Basilica Of Santa Maria Novella Overview

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a church in Florence, Italy, situated just across from the main railway station which shares its name. Santa Maria Novella is one of the city's largest and oldest churches, housing important artworks by artists including Masaccio, Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi. The church and its accompanying cloisters are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence.

Located in Italy, the Santa Maria Novella Church is one of the most renowned Gothic Churches in Florence and is a must-see on every tourist’s travel itinerary. A rare mix of architecture and religion, the monument is one of the most notable Gothic churches in Tuscany. Its exteriors feature the work of Fra Jacopo Talenti and Leon Battista Alberti. Also, the interiors feature an array of works by artistic geniuses like Masaccio’s Trinity Ghirlandaio’s fresco cycle in the Tornabuoni Chapel and Giotto’s Crucifix.

The church also holds the rare distinction of being first among great basilicas in Florence and is also the main Dominican Church in the city. While it is located right across a railway station by the same name, the Florentine church has also found mentioned in the hugely popular Dan Brown novel named ‘Inferno’.

The church gets its name Novella (New) from a 9th-century chapel of the same name, dedicated to Santa Maria Delle Vigne. The church was first conceived and constructed after the entire area was taken up by the Preachers Dominican order in 1221. It was designed by two Dominican friars named Fra Sista Florentino and Fra Ristoro da Campi between 1246 and 1260 and was completed with a Romanesque-Gothic bell tower and sacristy. 


• Admire its frescoes, which were painted by some of the most important artists of the 14th and 15th centuries, including Giotto, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio, and Filippino Lippi.
• Explore the impressive facade, with its alternating stripes of green and white marble, soars upwards to meet the sky.
• The interior is no less impressive, with a vast nave flanked by beautiful side chapels. The whole effect is one of light and space, making it feel surprisingly peaceful inside despite the throngs of tourists.
• Admire Basilica of Santa Maria Novella which is one of the most important examples of Florentine Gothic architecture.
• Make sure you take the time to explore the Cappella Strozzi, located in the right transept. This chapel is decorated with stunning frescoes by Filippino Lippi, depicting scenes from the life of Saint Philip Neri.
• Marvel at Giotto’s Crucifix in the centre of the central nave, with minute details such as waves in the hair of Christ, the blood spilling out his body and the details of the background tapestry.

How To Reach

The Santa Maria Novella Church is located 5.3 km from its nearest airport which is the Florence Peretola Airport. There are various ways to reach the church from here:

Road/Taxi- Tourists can take a taxi to the church which usually takes 20 minutes.

Bus- The Volainbus Airport Shuttle connects Florence Airport to downtown Florence. While the tickets can be purchased on board, they cost roughly around five euros.

Train- Tourists can also use the Florence tramway network and take a train to Alamanni - Stazione (Santa Maria Novella). 

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Best Time To Visit

Summer: The best time to visit the Santa Maria Novella Church is anywhere between April to June as it is warm and gets enough sunshine. Summer months between June to August see warm temperatures, with August being a slow tourist season. The hottest months are June, July, August, while the warmest is late July where temperature shoots up to 35°C, but nights are pleasant with temperatures rarely dropping below 20.6°C.

Spring: Spring season starts from March through May and sees a high tourist footfall when temperatures range between 28.7°C to 12°C, with rain.

Fall & Winter: From mid-August to the second week of November is also a good time as temperatures go from warm to between mid 30’to upper 50’s to icy cold in November. The temperature is cold for half the year and pleasant otherwise. Fall season which is between September to November sees highs of 31.4°C to 11.4°C with 3 to 8 days of rain or snow. Meanwhile, tourism is the lowest during these months. The winter months see the region get average highs of 16.1°C to 8.9°C and some snow.

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Other Essential Information

History of Santa Maria Novella

The church was planned and conceived by two Dominican brothers namely Sisto and Ristoro in 1246, but it took many years and the monument was completed only in 1350 by Leon Battista Alberti. Made in a ‘Proto-Renaissance style’ this is one of the oldest churches in Florence.

