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Friday 20 September 2019
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Cloister of the dead

Cgiostro_Mortirid500This cloister is known as the Cloister of the Dead because for many centuries it was used as a cemetery. The sources also refer to it as the Lower Cemetery or Underground Cemetery because it is below the level of the church transept. It is one of the oldest parts of the complex; indeed, it is traditionally held to have formed the original heart of the Dominican convent. The cloister vaults must already have been erected when the first stone in a building campaign to enlarge the church was laid in 1279; this is probably where services were held while the church was under construction, and the area was transformed with tombs, chapels and temporary altars. The cloister acquired its present aspect after the flood of 1333 when it was rebuilt, probably between 1337 and 1350, by Fra' Jacopo Talenti. The first fresco decorations, commissioned from leading Florentine painters by families that held the patronage of the chapels here, date back to the same period. This decoration has only survived in part because a portion of the medieval structure was demolished to make way for the new railway station forecourt in the mid-19th century. When the convent was suppressed and entered the ownership of the municipality in 1868, further building work altered the cloister's aspect. The frescoes, which were already in fairly poor condition, were detached and restored in the mid-20th century, but the flood of 1966 caused fresh, irreversible damage. The current restoration project, which began in 2011 with the consolidation of the decoration on the vaults, has now made it possible to reopen this gem of a cloister to the public.

CHAPEL OF THE ANNUNCIATION
Andrea Orcagna and assistants
1340-1347
Detached frescoes
Right-hand wall: Crucifixion
Left-hand wall: Nativity
Vault: Prophets
Intrados (from left): St. Leonard, St. Luke, St. John, St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. Benedict
 
The dedication of this chapel may well hark back to that of the ancient Chapel of the Virgin, which is thought to have occupied this area in the original complex in the 10th century. The decoration of the chantry chapel was commissioned by Filippo Strozzi's widow Bice Trinciavelli, who ordained that a meal for the convent should be held every year to mark the feast of the Annunciation. In the intrados, alongside the four Evangelists, we see St. Benedict and St. Leonard, the patron saints of the founder's grandchildren, with the Strozzi family crest at either end. This chapel is one of the best preserved in the entire cloister, although it has been deprived of its north wall which contained the scene of the Annunciation. The fresco was already well nigh impossible to make out by the end of the 18th century, which may well be why the wall was demolished in the following century. The frescoes, of the highest quality, have been attributed to Andrea Orcagna on the basis of a stylistic comparison with the remains of the apsidal decoration from the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, currently in the Ubriachi Chapel in the museum.

 


città di firenze
Comune di Firenze
Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria
50122 FIRENZE
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