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Orsanmichele Church and Museum in Florence: History and Complete Guided Tour

Updated: May 26




Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy


There is one church in Florence that does not really look like a church: a massive rectangular building with no apparent signs to betray its religious destination. It's Orsanmichele, the ancient grain storage of Florence - the source of its prosperity - later turned into a church out of devotion.


Orsanmichele, in between religion and civic life, is a Gothic jewel and hosts a unique group of statues on its four sides: visiting it with its museum is something you should do to truly understand the city's soul!


In this post, you will find everything you need to discover Orsanmichele: history, cultural context, useful info, tips on what to see and to know and a complete guided tour through its marvels (including a focus on the statues!).



 

In this article:


Orsanmichele Church and Museum: History and Why Visit
Orsanmichele Church and Museum: Your Visit
Orsanmichele Church and Museum: Plan Your Visit

 


Orsanmichele Church and Museum in Florence: History and Why Visit



INTRODUCTION


Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, Santa Maria del Fiore, San Lorenzo. Florence is renowned for its spectacular Renaissance churches and some of them are among the most immediate views of the city that come to our mind.


However, there is one church - sometimes even excluded from the major tours around the city - which history had in some ways meant more for Florence than its Duomo: Orsanmichele.


Originally conceived as a grain storage/market, Orsanmichele's story accompanied that of its hosting city and was turned into a church out of respect and long-term devotion - a privilege no other major landmark in Florence experienced.


Today, Orsanmichele can be found at a very short distance from Piazza della Signoria and on via dei Calzaiuoli and is therefore very hard to miss. However, its history is not as known or well narrated as its fellow churches in the city and yet is definitely worth discovering.



HISTORY OF ORSANMICHELE


To first hear of Orsanmichele we need to go far back in time, before the 8th century CE. The Florence we should have in mind at this point is a tiny little thing, an agglomerate of houses and primitive churches or monasteries and lots of cultivated fields all around.


Indeed, the name Orsanmichele comes from San Michele in Orto (literally St. Michael in a vegetable garden) and refers to a small religious building that was erected where Orsanmichele stands today, in a vegetable garden at the time property of a nearby Benedictine monastery.


This primitive small church dedicated to St. Micheal Archangel and then known as St. Michael in Orto was surely completed by 895, when we have its first documented mention.


In the following centuries, Florence would renovate itself dramatically and by the 13th century this old and decaying small church could not fit a city on the edge of expansion and rushing to accumulate wealth. The times when fields occupied the area around Piazza della Signoria were long gone and a prosperous market was now active nearby: Mercato Vecchio (Old Market), today no more but for long a true symbol of Florence.


Around 1240 St. Michael in Orto was thus demolished but one thing survived: an image of the Madonna (Virgin Mary) known for the miracles it could work. The icon, which was likely frescoed on a pillar of the just-torn-down church, was inscribed in the new structure, a civic loggia meant to store grain and to host negotiations for the product to be sold. The new building was completed in around 1284 and is traditionally said to have been the work of Arnolfo di Cambio (1245-ca. 1305), one of the greatest architects of the Italian Middle Ages.


Grain market at Orsanmichele from Libro del Biadaiolo
Orsanmichele as a grain market with its Madonna image protected by a tabernacle (not the current one) - Illustration from Libro del Biadaiolo (14th century)

This modern loggia did not last for long: in 1304 a massive fire destroyed it (this first loggia was made of wood) and brought its miraculous image with it into oblivion. This event generated distress, as the people of Florence loved their Madonna image and knew Orsanmichele pretty well, being it so central and with such important function. A reconstruction was needed and this time it involved the most powerful institutions of late medieval Florence: the Arti.



The remake of Orsanmichele took more than 30 years to begin and was mainly commissioned by the Arte della Seta (Silk Guild), among the most prominent ones in the city. The first stone (no more wood after the fire!) was laid on July 29th, 1337 but works would continue throughout the century and beyond.

The Arti were guilds of arts and crafts that began to appear in Florence in the late 12th century to organize groups of professionals from the same category. Divided into Arti Maggiori (major guilds) and Arti Minori (minor guilds), the first concerned those whose business was more complex and lucrative and included import and export, the latter were for manual jobs. The Arti, which work contributed a great deal to the economic boom of Florence, helped their members to pursue common goals.

The new version was designed by the trio of architects Simone Talenti, Neri di Fioravante and Benci di Cione Dami and was again conceived as an open loggia with 2 upper floors to store and sell grain. A new Madonna image was also commissioned to Bernardo Daddi (1290-1348), who painted the canvas we can still admire today in Orsanmichele.