Its upper part was completed 100 years after its conception in the year 1470 by Leon Battista Alberti. Interestingly, the building still retains its original planned façade, even as other churches across Florence kept getting new designs. This makes it a must-visit for visitors traveling in Florence.

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The Architecture of Santa Maria Novella

The Santa Maria Novella Church has a unique Renaissance church façade, while the building plan resembles that of a Latin cross with square chapels. The church is adjoined by cloisters and a chapter house holding an array of art treasures.

Thanks to the patronage of rich Florentine families, the church has famous frescoes and masterpieces done by masters of the Gothic and early Renaissance era. A green and white marble façade lines the church, while the complex consists of cloisters and a frescoed chapel. The basilica is lined with artistic masterpieces and frescoes, while the lower section of its façade is a nod to both the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture.

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Tips for Visiting Santa Maria Novella Church

  • While the idea of the church began in the 10th century, travelers should not miss the active cloisters located in the church complex.
  • The church also houses one of the oldest perfumeries in Florence. The interiors of the perfumery are also lined with outstanding pieces of artwork and frescoes.
  • Travelers are advised to check their tickets carefully as many intercity trains do not stop here. They instead stop at Rifredi station in the north of the city or Campo di Marte Station in the east. However, there are local commuter trains that leave every 10 minutes between Rifredi/ Campo di Marte stations and Santa Maria Novella. Tickets can be purchased from a machine and the travel time is just a few minutes. Also, tourists must ensure during the departure that the train actually leaves Santa Maria Novella station.
  • There are intercity coaches that travelers can avail which will offer pick-up facilities around the Santa Maria Novella train station.

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Normal Timings:
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Normal Timings:
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Normal Timings:
10:00 AM to 05:00 PM
Normal Timings:
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Point of Interest for Basilica Of Santa Maria Novella
Spend Some Time Admiring The Marvelous Façade Of Santa Maria Novella

Spend Some Time Admiring The Marvelous Façade Of Santa Maria Novella

The marble façade showcases a pattern of green and white marble that is characteristic of Florentine churches. An interesting detail to check out is the lower part of the façade that holds funerary niches. These niches are characterized by a coat of arms insignia which are each representative of a noble Florentine family who financed the construction of the church. One can also spot astronomical instruments used in the 14th century, scenes from the bible, other Gothic elements and a sun motif above the door which is the symbol of Dominican Saint Thomas Aquinas.

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Check Out The Frescoes Chapels

Check Out The Frescoes Chapels

The most famous fresco can be found on the north wall of the Holy Trinity which was created by Masaccio in 1428 and is a Renaissance period gem. Other notable frescos that can be seen include Domenico Ghirlandaio's frescoes in the main chapel made in 1491, a wooden crucifix which is a work of Giambologna.

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Look Out For The Sacristy

Look Out For The Sacristy

A splendid-looking room, the sacristy was built in 1380 as a chapel. Encased in walnut and ebony paneling, it has ornate cabinets and the doors on the central cabinet are painted with figures of saints by Camillo Perini.

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Check Out Florence’s Aristocratic Past

Check Out Florence’s Aristocratic Past

In the churchyard, a walled-in cemetery is incidentally the resting place of many aristocratic Florentines. The walls lining the cemetery have 80 Avelli (funeral niches), similar to the ones seen on the church’s façade. These bear a coat of arms as insignia to mark and represent where members of an aristocratic family are buried.

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Prepare To Get Transfixed By Crucifixes

Prepare To Get Transfixed By Crucifixes

Do not miss the magnificent crucifix suspended high above the steps that separate the upper and lower church which was made by Giotto between 1288 and 1289. The image shows Christ’s body caught in the throes of death and resurrection. On the other hand, achieving a feat of mathematical and anatomical genius is Brunelleschi’s crucifix, where Christ is not upright but bent on the cross. This creates different viewpoints so that visitors have to take a semi-circular path around the figure to look at it. It showcases the ingenuity in achieving a rare feat of perfecting proportions of human anatomy and human imagination.

