Santo Spirito
Church and Museum
Museum's plan

Filippino Lippi
Madonna, Saints and Donors
1493 - 1496



The construction of an initial Augustinian complex dedicated to the Virgin, to the Saints and to the Holy Spirit began around 1252 and ended in about 1292. Although the Commune took the decision to build a new and larger church for the Augustinians as early as 1396, work on the present building did not commence until 1443-44, to a plan supplied by Filippo Brunelleschi around 1434.

After Brunelleschi’s death in 1446 the work was directed first by Giovanni da Gaiole and then by Salvi d’Andrea. By the time the new church was consecrated in 1481, considerable changes had been made to Brunelleschi’s original plan. The barrel vault envisaged for the nave and transept by the revolutionary architect was replaced by a flat ceiling, and his idea of a four-door façade was similarly dropped in favour of the traditional three.

The external façade of Santo Spirito remained in rough stone until the 18th century, when it was plastered over. The internal façade was completed by Salvi d’Andrea (1483-87), and it still has the great 15th-century stained glass window of Pentecost, made to a design by Perugino.
In 1489 work began on the Sacristy, designed by Giuliano da Sangallo and continued by both Antonio del Pollaiolo and Salvi d’Andrea.
In 1497 the vestibule was completed, with its most beautiful coffered barrel vault, to a design by Simone del Pollaiolo known as Cronaca. Although altered by later architects, the church of Santo Spirito retains the extraordinarily innovative structure that Brunelleschi planned, with its thirty-eight niche-chapels and its Corinthian colonnade, of evidently classical inspiration, running all around the nave and transept.

The left-hand portion has some of the most complete examples of late-15th-century chapels, such as the Bini Capponi Chapel with Francesco Botticini’s St. Monica and the Augustinian nuns, or the three Corbinelli Chapels, with the altar of the Blessed Sacrament by Andrea Sansovino (1492), Cosimo Rosselli’s Madonna enthroned with Saints and Donnino and Agnolo Mazziere’s Holy Trinity with the Magdalene and St. Catherine of Alexandria.
There are interesting 15th-century paintings in the right transept as well, such as Filippino Lippi’s Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John, St. Martin and St. Catherine in the Nerli Chapel (1493-1494), which also portrays the patrons. In another chapel in the transept we can see the grating through which the Frescobaldi family where able to follow the liturgy without having to leave their palazzo next door.

The Counter-Reformation’s demand for simple and clearly understood religious art led to a number of new 16th-century commissions for side altars. Three highly ascetic paintings by Foschi commissioned in 1540–1545 (Resurrection, Transfiguration, Disputation over the Immaculate Conception), perfectly embody the kind of approach to sacred art which the Council of Trent had in mind. Of similarly devotional content is Alessandro Allori’s St. Fiacre curing the sick (1596) in the sacristy, where the choice of the French Saint is due to the Grand Duchess Christine of Lorraine, consort of Ferdinando II. During the 17th century new paintings were substituted for old ones (such as Aurelio Lomi’s Epiphany, c.1608), but the principal alteration to the church was the addition of the monumental high altar at the crossing, which has sometimes been accused of spoiling Brunelleschi’s interior. Designed by Giovan Battista Caccini in collaboration with Gherardo Silvani to contain the Blessed Sacrament, the richly ornate tempietto (1599-1608) unites architecture, sculpture and pietre dure mosaic.

Of the attached conventual complex, all that remains from the mediaeval period is the gothic refectory (since 1946 the ‘Fondazione Romano’ Museum) with a Crucifixion above a fragmentary Last Supper (1360-65) attributed to Andrea Orcagna, and the Corsini Chapel dedicated to St. James the Apostle, with a funerary monument to Neri Corsini (d. 1377). The conventual complex also has a beautiful Chapter Room and two cloisters, built in the 16th-17th century by Ammannati and his pupils Giulio and Alfonso Parigi. Suppressed first in 1808 and again in 1866, the convent has a number of rooms which are still put to military purposes.

Facade of Santo Spirito
Giovanni Baratta
Tobias with the Angel
Velluti Chapel
Domenico di Zanobi
Madonna del Soccorso
Wooden crucifix attribuited to Michelangelo
When he was seventeen years old, he was allowed to make anatomical studies on the corpses coming from the convent's hospital; in exchange, he sculpted a wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Today the crucifix is in the octagonal sacristy that can be reached from the west aisle of the church.
Fondazione Romano Collection
Tino da Camaino
1300 - 1325
Tino da Camaino
1300 - 1325
Sculptor Campania
Pair of lions
1200 - 1225
Bartolommeo Ammannati
Lombard sculptor, Verona, 11th century
Lombard sculptor, Verona, 11th century
Capital of pilaster, Bologna, 11 - 12th century
Last Supper by Andrea Orcagna e Nardo di Cione
1300 - 1365
Hidden Italy * Bettina Röhrig * Logebachstr. 5 * D-53639 Königswinter * Germany