Chiesa Di SS. Salvatore in Ognissanti ☆☆

'Last Supper' (1480) by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Chiesa Di SS. Salvatore in Ognissanti, Florence, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
'Last Supper' (1480) by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Ghirlandaio frescoes, a long-lost Giotto masterpiece, and the final resting places of Botticelli, his Birth of Venus muse, and the namesake of America itself

Founded in 1256 by the Umiliati, a wool-weaving sect of the Benedictines whose trade helped establish this area as a textile district, the present Ognissanti was rebuilt by its new Franciscan owners in the 17th century.

It has the earliest baroque facade in Florence, designed by Matteo Nigetti in 1627 and rebuilt in travertine in 1872.

The Vespucci clan: The real-life Venus and America's namesake

Ognissanti was the parish church of the Vespucci family, agents of the Medici bank in Seville. A young Domenico Ghirlandaio portrayed several of the family members in his Madonna della Misericordia (1470) on the second altar to the right.

The lady under the Madonna's left hand may be Simonetta Vespucci, renowned beauty of her age, mistress of Giuliano de' Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent's brother), and said to be the model for Venusin Botticelli's Birth of Venus now in the Uffizi.

The young man with black hair to the Madonna's right is said to be her cousin (by marriage), Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512), whose letters about exploring the New World in 1499 and again from 1501 to 1502 would become so popular that the German cartographer Waldseemüller used the LAtin form of Amerigo's name—America—on an influential set of maps to describe the newly discovered continent. (Sorry, Columbus.)

The family tombstone (America's namesake rests in peace underneath) is to the left of this altar.

What once decorated the rood screen—Including a lost Giotto masterwork

Medieval churches used to have a wall seperating the choir (where the clergy worshipped) from the nave (where the worshippers sat). This screen or wall was often either delicately carved or hung with works of art to amuse the worshippers—who couldn't actually see what was going on at the altar, just hear disembodied voices chanting in Latin.

The Ognissanti's wall—called a rood screen—was dismantled in the the 1640s by Vassari as part of an overhaul of the church interior, but a few of the artistic treasures that once decorated it remain.

Between the third and fourth altars is Botticelli's fresco of a pensive St. Augustine in His Study (1480), a rather more intense work than its matching St. Jerome in His Study by Domenico Ghirlandaio now displayed across the nave. But both of these were later additions to the rood screen.

The screen also once boasted an amazing five works by Giotto, the Gothic painter who presaged the Renaissance. One of these, the Ognissanti Maestà, is now a prize of the Uffizi Galleries across town. Another, Dormition of the Virgin, is now in Berlin's Gemäldegalerie. Two more are lost.

And, for nearly a century, the fifth and greatest of the Giottos was squirreled away in a back room, a 4.67m (15-foot) painted Crucifix caked in candle soot and mistakenly written off as a work by one of his unknown pupils or perhaps a relative.

Vasari had stuck it into one of the transepts, which was later converted into a vestment room. The Crucifixion ended up wedged between two wardrobes where it sustained prolonged damage. In 1926, when the transept was converted into a Cappella delgi Caduti World War I memorial, the worn painting was moved yet again into the Sacristy.

There it hung, forgotten, for nearly 80 years.

Then a British student at the Opificio della Pietre Dure made the cleaning of this "lesser" Gothic-era Crucifix her dissertation project, and slowly discovered—over a painstaking, eight-year restoration—that it had been painted by Giotto himself, either between 1310–15 or after 1320.

Returned to its former place in Ognissanti's left transept in 2011, this restored masterpiece showcases some of what made Giotto so revolutionary compared to the stylized Byzantine school still prevalent at the turn of the 14th cenury: His bold use of vibrant colors; the three-dimensionality of the scenery; the naturalism of the figures; the human emotion and realism on the people—look at the anguish in the wrinkles on Mary's face, the deathly pallor of Jesus's skin.

Also in the left transept, in the second chapel, is the Ognissanti's most treasured holy relic, the habit St. Francis was wearing when he received the stigmata.

The right transept—Botticelli's tomb

Botticelli—whose real name was Alessandro "Sandro" di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (his nickname, Botticelli, means" Little Barrels")—is buried under a round marker in the second chapel in the right transept.

It is said that the artist remained so devoted to his early muse, Simonetta Vespucci (upon whom he based his Venus and Spring in the famous Uffizi paintings), that in his will he requested he be buried at her feet. (Same church; close enough.)

Ghirlandaio's Last Supper

You can enter the convent to the left of the church facade at Borgo Ognissanti 42.

In the refectory here is Domenico Ghirlandaio's celebrated Last Supper, painted in 1480 with a background heavy on Christian symbolism.

Photo gallery
  • The facade, Chiesa Di SS. Salvatore in Ognissanti, Italy (Photo by Richard Mortel)
  • The nave, Chiesa Di SS. Salvatore in Ognissanti, Italy (Photo by Richard Mortel)
  • Tomb of Amerigo Vespucci, died 1471, actually the grandfather of the famous navigator, Chiesa Di SS. Salvatore in Ognissanti, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • Tomb of the Filipepi family, including Botticelli (whose real name was Sandro Filipepi), Chiesa Di SS. Salvatore in Ognissanti, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The facade, Chiesa Di SS. Salvatore in Ognissanti, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
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How long does Ognissanti take?

It will only take about 20–30 minutes to see the Church of Ognissanti.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).