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Wednesday 18 July 2018
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Spanish Chapel

CappelloneSpagnolirid500Built between 1343 and 1355 by the architect Fra Iacopo Talenti and paid for by the merchant Buonamico (called Mico) Guidalotti, the vast hall, in the past was the Sala Capitolare (The Chapterhouse) of the convent of Santa Maria Novella. It finally and definitely took the name of The Spanish Chapel in 1566 when it was given over to the Spanish colony in Florence who used to meet in this very place since when Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (1539), had been granted use of it for the religious services of her fellow countrymen.
The relief decoration on the exterior side of the portal’s architrave dates back to the time of its construction and shows the Martyrdom of St. Peter of Verona, The Soul of the Martyr welcomed in Paradise by Christ and St. Peter the Apostle and The Armorial Bearings of the Guidalotti.
When he died, Mico Guidalotti also bequeathed a sum of money in order to paint and decorate the interior of the Chapterhouse which, nevertheless, was frescoed by the painter Andrea di Bonaiuto, called Andrea da Firenze, only ten years later, between 1365 and 1367. However, it is quite possible that other painters of the Florentine and Sienese schools had begun to work on it before 1365 when the prior Zanobi Giasconi assigned the task to Bonaiuti.
The decoration develops from the ribbed vault to the walls beneath it, according to a highly complex iconographical plan that celebrates the role carried out by the Dominican Order at the heart of the Church. The reading of it begins from the north wall (in front of the entrance), proceeds along the east and west sides and finishes with the counter-façade to the south, as suggested by the numeration of the panels dedicated to the detailed description of these frescoes. Jesus Christ, who has saved humanity by his Sacrifice on the Cross, spreads his doctrine through the Church which finds a fundamental support in the apostolic and intellectual activities of the Dominicans. The two fields of activity of the Order are represented, respectively, by the preaching to defend the true Faith and by the theological speculation of  Thomas Aquinas.
The decoration of the counter-facade was partially destroyed after the granting of the Chapterhouse to the Spanish community, due to the realization of a tribune.
 
The apsidal chapel behind the altar was originally dedicated to Corpus Domini [Corpus Christi]. Its current decoration dates back to the time in which the Chapterhouse was used by the Spanish colony. It was constructed in 1592, commissioned by that same community which re-dedicated the chapel to St. Jacob the Apostle, patron saint of Spain.
The painting on canvas on the back wall is by Alessandro Allori and represents St. Jacob led to martyrdom who cures a paralysed man.
From the same artist and his assistants is the fresco decoration on the walls which represents six Spanish saints with monochrome scenes of their lives: on the back wall, St. Lawrence and St. Dominic; to the right, St. Vincent the Martyr and St. Isodore; to the left, St. Vincent Ferreri and St. Ermenegild. On the right wall, the two saints are at the side of a scene of the Battle of King Ramirus, won by the Spanish, against the caliph Abd al-Rahman III, thanks to the intercession of St. Jacob.
The fresco decoration of the vault, attributed to Bernardino Poccetti, depicts in its corners Scenes from the life of St. Jacob and in the centre, around the Spanish coat of arms, the allegories of Prayer, of Religion and of the Four Continents.
The tombstones embedded in the floor date back to this period of the history of the Chapterhouse, being all of Spaniards who had lived in Florence, with the exception of the most antique tombstone, that of Mico Guidalotti at the foot of the steps of the apsidal chapel.
The marble Crucifix on the altar was executed by the sculptor Domenico Pieratti in the first half of the 17th century but it only arrived in The Spanish Chapel in 1731, as a donation from the Grand Duke Giangastone de’ Medici. On this altar, originally, there stood the polyptych of Bernardo Daddi which, nowadays, is housed in the museum (Refectory).

città di firenze
Comune di Firenze
Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria
50122 FIRENZE
P.IVA 01307110484
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