You are on page 1of 2

San Miniato al Monte: A Small Basilica with Big History

florence-magazine.com /en/2012/11/19/san-miniato-al-monte-a-small-basilica-with-big-history/
Florence Magaz ine By Jason Bisnoff

Among the ancient streets of Florence are many treasures, and an excellent point where Florence can be best captured is at Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. Overlooking nearly the whole city the view from the steps of the church could be comparable in beauty to the paid admission site of the top of the Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore). When including the beauty of overlooking all of Florence with the Duomo in the middle of your eye line, with the hills that surround the city of the Tuscan countryside, this view seems to be incomparable elsewhere in the city. An additional beauty of this Basilica is the trip to get there. It is across the beautiful Arno River that cuts through the city and once on the Oltrarno side, one can trek up stone steps to a winding paved road starting from San Niccol and upon final arrival another set of stairs until face to face with the marble facade of the church dating back over 8 centuries. The translation of the building name is to St. Minias on the Mountain describing its unique placement within the Tuscan city and the Armenian Prince who served in the Roman army for which it is named. Two interesting facts of this small basilica are how its name came about and the military involvement of Michelangelo in the 1500s. The legend of San Miniato goes that after being sentenced to death and surviving in against a panther ordered to kill him but that refused he had his head cut off by Emperor Decius. The decapitated saint then preceded to pick up his head, walk across the river, climbed up the hillside, and refused lie down to die until he reached this spot. He and other Christians were buried here, and a shrine was raised on the site as early as the 4th century. In 1530 the combined troops of Charles V and Medici Pope Clement VII, who had recently reconciled with each other, lay siege to the newly declared Republic of Florence in an attempt to reinstate the Medici dukes. San Miniato al Monte was one of the prime fortifications. The man in charge of the defenses was Michelangelo oddly enough due to his daytime profession as a sculptor and artist. After throwing up dirt ramparts and cobbling together defensible walls out of oak timbers, Michelangelo devised an ingenious way to protect the tower: He hung mattresses down the sides to absorb the shock of the cannonballs fired at it and left the halfway redone tower still standing. The siege was eventually successful,

however, and the Florentine Republic fell, but while it lasted, Michelangelo spent many days up there and referred to the church as my pretty country maid. A building combines breathtaking architecture with an art history that would take an entire tome to properly present them. Furthermore, the panoramic sights make San Miniato al Monte a prominent place to view Florence for all visitors to see and to truly understand just how unique and individual this Tuscan city is.