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View A Gem Of Renaissance Style

View A Gem Of Renaissance Style

In the third arcade, in place of an altar- one can easily spot Masaccio’s fresco called the Holy Trinity (1425-1426. An architectural marvel almost giving a 3 D view of the fresco, this creation earmarks the Renaissance perspective and continues to attract students of architecture and art for centuries. The fresco which showcases the height of artistic expression reached by Renaissance artists depicts the holy trinity. On both its sides however one can find Holy Mary and Saint John looking down.

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Feast Your Eyes With Frescoes In The Spanish Chapel

Feast Your Eyes With Frescoes In The Spanish Chapel

Walk around and embrace the serenity in the Cloisters- Considered an example of Italian Gothic architecture, work on the cloisters began in 1340. The Green Cloister with its earthy hues painted in green clay showcases frescoes of many 15th-century artists and Renaissance masters like Paolo Uccello. Look up his best work ‘The flood and the sacrifice of Noah’ here. The green chapel leads to the Chiostrino Dei Morti (Cloister of the Dead) and Strozzi chapel which is replete with 14th-century frescoes. While only 2 cloisters are accessible to the public, tourists can also look around the Spanish Chapel (also called the Cappellone Degli Spagnoli) which borders the Green cloister. This building has walls adorned by a fresco cycle created by a local painter named Andrea di Bonaiuto who painted religious themes.

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Prepare To Get Beguiled By The Art In The Tornabuoni Chapel

Prepare To Get Beguiled By The Art In The Tornabuoni Chapel

The Tornabuoni Chapel is one of the main chapels in the Santa Maria Novella church complex and it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist. Frescoes were created by Domenico Ghirlandaio and a young Michelangelo who was a part of his workshop. You can spot his work titled ‘Mary visits Saint Elizabeth’ which shows three young lads showing their backs to the observer. With vibrant hues, experts claim that Ghirlandaio’s work had a photographic quality about them.

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History Buff Should Not Miss The ‘The Nativity’ And The Pulpit

History Buff Should Not Miss The ‘The Nativity’ And The Pulpit

A visit to this Gothic church would be incomplete without spotting the Nativity scene which was recreated by a young Sandro Botticelli in 1475. It can be spotted on the inner wall above the main door of the church’s façade. Another gem is the pulpit which has 4 reliefs made by Buggiano and commissioned by an aristocratic family. It was designed by Brunelleschi and has tremendous historical significance. It was from this pulpit that a Dominican friar directed the first-ever attack was directed at Galileo Galilei for his observations and belief in the astronomical model that Earth and planets revolve around the sun in the solar system. The attack and subsequent upheaval ended up with an indictment.

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Basilica Of Santa Maria Novella FAQs

What does Santa Maria Novella mean?

The name of the church has the word Novella (meaning new), thereby honoring the legacy of the small 9th-century chapel called Santa Maria Delle Vigne which was earlier there on this site. A Dominican order who was given possession of the site later began to build a new church and an adjoining cloister in the same location.

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When was the Santa Maria Novella built?

The construction of the Santa Maria Novella church began in the mid-13th century around 1246 and continued till about 80 years ending with the construction of a Romanesque-Gothic bell tower and sacristy. Later a series of Gothic arcades were introduced into designing the façade in 1360.

Who is buried in Santa Maria Novella?

Many members of the aristocratic and wealthy families from Florence who gave patronage to the construction of the Santa Maria Novella are buried in a cemetery located on the right side of the church. The walls that go around the cemetery have 80 Avelli or funeral niches. They can be identified by the coat-of-arms which have been sculpted on the niches of the façade to represent the families.

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