Works were suddenly stopped by the terrible plague that hit Florence in 1348 (the notorious Black Death) and would not resume until the 1360s. In the meantime, Orsanmichele had strengthened its role as devotional site during the troubled years marked by the disease and had become a reference point for the Arti, who saw their religious sanctuary in it. It was about time to officially turn the place into a church, walling up its open loggia and stopping any business-related activity.


In 1359, Orcagna (real name: Andrea di Cione, 1310-1368) began working on his majestic tabernacle to host the new Madonna icon - today in the church - while works would go on, supported by the wealthy Arti. In 1404, the city of Florence eventually accepted a formal request submitted several years before by the Arti themselves to have 14 niches built on the 4 sides of Orsanmichele to be filled with statues of the Arti's patron saints. Actually, the most influential Arti had already begun working on both their niches and the statues, while the remaining ones notably took decades to be completed. We will soon find out why this is massively important for art history.


By this time, Orsanmichele had taken its final form, which is more or less what we still see to this day. Only one small addition was missing, and it's the arched pier you can spot by looking up at the corner between Via dei Calzaiuoli and via Arte della Lana. In 1559, Cosimo I de' Medici, Granduke of Tuscany, installed a civic archive on the upper floors of Orsanmichele, seldom occupied since the place stopped being a grain storage. In order to swiftly move in and out of the archive, he commissioned this arched passageway.


Due to its extraordinary civic and religious importance, no one dared to touch Orsanmichele and the church went through the 19th and early 20th century (a time when several medieval buildings were twisted by new trends) almost intact, although a few major works were needed to address static problems and all decorations were at least slightly retouched.


During WWII, Orsanmichele was carefully protected: the statues of the façade were either removed or secured with sandbags and the whole complex made safe. After the war, the statues were ultimately substituted by copies to preserve them. They are now in Orsanmichele Museum.


After some further work to stabilize the building, Orsanmichele is today both a church and a museum. Since the first time I visited it (I have been there some 3 or 4 times), much has changed. Unfortunately, the complex is not free entry anymore but the experience has overall improved. Today, Orsanmichele is part of the Musei del Bargello and can be visited together with its museum, on the upper floors, where you can also see Florence from a privilege point of view.


Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy
View of Orsanmichele (left) from the Arnolfo Tower

The Confraternity of the Laudesi

To better understand how relevant Orsanmichele had been throughout the centuries, we need to quickly mention the Confraternity of the Laudesi (the praisers), which existed from the mid-13th century until the 18th.


This confraternity - an organization not uncommon for a time of deep religious dedication - was born rather spontaneously and gathered a group of devotees who liked to go in processions to sing and praise in front of particularly sacred images. Unsurprisingly, their official name was Confraternity of the Laudesi of Or San Michele, for the church's Madonna image was indeed their main inspiration as one of the most revered icons in Florence!


The Laudesi played a vital role in Florence especially during hard times such as the Black Death plague and managed to accumulate important sums of money and form huge crowds of pilgrims, who came from nearby villages and towns to visit the Madonna of Orsanmichele. The confraternity would slowly lose grip and influence on the city and its people as the Middle Ages faded into Modernity.



THE MOST FLORENTINE OF ALL BUILDINGS: WHY VISIT


Piero Bargellini (1897-1980), mayor of Florence at the time of the disastrous flood that hit the city in 1966 and a fine connoisseur of his hometown, once defined Orsanmichele: "the most Florentine of all buildings in Florence".


Indeed, as we can easily notice while exploring it, Florence experienced its heyday during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance epoch, never able to create another golden era for itself in the later centuries. Orsanmichele, built in its current form during late medieval times and home to one of the most significant cycles of Renaissance art, surely represents the soul of the Tuscan city.


Moreover, Orsanmichele stands out for having been a grain storage/market - the physical sustenance of Florence - and later a church. And not any church, but the sanctuary, the personal temple of the Arti, the corporations that more than anyone else contributed to making the city wealthy and internationally recognized, long before the Medici ruled over it and gave it cultural immortality. Its structure, a civic architecture with a religious meaning and religious decorations, immediately reveals its uniqueness.


So in case the aesthetic beauty and interesting history of this church (and museum) are not enough to lure you into visiting it, you may consider going there to deeply understand what living in Florence during the 13th-16th centuries was like and how deeply civic power and Christian piety could be interconnected!




