The foundation of the church dedicated to Our Lady of Carmel dates from 1268, but its construction was protracted until the end of the 15th century.
Little remains of the mediaeval building, not only because of the extensive 16th-century alterations but also because of a disastrous fire which gutted the church in 1771. What we see today is in large part the result of the late-baroque rebuilding carried out after the fire by Giuseppe Ruggieri. From that period date the paintings on the ceiling (Ascension of Christ) and in the dome (The Trinity and the Virgin in Glory with Saints of the Old and New Testament) by Giuseppe Romei and Domenico Stagi. The fire did not however affect the old sacristy, which still has its chapel with Scenes from the life of St Cecilia attributed to Lippo d’Andrea (c. 1400), the Brancacci Chapel in the right transept, or the Corsini Chapel in the left.
The Brancacci Chapel has one of the supreme masterpieces of renaissance painting: the fresco cycle of Scenes from the life of St Peter, mostly painted in collaboration by Masaccio and Masolino between 1425 and 1427. The frescoes in the upper register are: Adam and Eve in the Earthly Paradise, and Original Sin by Masolino, and the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Earthly Paradise with the Tribute Money and the Baptism of the neophytes by Masaccio; also by Masolino are the Preaching of St Peter with the Healing of the lame man and the raising of Tabitha. In the lower register, Masaccio painted the two scenes on the end wall, St Peter curing the sick with his shadow and the Distribution of goods, with the death ot Ananias.
The work was left unfinished by Masolino, who took off for Hungary, and by Masaccio, who decamped to Rome (where he died in 1428). Between 1435 and 1458, when the patron Felice Brancacci fell into political disgrace, the friars changed the dedication of the Brancacci Chapel to that of ‘La Madonna del Popolo’, moving the celebrated 13th-century Madonna and Child from the high altar into the chapel. It was perhaps on this occasion that part of Masaccio’s fresco with portraits of the Brancacci patrons was destroyed, a kind of damnatio memoriae. The chapel’s decoration was completed by Filippino Lippi, who between 1481 and 1485 worked on the lower register of the left wall, finishing the Raising of the son of Theophilus and St Peter enthroned which Masaccio had begun, and painting on his own St Peter in prison visited by St Paul on the adjacent pilaster. On the opposite wall he frescoed the Disputation of St Peter and St Paul with Simon Magus, and the Crucifixion of St Peter, and on the pilaster St Peter visited in prison. Between 1746 and 1748 the chapel was extensively redecorated: Vincenzo Meucci frescoed the ceiling with the Virgin consigning the Scapular to St Simon Stock, thus destroying Masolino’s Evangelists.
At the same time the lunettes of the Shipwreck of the Apostles and the Calling of the Apostles were painted over.
The fire of 1771 also spared the Corsini Chapel, one of the jewels of the Florentine Baroque, built to contain the mortal remains of St Andrew Corsini (1301-74, canonised in 1629). Designed by the architect Pier Francesco Silvani, the chapel was decorated between 1675 and 1683 by Luca Giordano (frescoes in the dome, showing the Glory of St Andrew Corsini) and by Giovanni Battista Foggini (marble reliefs of St Andrew Corsini and the Battle of Anghiari, the Mass of St Andrew and the Apotheosis of St Andrew Corsini). Also saved was the marble funerary monument to Pier Soderini, by Benedetto da
Rovezzano (1512-1513), placed inside the choir, behind the high altar.
Next to Santa Maria del Carmine stands the convent, rich in works of art. In the Room of the Column, looking onto the cloister, are displayed fragments of frescoes attributed to Pietro Nelli (c. 1385), other fragments from the Del Pugliese Chapel by Starnina (c. 1404), and a detached fresco of the Confirmation of the Rule by Filippo Lippi (1432). In the old refectory there is a Last Supper by Alessandro Allori (1582); in the second refectory there is the Supper in the house of Simon the Pharisee by Giovan Battista Vanni (c. 1645), and detached frescoes from the Nerli Chapel of Scenes from the Passion of Christ attributed to Lippo d’Andrea (1402).