What Rick Steves forgot

Florence’s Sant’Ambrogio church

Alaetra Combs
February 2, 2012

With the arrival of winter, many tourists have returned to their hometowns, which means the city is quieter and much less chaotic, making it a lovely time to enjoy Florence. Visitors usually head first to the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi, but there are so many other noteworthy historic sites that do not make it into the top travel guides. So grab a map and explore the other treasures of Florence.



Sant'Ambrogio is a small, quaint, simple church on via Pietrapiana. However, the art inside is rich and plentiful, and the feeling one gets stepping inside the doors is both welcoming and spiritually soothing.


The10th-century church may have older origins; built to commemorate where Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, stayed in Florence in 393, it underwent changes through the 15th and 16th centuries. Due to the natural disaster, known as the Flood of 1966, much of the church was destroyed. The architectural remains were stable, but the church had to undergo renovations.


Some of the artwork in the church includes a Madonna Enthroned with Saints John and Bartholomew by Andrea Orcagna and Jesus among the Saints by Cosimo Rosselli. Other treasures once housed in the Sant'Ambrogio church, such as the Sant'Anna Metterza by Masaccio and Masolino da Panicale, can be found today in the Uffizi gallery. In addition, Francesco Granacci, Italian Renaissance painter and friend of Michelangelo, is buried in this church. Prior to his death, Granacci journeyed to Rome to help assist his friend with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.


This ancient building serves a vibrant community. Residents and visitors are welcomed to enter Monday through Friday for mass at 6:30am; on Saturdays at 6am and Sundays at 9 and 10:15am, and 6pm. Locals are encouraged to join church officials in community outreach as they prepare meals for the homeless. The church offers religious education and scripture reading for adults and children. (Schedules are posted outside the chapel.) Every summer, the church picks an inexpensive location to conduct a retreat for the youth ministry. Children and adolescents head to the mountains or countryside, and throughout the year, they take part in numerous activities, from bible study to sports.


Iva Iacopini, 70, member of the Sant'Ambrogio congregation, explains why she feels the church is worth visiting: ‘The masterpieces of art date back to the late middle age and Renaissance period. The foundation is from the Roman period, although rebuilt. The 14 fresco paintings tell the story of the crucifixion of Christ and His resurrection.' Many of the frescos are by Sandro Botticelli, Filippo Lippi and Fra Bartolomeo.


Open daily and always free of charge, plan to step in and enlighten yourself about the impact of the church on the community, the style of worship and the incredible art history it contains.


Google Maps and Panoramic Earth have created a 360-degree panorama and virtual tour of the church, dediacted to Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. Go to www.panoramicearth.com/5409/Florence/Chiesa_di_Sant_Ambrogio_Church.



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