 



Orsanmichele Church and Museum in Florence: Your Visit



Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy
Plan of Orsanmichele | Courtesy of: museumsinflorence.com

THE BASICS


  • What: Late medieval/Gothic-styled civic and religious architecture, today a church and a museum

  • Where: Via dell'Arte della Lana, 50123 Firenze

  • Why: Unique example of civic and religious architecture mixed together, extraordinary artistic importance

  • Who: Simone Talenti, Neri di Fioravante and Nenci di Cione Dami (architects), Florentine Arti (commissioners)

  • Building Period: between 1337 and early 1400s

  • Current Status: largely intact in its 14th-century form, original statues of the exterior substituted by copies

  • Ticket to visit: Yes


Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy
Orsanmichele from via Arte della Lana with Arte della Lana Palace on the right

ARCHITECTURE AND EXTERIOR


As we mentioned, the church of Orsanmichele is located in a very prominent spot - just a few steps from Piazza della Signoria and in one of the liveliest streets of Florence, Via dei Calzaiuoli, renowned as a shopping and leisure destination that every tourist encounters at least once.


Orsanmichele has no crosses, no bell towers, no spires to signal its presence. As we saw, this is because this rectangular ultra-solid structure was born as a civic building to host the grain market at ground level and to store it in the upper floors.


The building is 3-storey, made of pietraforte interrupted by large closed or open windows; it includes marble additions and several decorations on all its sides.


The ground floor used to be a market and now hosts the church. ➜ It has 2 or 3 massive triforas per side, which today look walled-up: at the time of their creation, they were open and formed a loggia, enclosed during the late 14th century. The triforas are all intricately decorated on their upper sides, showing the typical Gothic tracery. ➜ Between the triforas, on what were the piers of the open loggia, are Gothic-styled marble niches, each hosting a marble or bronze statue and being more or less decorated. ➜ Above each niche is an oval, sometimes empty, sometimes filled with glazed terracotta decorations. All ovals used to host the coats of arms of the guild that commissioned the below niche and statue, which were either frescoed or made of terracotta. Almost only the latter remain, all works of Luca and Andrea della Robbia (15th century) except for the coats of arms of the Butchers' Guild, re-made in the mid-19th century by the Ginori Factory and commissioned by the Florentine butchers of the time in honour of their ancestors.


Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy - Luca della Robbia's Symbol of Florence
Luca della Robbia's Symbol of Florence

The first and second floors (today hosting the museum) are lower than the ground level and show 2 or 3 marble biforas per side, all topped by a stone arch.


At the corner between Via Arte della Lana and Via dei Lamberti is an arched pier that connects Orsanmichele with the Palazzo della Lana, the former headquarters of the Wool Guild (Arte della Lana) and now hosting the Società Dantesca. It is the work of Bernardo Buontalenti (1531-1608) and commissioned by Cosimo I de' Medici in 1559 to smoothen movements between the Palazzo and the upper floors of Orsanmichele, which were hosting an archive.



FOCUS: THE NICHES AND THE STATUES


Every art history student has probably heard of Orsanmichele thanks to the cycle of statues adorning the niches on the external sides of the church. In fact, the 14 statues filling as many tabernacle-shaped niches are considered the most evident example of the passage from medieval art to Renaissance.


What makes the statues of Orsanmichele so important? The statues, each of which depicts one patron saint of the Arti of Florence, were commissioned by the Arti themselves to become the tangible representation of their power and their connection to Orsanmichele. Indeed, the place had slowly come to be identified with the common headquarters of the Arti. ➜ There were several Arti in Florence during the late Middle Ages; some were called maggiori (major) and some other minori (minor). The first had much more power and much more wealth and could easily afford to build imposing niches and sometimes bronze statues (bronze was much more expensive than marble); the latter had to struggle more to collect the financial resources and had to resort to more modest materials. Consequently, some of the statues were commissioned before the others or even re-made to keep up with the latest styles.

➜ From the first statue to the last, several decades passed and that meant a drastic change in trends and artists: if the fastest Arti still opted for late medieval sculptors (only to regret the choice and sometimes commission another statue), those who came later had early-Renaissance artists such as Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello available for the job. ➜ This resulted in a visible difference in style and innovation exhibited by the statues. For art historians and all of us visitors, this means a unique opportunity to witness the turning of eras!


The statues we see today on the sides of Orsanmichele are all copies: after WWII and centuries of being exposed to the elements, the originals were moved to the museum of Orsanmichele on the second floor except for two, now in the Museo del Bargello in Florence.



