A Colorful Miracle
Our Florence walking tours will take you through winding medieval streets and reveal the city’s most curious secrets. One of these is a mysterious incident that took place in Piazza Santissima Annunziata many years ago.
Our Florence walking tous will take you through winding medieval streets and reveal the city’s most curious secrets. One of these is a mysterious incident that took place in Piazza Santissima Annunziata many years ago.
Your Florence tour guide explains that this piazza is known as the home to the historic Spedale degli Innocenti, the foundling hospital built in the 15th century. But it isn’t the only attraction in the square: the piazza is actually named after the church of Santissima Annunziata, or the Most Holy Annunciation – a church with a story to tell.
The center of Florence was still quite small when the church was built, so it was situated outside the city walls. But an extraordinary event made the church so popular that a street had to be created just to lead the faithful to its doors.
What happened to make this place of worship so popular? Your Florence tour continues as your guide tells you its story.
Once inside the church, you’ll be led to a medieval fresco depicting a scene from the Bible, the Annunciation. To tell the painting’s story, we’ll need to travel over seven centuries back in time, to the year 1252. Back then, the church had only recently been built and its decoration was being completed by one of the monks, Bartolomeo.
According to legend, Bartolomeo had already painted the angel who was announcing to the Virgin Mary that she would soon give birth to a son, Jesus. He had tried to paint the Virgin several times but was never quite satisfied with the result: he was tormented by the fear that his painting could never be as beautiful as the Virgin herself.
Eventually, poor Bartolomeo fell into a fitful sleep. When he awoke, he discovered that a miraculous event had taken place: the painting of Mary had been completed while he slept! Reports of the miraculous fresco soon spread, and it was agreed that an angel must have completed the painting. The fresco became the object of devout worship among the Florentines.
The painting was so revered that pilgrims would leave life-size wax votive figures in the church in honor of the Virgin. An atrium soon had to be created to house them, and for centuries people came from far and wide just to see these wax figures. Unfortunately we can no longer admire them – they were all melted down to make candles in 1786. But one tradition lives on: Florentine brides still visit the church to leave their bouquets as an offering to the Virgin.
The church of Santissima Annunziata holds many other treasures – several works of art by Renaissance masters, for starters. Learn all about it on a Florence walking tour!