If I had made it to Florence as planned, on my last day I would have visited Santa Maria Novella, the beautiful gothic church of the Dominicans. Alas, I am VERY GRATEFUL for my many, many last days in my most favorite city. Good memories remain forever in some form or other.
Three more churches yesterday morning, and the count was up to ten. Sant’ Agnese fuori le Mura and Santa Costanza are in the same complex outside the walls. Outside the walls because Sant’ Agnese has as a catacomb, where early Christians were buried. Rome had a policy that no one could be buried inside the city. Then to gaze at Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria. I’m glad I had my bus pass. In the afternoon I found myself praying for me in seven more churches. As of last night the count is up to twenty.
My intention to pray for peace in churches has me aware of all the people I pass along the streets. The sheer numbers, the multiple skin colors, body sizes, ages, languages. I am not other; I am one of them. Our uniqueness makes us one.
And then there are the obviously loving people, most likely parents, who accompany their children with special needs. At the altar at the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano a mom was supporting her adult son who was draped on her. As he drooled, she wiped his mouth. Then they walked on, arm in arm.
As I sit in this little park in the early morning it comes over me that regardless of what praying for peace means to each of us, when we think peace we become aware of the equanimity between all people. In wanting peace for myself, I have to want it for everyone.
I spent the morning at the Vatican Museum. I had reserved a ticket and audio guide on line while still in the states. A must. Bus 492 from Argentina left me at Bastioni di Michelangelo, and from there I followed the crowds and signs to the entry. Once inside,modern organization, efficiency, and technology took over and I started walking, and walking, and walking.
My specific destinations: the Pinacoteca (gallery of medieval and renaissance paintings), the Borgia apartments, and the Sistine Chapel (no photography). Along the way there was so much more to take in, including a generous display of contemporary art. This museum is not stuck in the past.
Please take a little walk with me. I confess that I did more looking than picture taking.
I just completed the second half of my church walk. This time I headed north from the Duomo to San Marco (Dominican), and then on to Santissima Annunciata (Servite). As I turn toward Santa Croce (Franciscan) I noticed San Ambrosia way down the street, so I took a detour there. Next, back toward city center to La Badia and Orsanmichele. I was all over the map! Before ending this church walk at Santa Trinita, I crossed the Arno to Santa Felicita, then crossed back to view Santi Apostoli, one of the oldest and pretties churches in Florence. It’s fair to say that my final destination was to Chiaro Scuro, where they serve the largest cappuccino and provide a comfy place to write.
This morning I was off on my early morning church walk by 7:30. My plan was to stop and photograph the façade of every church and then be on my way. Usually I don’t have a planned itinerary when I take this walk; my body seems to turn in one direction, I put one foot in front of the other, and I’m on my way. Since all the churches of Florence fan out from Santa Marie del Fiori (and conveniently my apartment is right on the square), it was appropriate that my first photo was of the Duomo. My route then led to the Medici church of San Lorenzo, Santa Maria Novella (Dominican), church 0f Ognissanti (Umilati), Santa Maria del Carmine (Carmilite), and Santo Spirito (Augustinian).
Usually I complete my church walk in a single morning, but today I stopped to write and enjoy a cappuccino at Piazza Santo Spirito. As I entered the café I noticed antiques and craft vendors setting up booths to sell their wares. By the time I left, the early dawn atmosphere for a church walk had passed, and the busy Florentine day had begun. I wander about the stalls, deciding to finish my church walk at dawn tomorrow.
Even though I am living in this city for only two weeks, right now it is my home. So I decided to take an early morning walk to survey the major churches that have been a large part of the city’s history and that draw me here. These churches as we know them today were built, often on preexisting foundations, toward the end of the thirteen century to accommodate a rising city population. Although subsidized by city government, many represented a particular religious order.
I started this solitary walk at Santa Maria dei Fiori, stopping along the way to take pictures of each façade, and to enjoy a couple of cappucchini. Last church, Santa Croce.
