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Church of San Miniato in Florence

Florence, Italy

The beloved Church of San Miniato, part of a working Benedictine monastery, is Romanesque with an exquisite, holy interior. Visitors are welcome to attend the sung mass chanted by monks, as it has been for centuries.

Complete Video Script

While most of Florence’s attractions cluster together in the old center, a short bus ride takes us to a much-loved medieval church. Set on a hill overlooking the city, it makes it clear there’s more to Florence than Renaissance treasures.

For a thousand years, the Church of San Miniato — still part of a functioning Benedictine monastery — has blessed the city that lies at the foot of its hill.

The church predates the Renaissance by several centuries. Its marble facade, dating from the 12th century, is a classic example from the Romanesque period. The perfect symmetry is a reminder of the perfection of God. And the eagle on top, with bags of wool in his talons, reminds all who approach the church who paid for it — the wool guild.

Stepping inside, you enter the most exquisite holy space medieval Florentines could create. The “carpet of marble” actually dates from about 1200. The wood ceiling is repainted, showing off its original color scheme. This 14th-century golden mosaic shows an earthly king offering his paltry secular crown to the king in heaven.

Visitors are welcome to attend the sung mass chanted as it has been by Benedictine brothers for centuries.

In the adjacent sacristy, 14th-century frescoes show scenes from the life of their founder and inspiration, St. Benedict.

Benedict is shown as an active force for good, busy blessing, preaching, and chasing the devil, until the day he slides up the ramp to heaven.

Benedict was the founder of the Benedictine Order, a vast network of over a thousand monasteries that eventually gave Europe some cohesiveness in the cultural darkness that followed the collapse of Rome. That’s why Benedict is the patron saint of Europe.