Here is an overview of the statues - we start from the side on Via dei Calzaiuoli, going left to right (when facing the church), anticlockwise:


On via dei Calzaiuoli:

  • Lorenzo Ghiberti, St. John the Baptist (1412-1416) - bronze, Calimala (Calimala Merchants') Guild

  • Andrea del Verrocchio, Christ and St. Thomas (1467-1483) - bronze, Merchants' Guild

  • Giambologna, St. Luke (1601) - bronze, Magistrates and Notaries' Guild


On via Orsanmichele:

  • Filippo Brunelleschi, St. Peter (1415) - marble, Butchers' Guild

  • Nanni di Banco, St. Philip (1412-14) - marble, Shoemakers' Guild

  • Nanni di Banco, Santi Quattro Coronati (1408) - marble, Wood and Stone Workers' Guild

  • Donatello, St. George (1416) - marble, Armourers' Guild


On via dell'Arte della Lana:

  • Lorenzo Ghiberti, St. Matthew (1419-20) - bronze, Bankers' Guild

  • Lorenzo Ghiberti, St. Stephen (1428) - bronze, Wool Guild

  • Nanni di Banco, St. Eligius (1411-15) - marble, Farriers' Guild


On via dei Lamberti:

  • Donatello, St. Mark (1411) - marble, Line-Weavers' and Peddlers' Guild

  • Niccolò di Piero Lamberti, St. James (1410) - marble, Furriers' Guild

  • Pietro di Giovanni Tedesco, Madonna of the Rose (1399) - marble, Doctors' Guild

  • Baccio da Montelupo, St. John the Evangelist (1513-15) - bronze, Silk Guild


The innovations are evident when comparing for example Pietro di Giovanni Tedesco's Madonna of the Rose (in picture gallery) and the works of Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello: while the first is still portrayed in a hieratic and static posture, Gothic in her features and fashion, the Renaissance sculptures of the two masters move in their niches, engage in more scenographic poses and look more alive and less immobile. This is also clear in the frieze below Donatello's St. George (below), where the knight is seen killing the dragon with a long spear while riding his horse. Try to compare it with the frieze below the Santi Quattro Coronati depicting stone workers (below) to see the difference.



The entire cycle is stunning and of high quality, it surely deserves to be fully seen! Anyway, the noteworthy statues you should focus on are: the dynamic Andrea del Verrocchio's Christ and St. Thomas (in picture gallery) compared to Nanni di Banco's more static Santi Quattro Coronati; then Donatello's St. George (in picture gallery) with his fierce pose, and Donatello's St. Mark (in picture gallery), probably the highest-level statue of the cycle.


Was a niche randomly assigned to one of the Arti? Not exactly! Some among the Arti Maggiori (major guilds), the first to be served, could choose where they preferred their patron saint to be placed. Particularly, the Wool Guild opted for the west side of Orsanmichele (St. Stephen, on via Arte della Lana) because fronting their headquarters, the Palazzo dell'Arte della Lana (Wool Guild's Palace). The Silk Guild chose the southeast corner (St. John the Evangelist, on via dei Lamberti) because, while not so prominent, it was as close as possible to the sacred Madonna image inside the church.



Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy
Image credits: visittuscany,com

INTERIOR


Time to enter Orsanmichele! This is possible after purchasing a ticket.


Same as for the exterior, Orsanmichele does not really look like a church from the inside either. The place is basically a room with no naves but bisected by two main piers at the center and several smaller semi-pilasters, all freestanding. The ceiling is vaulted as typical for Gothic buildings.


The pillars, walls and ceiling are frescoed on much of their surface. The frescoes were made mostly during the late 14th century by several artists, including Lorenzo di Bicci, Spinello Aretino, Cenni di Francesco and Taddeo Gaddi. ➜ On the vaults are figures from the Old and New Testament within almond shapes and in front of intense blue backgrounds or inscribed in ovals.

➜ On the pillars and much of the walls are portraits of the patron saints of the Arti, picking up from the statues outside the church. In some cases, the saints inside are placed correspondingly to those outside.


In the church are two altars and none of them is central, they both occupy one side. If facing their front sides, on your left you should see the altar of St. Anne and on the right that of the Madonna, with the majestic Gothic tabernacle by Orcagna.



Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy
View of St. Anne Altar

The altar of St. Anne was built in this form during the 16th century by Francesco da Sangallo (ca. 1526). Today, it is made of marble and includes a statue of Sant'Anne, the Madonna and the Child. An altar dedicated to St. Anne was originally commissioned by the Arti when, in 1343, their archenemy Walter VI of Brienne, at the time governor of Florence, was successfully expulsed from the city on July 26th, day of St. Anne.


