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San Miniato Al Monte in Florence

San Miniato al Monte is one of my favorite basilicas in Florence, Italy. Constructed in the 11th century, this impressive Romanesque church stands on a hill overlooking the city and the Arno River.

A little history

The church was originally founded by the Bishop of Florence in the 10th century and was dedicated to St. Miniato, a patron saint of the city. St Minius (Miniato) is said to have picked up his head after being decapitated by the Roman emperor outside the gates of Florence and walking up the hill.

The church is known for its stunning marble façade most likely started construction in 1090, decorated with geometric patterns, inlaid marble, and intricate sculptures.

What's inside

Inside, the basilica is full of history, art, and architecture, from its fascinating crypt to its beautiful frescoes to its impressive marble altar. The interior of the church is also famed for its acoustics, where visitors can hear every whisper and prayer.

View of the crypt
The crypt just past the altar and down the stairs

The church was expanded and renovated over the centuries. The Cappella del Cardinale del Portogallo to the left of the nave, " built in 1473 is one of the most magnificent funerary monuments of the Italian Renaissance.

The basilica is also home to some important works of art, including a crucifix by Luca della Robbia and the vaulted ceiling mosaic of the Madonna and Child from the 13th century.

The mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and St. Miniatus dates from the early 13th century

The complex

To the right of the church is the Olivetan monastery still in order today. When visiting you may see a monk sweeping the church floor or dusting the altar. But most often they stay out of sight. Because of the acoustics in the church, the monks today are most famous for the nightly vespers. If you come for a listen, please be respectful of the Mass that at still be happening when you arrive.

What started as a cloister in the late 13th century it was later used as a palace, a jail, and a hospital before returning to a monastery.

view of San Miniato from the cemetery below
The larger footprint of San Miniato in Florence

Behind the church is The Cemetery of the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. It is totally enclosed by fortified walls commissioned by Cosimo de Medici when the complex was used as a fortress. I love to go back there and see the amazing funeral monuments. There are lots of benches and cypress-lined pathways that make for a nice break from the noise of the crowded city center.

Views from inside the vast cemetery located behind the basilica.

San Miniato al Monte is a stunning and important structure in the city of Florence and should not be missed by any visitor.

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