San Miniato al Monte

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Abbey and Basilica of San Miniato al Monte in Florence

The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte is one of the most beautiful churches in the whole city of Florence. The complex of the abbey of San Miniato is located in an enviable position, on one of the hills surrounding the city, not far from Piazzale Michelangelo. Many consider the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte one of the greatest masterpieces of the Florentine Romanesque and if you visit it, you will understand why.


The church is dedicated to San Miniato who was the first martyr of Florence. There is much uncertainty regarding the history of this saint: some describe him as a Roman soldier, others as an Armenian prince, still others as a Greek merchant. According to tradition, San Miniato would have arrived in Florence around the year 250. Here he would have started a life as a hermit until he was the victim of the religious persecutions carried out by the Roman emperor Decius. This story continues with the torture and beheading of the saint who, according to medieval hagiographers, would then collect his head and then go to Mons Florentinus where the basilica of San Miniato al Monte stands today.

Later a sanctuary was erected here and a chapel in the 8th century. The current church was built in 1013 by the will of Bishop Ildebrando who added a Benedictine monastery to it. The monks of the Benedictine order, who in the meantime had joined the Cluniac congregation, were replaced in 1373 by the Olivetan monks who still live in the Abbey of San Miniato where, among other things, they produce excellent liqueurs, herbal teas and honey, which can be purchased at the shop adjacent to the church.

San Miniato al Monte
San Miniato al Monte

Facade of San Miniato al Monte

The magnificent façade of the Church of San Miniato is characterized by the two colors resulting from the alternation between the white of the marble and the green of the serpentine. The latter is used to design a variegated geometric decoration composed of more linear elements alternating with other curvilinear ones.

In the lower part there are five round arches supported by semi-columns with Corinthian capitals. This arrangement, which would suggest the presence of five naves, is taken from the first early Christian basilicas which actually had five naves while San Miniato al Monte has only three.

In the center at the top there is a window framed by columns, resting on lion heads, which support a small tympanum. Immediately above there is a magnificent mosaic from 1260, with Christ between the Virgin and San Miniato. On the top, where one would expect to see a cross, we find a copper eagle. Why an eagle? The eagle was the symbol of the Art of Calimala which from 1288 took care of administering the basilica and all its economic interests, thus obtaining the authorization to affix its symbol on the facade of the church.

Interior of the church

The interior of the church is beautiful and very special. Upon entering, the eye is immediately drawn to the presbytery and choir area which are raised on a platform above the crypt. In the background, in the apsidal basin, a large mosaic with the Redeemer between the Madonna and San Miniato shines, made by an anonymous artist in 1297. In the central nave we find the two-tone and a geometric decoration, in continuity with the facade. The trussed ceiling and above all the inlaid floor (early thirteenth century) are also beautiful, with the panel dedicated to the zodiac (the most attentive will remember something very similar in the Baptistery of San Giovanni).

At the center of the central nave we find the Chapel of the Crucifix by Michelozzo with the magnificent altarpiece by Agnolo Gaddi. The vault of this chapel is also a work of art and is signed by Luca della Robbia. Originally this chapel kept a crucifix believed to be miraculous which today is located in the Church of Santa Trinita. Among the most interesting elements there are also the magnificent Romanesque pulpit (1207) and the crucifix of the high altar which is attributed to Luca della Robbia.

Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal

Along the side aisles, separated from the central one by a series of arches on columns with Corinthian capitals, we find several frescoes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and a chapel (left aisle). This is the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal, which was built between 1459 and 1467 in memory of Cardinal Giacomo di Lusitania, who died in Florence in 1459. Designed and built by Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino, this chapel is a small treasure chest full of artwork. The majestic tomb of the cardinal is the work of Antonio Rossellino, the altarpiece and part of the frescoes are the work of Antonio and Piero del Pollaiolo, while the table with the Annunciation and the frescoes with Prophets, Evangelists and Fathers of the Church are by Alesso Baldovinetti. Finally, the decoration of the polychrome glazed terracotta ceiling is by Luca della Robbia.


