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Church Orsanmichele (and Museum)
Church Orsanmichele has quite an interesting beginning. It was built by the city guilds, which encompassed both civil and religious functions. Orsanmichele was constructed in 1336, on the site of San Michele monastery’s kitchen garden. Originally it was a grain market and was converted into a church from 1380 to 1404 and used as a chapel for all the cities’ craft and trade guilds.
The interior of Orsanmichele preserves its late gothic appearance almost intact: its square layout and the positioning of the piers recall the arrangement of the original open loggia. This explains the unusual position of the Madonna Delle Grazie altar, not in the center but to the right.
To the left of the nave (above) is the votive altar of St. Anne, built by order of the Signoria in 1379, with a marble group of St. Anne, the Virgin, and Child by Francesco da Sangallo (c. 1526).
The City of Florence in the 14th century ordered each guild to fill one of the fourteen exterior niches with a freestanding statue of its patron saint. Each guild strove to outdo the others by commissioning original sculptures from famous artists, such as Donatello Ghiberti, Giambologna, and Verrocchio. The three richest guilds opted to make their figures in the costly bronze, which cost approximately ten times the amount of the stone figures.
All the original statues have been replaced with copies and moved to Florentine museums. Donatello’s St. George (1417) from the Armourers’ and Swordmakers’ tabernacle was moved to the Bargello in 1892 and his St. Louis of Toulouse (1433) is now in the Museum of Santa Croce. Eight of the sculptures are currently in the Museum of Orsanmichele, which is part of the upper floor of the church.
Here she sits (the copy) on the exterior of the church:
After visiting the museum, take a few more steps up to the open-top floor to see the amazing sights of the city below.