Santa Maria Novella Church is a hidden gem in Florence with splendid facades, frescoes and peaceful cloisters.

Situated just outside Santa Maria Novella train station and overlooking a busy square, this exquisite complex has one of the best looking facades of all Florentine churches. Filled with splendid frescoes, including the ones in the 14th century cloister, it has become a place of pilgrimage for art enthusiasts.

 How to Spend 2 Perfect Days in Florence.

Santa Maria Novella Church – The splendid facade

The facade is a striking example of the Renaissance quest for harmony through geometric proportions. It was built by Leon Battista Alberti, one of the greatest architects of the time and theorist of Renaissance principles. He worked on a pre-existent romanesque-gothic structure and reinterpreted the space and the ornamentation with a more modern aesthetic. You’ll see the lower section with the Gothic arches is continued above with typical Renaissance sensibility.

⇒ Discover Florence’s attractions that you can visit for free!

Santa Maria Novella Church

Santa Maria Novella Square and Church

What to see in Santa Maria Novella Church

“Trinity” by Masaccio  – This is a painting that heralded a new style of painting. The first of its kind to use linear perspective. It caused such a stir when it was first unveiled in Florence, Florentine citizens and artists flooded in to see the fresco when it was unveiled, many remarking on how it seemed to create a chapel out of a flat wall.

It is considered by many to be Masaccio’s masterwork. It was devised by Massaccio though probably with the assistance of Brunelleschi himself. To transfer the perspective lines from the sketch to the plaster, the young artist inserted a nail at the vanishing point under the base of the cross and attached strings to it. The marks of the preparatory work are still visible.

The Giotto Crucifix – Close by is the splendid crucifix by Giotto that marked a break from Byzantine tradition. The crucifix has a more realistic feel than other work of the time and indeed dominates the space at the front of the chapel.

Tornabuoni Chapel –  A highlight of Santa Maria Novella Church. This chapel features frescoes by Ghirlandaio, that show crowd scenes featuring famous Florentines of the day. Dressed in contemporary costumes they are shown taking part in Biblical events.

renaissance masterpieces in florence

Tornabuoni Chapel – S. M. Novella Church – frescoes by Ghirlandaio

Filippo Strozzi Chapel -This chapel is covered with frescoes by Filippino Lippi late 15th century Amongst others, the scenes feature Drusiana raised from the dead and St. Philip slaying a dragon.

Strozzi di Mantova Chapel – By 14th century Nardo di Cione, it shows the Paradise, Purgatory and Inferno of Dante. He is of course in Paradise together with members of the Strozzi Family.

Crucifix by Brunelleschi – This is the only wooden work by him, completed in 1410-5 in competition with Donatello that did one for Santa Croce. Brunelleschi called the other “a contadino” or peasant farmer, and wanted to do better.

santa maria novella church florence

Giotto’s crucifix in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence

The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella Church

The Green Cloister – With the ticket for Santa Maria Novella Church, you can also visit the 14th century Green Cloister. It takes its name from the green tinge seen on the frescoes caused by the 1966 flood. Ironically one of the frescoes features the story of Noah. Next to it is the atmospheric if gloomy “Cloisters of the Dead”

The Spanish Chapel – Cosimo I’s wife was from Toledo, and the chapel become an usual meeting point for her compatriots who followed her to Florence. The interesting and busy frescoes by Andrea Bonaiuto celebrate the victory of the church over heresy. The dogs represent the Dominicans “the hounds of God” (cani del signore) who were sent to search and redeem lost souls.

best churches in florence

The Green Cloister in Santa Maria Novella Church, Florence

TICKETS:

Tickets cost 5 Euro and there’s no need to pre-book. If you have a Firenze card it’s included.

Now that you’ve explored Santa Maria Novella, let’s discover more about the other beautiful Florentine churches!

Your friendly online guide to Florence and Tuscany. Get our insider travel tips delivered to your mailbox every month.

Share your love of Tuscany!

Explore more of Tuscany

  • Florence in May offer up some colourful possibilities to the curious visitor. There are beautiful gardens and villas to explore, flower festivals and a flag-throwing competition to be seen, and a whole event dedicated to...
  • It’s one of those places everyone dreams of going to. The question is what to do in Tuscany when you’re there. Don’t worry, this is a place that’s overflowing with sights, and unforgettable experiences. In...
  • Storybook villages in Tuscany are not in short supply. Small towns in enchanting locations, full of turreted towers, romantic archways, secret passageways and plenty of magical atmosphere. Go there and you feel you’re walking around...
  • In this 5 day itinerary travelling around Tuscany, we whisk you from the awe-inspiring Piazza dei Miracoli, to some of the world’s Medieval treasures and, of course, through some of the best scenery that Tuscany...
  • Love is always in the air in Florence. Maybe because there’s no shortage of romantic things to do here. From watching the golden sunsets on the river Arno, and strolling in the Bardini gardens to...