On the traceried upper side of each walled-up trifora are stained glass windows: they present miracles performed by the Virgin Mary or the venerated image of the Madonna of Orsanmichele. They were made in two phases, one between 1380 and 1400, and another around the mid-15th century. Some of them were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti, Agnolo Gaddi, Lorenzo Monaco and others. They are almost fully intact in their original form.


Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy
A rectangular hole for the grain to be transported to the ground floor from the upper floors (storage) to be sold

▶ Notice the pillars on the north side of the church (on your left if facing the altars): you should see rectangular holes. These were originally used to transport the grain from the upper floors, where it was stored, to the ground floor, where it was sold.




Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy - Orcagna's Tabernacle
Orcagna's tabernacle | Image Credits: finestresullarte.it

FOCUS: ORCAGNA'S TABERNACLE


The undiscussed star inside Orsanmichele is the tabernacle made by Andrea di Cione, known as Orcagna (1310-1368), who signed it on the back. This masterpiece of medieval craftsmanship stands beside the altar of St.Anne, on the other side of the pillars.


Made between 1349-59, the tabernacle is all high-quality marble, enamel and gilded decorations mixed together to form an intricate construction exquisitely Gothic in its every inch. It was commissioned by the Confraternity of the Laudesi to host the sacred Madonna image by Bernardo Daddi soon after the end of the terrible Black Death that decimated the population of Florence. During those troubled years, the Florentines got even closer to their Madonna and wished to celebrate its intercession in favor of the end of the plague with a beautiful shrine.


On the front, the tabernacle is designed to highlight the sacred image it hosts and the marble even evokes the painting's decoration. All around on the parapets are scenes from the Virgin Mary's life, then Virtues and Apostles. On the back a bas-relief depicting the Dormition (lower side) and the Assumption of the Virgin (upper portion) fills the entire surface.


Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy - Orcagna's Tabernacle
View of the tabernacle from its rear part: on top is the Assumption of the Virgin (in an almond shape), below is the Dormition of the Virgin

The tabernacle structure makes clear that it was commissioned before Orsanmichele was turned into a church, for it does not appear suitable to be used during Mass: no doors to get to the altar, no easy accesses - it was only meant to exhibit and protect the image. Its decorations appear also way too pompous for mid-14th century standards: this is probably due to the peculiar position (in a corner) of the tabernacle - quite a surprise effect was needed to make the icon immediately visible!



Bernardo Daddi's Madonna with Child and Angels (1348
Bernardo Daddi's Madonna with Child and Angels (1348)

FOCUS: MADONNA WITH CHILD (1348) BY BERNARDO DADDI


If you are done admiring the tabernacle, focus on the Madonna image it encloses. This is likely the third and last version of the sacred icon the Florentine had begun to venerate since at least the 13th century.


The painting measures 250x180cm (98x71in) and is the work of Bernardo Daddi (1290-1348), a prolific painter active in Florence who succumbed to the Black Death right after finishing this icon in 1348.


The artwork depicts the Virgin with her Child in an affectionate pose, sitting on an ornate throne and surrounded by angels. The subject is typical of medieval devotion and in this form it was already considered slightly outdated for the time it was made, however, Daddi probably had the task to make it as Gothic as possible, hieratic and static, to closely resemble the precedent versions of the icon and inspire the devotees.



ORSANMICHELE MUSEUM


I am sure the visit to the church has not disappointed you and you are not done yet!


Orsanmichele with the Musei del Bargello have worked a lot in the last few years to improve the visit experience and make the complex more accessible - the first time I visited several years ago the church was badly illuminated and the museum rarely open. Today, years of work and more than one year of total closure have brought the place to another level!


Your visit to the museum starts from via dell'Arte della Lana, where a staircase will bring you upstairs (there are elevators too, you can ask the staff at the ticket office). The museum has 2 floors.


The first floor once hosted administrative offices when Orsanmichele was not a church yet and later an archive. Today, it shows all the original statues (minus two, at the Bargello Museum) that were made to fill the niches on the exterior at ground level. ➜ The statues are now placed on pedestals and backed by a white screen to resemble as much as possible the original appearance. Also, they are arranged in the same position they originally occupied outside.

On the second floor you can see a further small assembly of statues from the church and can enjoy a breathtaking view of Florence, including its Duomo and Piazza della Signoria!