In the Sacristy we can admire a magnificent cycle of frescoes on the Life of St. Benedict made by Spinello Aretino in 1387. In addition to the frescoes by Spinello Aretino, here there are beautiful antique furniture, two terracotta statues with Saints Benedetto and Miniato, attributed to Benedetto Buglioni, a wooden reliquary-bust of San Miniato attributed to Nanni di Bartolo and a terracotta Madonna attributed to Fra’ Mattia della Robbia.


Taking one of the stairways that descend from the aisles, you reach the crypt, a very beautiful and fascinating environment. Built in the 11th century, the crypt is the oldest part of the church. Like the church, the crypt is also divided into three naves. It is as long as the presbytery that surmounts it. The interior space is marked by 38 columns on which rest a series of cross vaults. Some of these vaults are decorated with frescoes made by Taddeo Gaddi in 1341.

Abbey of San Miniato al Monte

Although documented from the time the church was built, the monastery was rebuilt in 1426 at the expense of the Art of Calimala. At the center of the complex we find the cloister that opens behind the Palazzo dei Vescovi. The whole complex, including the adjacent cemetery (the Cimitero delle Porte Sante), is surrounded by the walls built in 1553 by Cosimo I. These replaced the fortifications previously built by Michelangelo during a siege of the city. If you look at San Miniato al Monte from above (just look on Google Maps…), you will notice the corner bastions typical of Renaissance fortresses that we also find in the Forte di Belvedere. Among the artists who worked in the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte we find Paolo Uccello, who created the cycle of frescoes in the cloister with the Stories of the holy hermits, Bernardo Buontalenti, who in 1547 created a Christ on the road to Emmaus for the cloister, and Antonio di Papi who collaborated with Paolo Uccello on the decoration of the refectory.

Panoramic view

The Abbey of San Miniato al Monte is one of the best panoramic points of view over the city of Florence. From the terrace in front of the church you can admire the entire historic center with the most iconic monuments in plain sight. You will recognize the Brunelleschi’s Dome, Ponte Vecchio, the facade of the Uffizi, the Galileo Museum, the Arnolfo Tower, that of the Badia, the Medici Chapels and the Basilica of Santa Croce.

How to get to San Miniato al Monte

Even though it is in a hilly position, the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte is not difficult to reach. You can get to the church either by car or by public transport; the more athletic may decide to arrive on foot or by bicycle. If you choose to take a walk, just reach Piazzale Michelangelo and then continue along Viale Galileo. Those traveling by car will find parking along the road that climbs towards the church and near the nearby Church of San Salvatore al Monte. If you decide to use the bus, the lines to take are 12 and 13 which stop right in front of the steps leading to the church.

Information: timetables and ticket prices

Opening hours of the Basilica of San Miniato:

Monday-Saturday: 9.30-13.00 and 15.00-19: 00
Sunday 8.15-13.00 and 15.00-19.00

The Church of San Miniato al Monte cannot be visited during liturgical celebrations.


There is no need to buy a ticket to enter and no reservation is required. Admission is free.

Mass hours:

On Sundays and on the occasion of holidays, mass takes place at 8.30, 10.00, 11.30 and 17.30. On weekdays at 6.00 pm.
Sunday mass at 5.30 pm and weekday mass are in Latin with a lot of Gregorian chant.

For more information and updates on timetables, I suggest you also visit the official website.

San Miniato al Monte products

Like all respected abbeys, the one of San Miniato al Monte also has a monastic pharmacy where you can buy the products of the monks. The pharmacy is usually open from 10.00 to 12.15 and from 16.00 to 18.00. Here you will find many good things starting from jam tarts, chocolate cakes and various types of biscuits. In addition to sweets, various herbal products and fine beeswax candles can be purchased in the pharmacy.

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