Santa Marie dei Fiori: Cathedral church of Florence
Santissima Annunziata: Servites
San Marco: Domenican
Santa Maria Novella: Domenican
Santa Maria del Carmine: Carmelite
Santo Spirito: Augustinian
Santa Trinita: Vallumbrosan
Badia Fiorentina: Fraternity of Jerusalem
Santa Croce: Franciscan
I visited Santa Maria Novella yesterday afternoon. Although I’ve never thought of it as my favorite, I always seem to spend time there soon after I arrive in Florence. This time I took a notebook tour, computer notebook that is. A very leisurely, solitary way to do it. In fact, I’m considering doing so at other churches I tour.
This Dominican church has a rich history in Florence, beginning in the mid-thirteen century when monastic orders were building churches all over Europe as a base to carry out their mission (with public assistance). Florence was no exception.
The Dominican mission is to preach, teach, and confess. Interesting to note that the Dominican Fra Girolama Savonarola (1452-96), who became over zealous in the order’s mission until he was burned at the stake in Piazza della Signoria, was not mentioned in the tour. Maybe he’ll appear when I tour the Convent of San Marco where he lived, but I’m thinking the text on these tours is committed to giving a positive spin.
Inside the church
In the cloisters
How do we keep silence, solitude and simplicity in this crazy world. I hate to frame it that way—crazy—but that’s the way it feels, even to someone like me, privileged, free of tragedies and full of good health, family, friends and church.
It behooves those of us ‘lucky’ ones to stand by and walk with those experiencing difficulties. It has to do with balance. When things are tough we become stuck at the bottom of the seesaw; we need others to get us moving so we can be in balance, more up and down with ease, and at times soar to the top.
I mention church because the UCC church I attend offers balance and support to everyone who walks through the door. Sometime we need to be lifted up, sometimes we lift up. Regardless, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. A church community filled with love offers something different from, or shall I say beyond, what family, friends, and work colleagues can offer. It humbles us as we learn once again that we can’t take all the credit or all the blame for what goes on in our lives. We learn to be on the giving and receiving end of love. We learn to seesaw.
One of my favorite day trips from Florence is to Fiesole. Hop on Bus #7 at Piazza San Marco and twenty-five minutes later there you are at the top of the hill overlooking Firenze. The Duomo looms large.
There is much to see in Fiesole but I usually pass by the Roman forum, the local museums and cathedral, and climb the hill to the Chiesa di San Francesco. I can never resist talking pictures, and of course, blogging about it again.
On this early spring day, all was silent. I was in solitude, and yet the few visitors who came along offered a comforting sense of community to this miniature monastic complex. After all, those of us who had ventured to this out-of-the-way place must be kindred spirits in some way!
Every time I climb the stairs to gaze into the fourteenth century monks cells, I picture myself living in one of them. My AR (angel room) at home is not much bigger, but the comparison stops there. These cells are sparse—board for a bed, a desk and chair, Bible and cross. I won’t even begin to describe the AR! I will say, however, that these cells encourage me to simplify, to get rid of things, mainly books that are from another stage of life, books that I will never read again.
A month ago, on the morning of my last day in Florence, I took an early morning walk (7 miles) to the city’s principal churches. The day was chilly and windy but not overbearing. Signs of spring were beginning to appear. Maybe you can see some of them in the following slideshow.
• Santa Maria del Fiore
• San Lorenzo
• Santa Maria Novella
• Basilica del Carmine
• Santo Spirito
• Santa Felicita
• Santa Croce
• Santissima Annunziata
• San Marco
• Santa Maria del Fiore
This Thursday I am flying to Rome and taking the train back to Florence. Then on the 18th I’ll meet my son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren back in Rome: we’ll spend two nights there, four in Florence, and one more in Rome before flying home together.
My first week in Florence will be one of solitude. Before I meet the family for this whirl of a vacation together, I will circumnavigate the city and again take pictures of the churches. I trust that signs of spring will be more evident.
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