 days, so you went to bed on 4 October 1582, and got up on 15 October, 1582. Pity if your birthday was skipped that year!)

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To the right of the entry you’ll note a marble sundial with several gnomons (the uprights that cast shadows onto the sundials).

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 The other side of this sundial also displays several gnomons.

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And, if that isn’t enough, there are 2 more sundials! I am in awe of the intelligence and imagination shown by this monk, so many centuries ago.

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And, then, just as I turned to leave this area, my eye was caught by this work in the marble. What in heck could it be?

It turns out to be the emblem of Giovanni Rucellai (thank you to David Lown, whose Walks in Florence, an Amazon Kindle edition is proving a goldmine of information).  Sig. Rucellai must have had bags of money, he paid for finishing the upper portion of the marble façade, which was designed by Leon Battista Alberti.

Firenze 388

My eyes have become opened to the many discoveries to be unearthed in Florence!



Filed under Florence

23 responses to “Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence

  1. Pingback: How to make a sundial. – Paol Soren

  2. Brian

    There is so much there at that church, and the admission is not split up between the church and the cloisters as it used to be. Thanks for the info! BTW, the Ruccelai had a ton of money because of a particular type of lichen.


  3. Bridget

    All this talk of Firenza, it just makes me want to get back on a plane and head there! It’s a beautiful place, and that church and marble – incredible, isn’t it?
    Can’t wait to get back!


  4. Ah, I also need more time in Firenza!


  5. Thanks for the info! It’ll come in handy next month!


    • I’ve been reading Walks in Florence by David Lown (available on Kindle), Junko. It’s crammed with information. (There’s a link to his blog : Venice Revealed, on my Blogroll)


  6. joanneh

    Once long ago I spent a month in Florence living just around the corner on the via scala. I often went in the evenings to the square in front of the church as it was cooler than in my rooms.You brought back some happy memories.


    • The square has been all “tarted up”, Joanne, it looks really lovely. When is your next trip back there?


      • joanneh

        Not sure I have a job in Japan in September and October hopefully next year after Peru this year and a trip I have to make to NYC and Washington in July I doubt I will have the time. I agree we all need more time in Firenza there is so so much to see off the beaten path


      • Joanne, that saying about a rolling stone and moss must have been coined with you in mind!


        • joanneh

          I come by it honestly I come from a long line of rolling stones starting with the one who came to California in the 1830ies because it was too crowded in the mid-west of his day and continued on through the generations now its me. Can’t say I am sorry for this inheritance.


  7. Pat

    I’m hoping to do a day trip to Florence from Rome, so I’ll look for this. Been there a few times and there’s always more to see….


    • And the thing is, Pat,you go, you see. Then you go home and do some reading, and think “Ah, now I understand, and I have to go see it again.” No wonder we’re perpetual travellers!


  8. Hello, calm one! It was like some scales had fallen off my eyes when I spent a weekend back in Florence. I couldn’t believe all the wonderful things I had just walked past before. I’m hoping to go back, for a good long visit!


  9. Now I never knew that — how did I miss this on my too few Florentine visits? Firenze is one special, amazing place on this earth.


  10. So did you buy any soap???? 😉


  11. Florence has great appeal and you are a fountain of information.


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