 


Orsanmichele Church and Museum in Florence: Plan Your Visit



HOW TO REACH



Orsanmichele's position is a very prominent one, so you won't struggle to find it! It lies right at the heart of the historic city centre, and any directions bringing you to Piazza della Signoria, Duomo and Uffizi Museum will also get you to the church.


The city centre of Florence is easily walkable, so you can consider adding Orsanmichele to any walking tour or spontaneous stroll you may be planning. Palazzo Vecchio is 3 minutes away, Uffizi Gallery 5, Bargello Museum is 4, Santa Maria del Fiori (Duomo) is also 4, Cappelle Medicee 9 and Galleria dell'Accademia 11.


If you wish to reach it from farther away or even from another city, Orsanmichele is just 11 minutes away from the main railway station Santa Maria Novella. Otherwise, bus C2 (stop: Condotta) or C1 all stop nearby.


Entrance to the church and museum is on via Arte della Lana.



OPENING HOURS AND TICKETS


To visit Orsanmichele church and museum you will need a ticket but, since the recent re-opening after more than one year of closure to the public, the complex has much more flexible opening hours and is therefore more enjoyable by tourists and locals!


Opening Hours

Orsanmichele is open:

DAY

OPENING HOURS

Monday

8:30 AM / 6:30 PM

Tuesday

CLOSED

Wednesday

8:30 AM / 6:30 PM

Thursday

8:30 AM / 6:30 PM

Friday

8:30 AM / 6:30 PM

Saturday

8:30 AM / 6:30 PM

Sunday

8:30 AM / 1:30 PM (last access at 12PM)



Tickets

Orsanmichele is part of the Musei del Bargello and there are several options available for purchasing a ticket. You may decide to visit Orsanmichele alone or opt for a cumulative option. Here is an overview:


  • Full ticket: 8€

  • Reduced: 2€ (under 25)

  • Free for under 18, ICOM members, people with reduced mobility

  • Cumulative ticket: 21€ for all museums under Musei del Bargello (includes Orsanmichele, Bargello Museum, Medici Chapels, Davanzati Palace and Casa Martelli. Allows one entrance per place over 72 hours)

  • UAM Pass: 50€ - in case you are staying in Florence for longer periods, you can choose a UAM Pass, valid for one year. This will allow you to visit all Bargello Museums without limitations + partake in all events organized by the Museums + enjoy a 5% discount on any purchases at the Museums' bookshops.


▶ You can buy any of these options in place or book your spot online here. On this page you can also purchase the UAM Pass (look for Card Annuale Musei del Bargello in the filters). Unfortunately, it seems to be only available in Italian at the moment. The Museums apply a reservation fee of 3€.



USEFUL INFO


Should you buy your tickets in advance? I would suggest buying them beforehand if going to Florence during peak season (late spring and summer) or if having a tight schedule and little space for improvisation.


How long does a visit to Orsanmichele last? 1 to 2 hours are enough to visit the church and the museum. You can easily add another stop in the same morning/afternoon.


Should you add Orsanmichele in your itinerary as first timers in Florence? If you are into medieval architecture and are eager to know more about this part of Florence's history, definitely yes. Otherwise, on a weekend trip you may decide to focus on other options. If you have 3+ days to spend in Florence, leave a spot for Orsanmichele.


There should be elevators available to get to the upper floors of Orsanmichele and visit the museum. However, on its official website the complex is said to be unfortunately "not equipped with access devices for people with disabilities". So keep that in mind if this is your case.


➊ Are there walking tours that include Orsanmichele? Yes, you may check GetYourGuide or TripAdvisor. Otherwise, you can contact Guide in Toscana and ask for a tailor-made tour that includes Orsanmichele if they don't have one available (note that these are all walking tours that will let you see the church from the outside only)


Orsanmichele church and museum in Florence, Italy





 


References:

  • Brendan Cassidy, Orcagna's Tabernacle in Florence: Design and Function in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 55 (1992), pp. 180-211.

  • Emiliano Scampoli, Firenze. Archeologia di una città, Firenze University Press 2010.

  • George W. Dameron, Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante, University of Pennsylvania Press 2005.

  • Nancy Rash Fabbri and Nina Rutenburg, The Tabernacle of Orsanmichele in Context in The Art Bulletin 63:3 (1981), pp. 385-405.

  • Thomas Roger Smith, Architecture: Gothic and Renaissance, e-Kitap Projesi 2015.

  • https://catalogo.beniculturali.it/

  • https://www.palazzospinelli.org/architetture/

  • https://guardafirenze.com/


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