The relationship between art, religion and commerce hardly gets closer than in the church of Orsanmichele. Upon a site that had, since the VIII century, hosted the Oratory of San Michele in Orto, in 1290 Arnolfo di Cambio built a loggia to serve as the grain market. It burned in 1304.
In 1337 Francesco Talenti, Neri di Fioravante and Benci di Cione began the present structure, which was supposed to be a larger grain market. In 1380 the two upper floors were added to store grain for emergencies, and Simone Talenti closed the arcades of the ground floor to transform it into a church.
The building is square in plan, and there are still, on the ground floor, the 13th century arches that formed the loggia. On the exterior of the chapel marble tabernacles were built to host statues of the patron saints of the Guilds, who commissioned the greatest artists of the period.
Thus we find Verrocchio's Saint John the Baptist and Doubting Thomas, Giambologna's Saint Luke, Donatello's bas-relief of Saint George freeing the King's Daughter, and a Madonna with Child by Luca della Robbia. Inside, to the right, is the tabernacle Andrea Orcagna's painstakingly built and decorated between 1355 and 1359.
For any information:
Chiesa di Orsanmichele
Via dei Calzaioli (055 284944).
Open 9am-noon, 4-6pm, daily from Nov 2005.