Chiesa della SS. Annunziata was established in 1250 by the founders of the Servite order and later rebuilt by Michelozzo in the mid-15th century. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and in the ornate tabernacle within is the miraculous painting of the Virgin.
Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto and Rosso Fiorentino frescoed it early the following century. The frescoes are beautiful: immediately to the right there is the Ascension of the virgin, by Rosso Fiorentino, whose use of colour is disturbing but unforgettable. Next are the Visitation by Pontormo, and then The Betrothal of the Virgin, by Franciabigio.
The artist himself hammered upon her face, because the monks peeked at the work before it was finished, and nobody has dared retouch it since. Next is The Nativity of the Virgin, which Andrea del Sarto did a beautiful job of transposing into a wealthy Florentine home; popular tradition holds that the woman in the centre was his wife, Lucrezia del Fede, though he only married her several years later.
The man pointing with the foreshortened arm is his self-portrait. To the left inside church is an astonishingly ornate tabernacle, ordered in the 1450s by Piero De'Medici to house a 13th century Annunciation painted, according to legend, by a monk, Fra Bartolomeo, who just couldn't get The Virgin's head right. He fell asleep trying and an angel took the brush did it for him.
Word of the miracle spread rapidly, and there are several copies of the fresco, both in Florence (in Ognissanti, for example), and as far away as Milan. People make pilgrimages to it and devout Florentine brides leave their bouquets of flowers on the altar.
Most of the side chapels of the church contain nice, though not major works. The first and second chapels on the left side, however, have frescoes by Andrea del Castagno: The Savior with Saint Julian, which emerged when a painting that is now in the sacristy was taken down, and The Trinity, shown from what in 1454 was a truly revolutionary perspective.
Before leaving the church look at the presbytery behind the altar, a grandiose structure that was begun by Michelozzo, who was inspired by Brunelleschi's Rotonda di Santa Maria Degli Angeli, and finished by Manetti, with the advice of Leon Battista Alberti.
For any information:
Chiesa della SS. Annunziata
Piazza SS. Annunziata (055 266181).
Bus 6, 31, 32.
Open 7am-12.30pm, 4-6.30pm, Mon-Sun.