The original church was built in 1250 to serve as an oratory for the Order of the Servants of Mary, which was founded in 1234 by seven wealthy Florentines who withdrew to caves on Monte Senario, a wild mountain north of the city.
The present church was built between 1444 and 1481 by Michelozzo, with the assistance of P. Portigiani and Antonio Manetti. One enters through the Chiostro dei Voti, so called because the faithful would leave votive offerings of thanks for Grace received.
The red brick palace on the other side of the square facing Santissima Annunziata is Palazzo Grifoni, home of Cosimo I De'Medici's personal secretary. It has one of the finest patterned brickwork façades in Italy, and is the only example of this sort of brickwork in Florence.
Main art works:
The frescoes are beautiful: immediately to the right there is the "Ascension of the virgin", by Rosso Fiorentino, whose use of color is disturbing but unforgettable.
Next are the "Visitation" by Pontormo, and then "The Betrothal of the Virgin", by Franciabigio. Her face was hammered upon by the artist himself, because the monks peeked at the work before it was finished, and nobody has dared retouch it since.
Next is "The Nativity of the Virgin", which Andrea del Sarto did a beautiful job of transposing into a wealthy Florentine home; popular tradition holds that the woman in the center was his wife, Lucrezia del Fede, though he only married her several years later. "The Arrival of the Magi" as also by Andrea del Sarto.
The man pointing with the foreshortened arm is his self portrait. The next fresco, to the left of the main door to the church, is "The Nativity", by Alesso Baldovinetti; it is followed by "The Calling of Saint Filippo Benizzi", and then Andrea del Sarto takes over with several scenes of "The Saint's life". The old man dressed in red and leaning on a cane in the final fresco is Andrea della Robbia.
To the left inside church is an astonishingly ornate tabernacle, ordered in the 1450s by Piero De'Medici to house a 13th century "Annunciation" painted, according to legend, by a monk, Fra Bartolomeo, who just couldn't get The Virgin's head right. He fell asleep trying and an angel took the brush did it for him. Word of the miracle spread rapidly, and there are several copies of the fresco, both in Florence (in Ognissanti, for example), and as far away as Milan. People make pilgrimages to it and devout Florentine brides leave their bouquets on the altar. Most of the side chapels of the church contain nice, though not major works.
The first and second chapels on the left side, however, have frescoes by Andrea del Castagno: "The Savior with Saint Julian", which emerged when a painting that is now in the sacristy was taken down, and "The Trinity", shown from what in 1454 was a truly revolutionary perspective. Before leaving the church look at the presbytery behind the altar, a grandiose structure that was begun by Michelozzo, who was inspired by Brunelleschi's "Rotonda di Santa Maria Degli Angeli", and finished by Manetti, with the advice of Leon Battista Alberti.
Where: Piazza SS. Annunziata - Firenze
Opening hours: On Working and on Holiday 7.30 - 12.30; 16.00 - 18.30