AN easy and beautiful carriage road leads from the Porta San Nicolo to the church and cemetery of San Miniato. It may also be reached from the Porta Romana, but the steep path, the ` Via Crucis,’ from the Porta San Miniato, bordered by cypress trees, and having at intervals the emblem of the Cross, is the most picturesque. For many years this was the only way leading to the sacred spot above, to which Dante alludes as follows
‘As on the right hand, to ascend the mount Where, seated in the church that lordeth it O’er the well-guided above Rubaconte, The bold abruptness of the ascent is broken By stairways that were made there in the age When still were safe the ledger and the stave.’
See Longfellow’s Translation.
A carriage road has also been constructed skirting the steep path, by sharp windings, and beside this is a tabernacle containing a painting, executed in 1660 by Cosimo Ulivelli, of no great artistic merit, but it records an event which is said to have happened on this spot in the eleventh century.
Giovanni Gualberto belonged to a noble Florentine family. While yet a youth, his only brother, Ugo, to whom he was fondly attached, was murdered in a brawl, and Giovanni made a solemn vow that he would avenge his death. One Good Friday, as Giovanni was returning to his father’s dwelling outside the walls of Florence, by the solitary path between the City Gate and the Church of San Miniato, he found himself face to face with his brother’s murderer. His first impulse was to despatch him with his sword on the spot ; but the wretched man, falling at his feet and extending his arms in the form of the cross, entreated Gualberto to spare his life. Remembering how Christ on the cross had prayed for His murderers, he stayed his uplifted sword, and raising the suppliant from the ground, he embraced him in token of forgiveness ; then, turning up the path to pay his devotions at the shrine of San Miniato, he fell on his knees before the crucifix, when the -Image of our Saviour bowed His head in approval of the mercy he had shown his enemy. From that moment Gualberto resolved to quit the world, and to enter the Benedictine Con-vent already established at San Miniato, which he afterwards quitted for the sake of greater solitude, and retired to Vallombrosa, among the fastnesses of the Apennines. He was followed by several of the brethren, and founded the Vallombrosian branch of the Benedictine order. Immediately at the head of this steep path a flight of steps leads from the modern and beautiful Viale dei Colli to the Church of San Salvador al Monte, which is attached to a Convent of Franciscan Friars. This church was built towards the end of the fifteenth century, out of a sum of money bequeathed for the purpose to the Guild of Foreign Wool Merchants, by Castello Quaratesi, a wealthy Florentine citizen. He had been desirous to contribute towards the erection of a façade to Santa Croce, but had altered his intention, since the Franciscans of that church had refused the condition appended, that his family arms should be inserted on the wall, because they maintained that Santa Croce owed its origin and growth to the people and the commune of Florence, and not to the liberality of a single individual. Quaratesi therefore withdrew his offer of aid to Santa Croce, and instead, bequeathed his money to erect the Church of San Salvador, on the hill of San Miniato. It was built after a design of Simone Pollajolo il Cronaca (1457-1508), and its architectural proportions are so simple, yet so perfect, needing no ornamentation to add to its charm, that Michael Angelo is said to have named this church, La bella Villanella (` the beautiful peasant girl ‘).
There are two painted glass windows, which date from the end of the fourteenth century, and are in excellent condition. The late Mr. Charles Heath Wilson, who devoted much attention to the coloured glass of Florence, discovered that many of the painted glass windows in the city have been repaired by means of painting in oils upon the glass. Genuine old painted glass was burnt in by oxide of copper, and at a later period by oxide of iron. The old glass of Italy is of far finer quality, and the designs are very superior, to glass made contemporaneously north of the Alps. The glass in the windows of San Salvador is perfectly genuine work ; the most beautiful one is that in the nave, near the western entrance, representing St. John the Evangelist ; and the window in the choir, St. Francis in the act of receiving the Stigmata. The designs, Mr. Heath Wilson observes, are in the style of Luca and Andrea della Robbia.
Many of the citizens of Florence are interred within this church, but none of the monuments are remarkable for beauty.
Beyond a group of cypresses of unusual size and a few steps higher on the hill, are the fortifications of San Miniato. This eminence has always been regarded as a post of great importance for the protection of the city from external attack, and some of the tyrants of Florence discovered its advantages in enabling them to command the town. During the siege of 1529 and 1530, cannon was planted on a platform on the southern side of the height, now laid out as a cemetery, which faces the opposite hill of Giramonte, where the Prince of Orange was encamped. Michael Angelo was Commissary-General for the Florentines, and in cooperation with Francesco di San Gallo planned and partially constructed bastions and curtains, some of which extended from this hill to the two gates of San Nicolb and San Miniato. He would have done more for this important post had not the traitor Malatesta’s intentional neglect of his advice, supported by the Council of Ten, who refused to believe in treachery, driven this great man to resign his appointment. Most of what remains of the fortifications were those erected at a later period by the Grand Duke Cosimo I. ; namely, two faces of bastions and two flanks connected by a curtain. There was probably once a ditch, counterscarp, and demi-lune, to cover the curtain, but all this has disappeared. Cosimo I. proposed to make San Miniato a permanent fortress to be filled with Spanish soldiers, in order to control the city of Florence, and he employed eminent military engineers for the work. The bastions so closely resemble those at the Fortezza del Basso near the Porta Prato in Florence, which were constructed by Antonio di San Gallo, that they are attributed to the same engineer. The fortifications on San Miniato were much admired by the celebrated French engineer, Vauban, who is said to have copied them in some of his military works. The northern entrance to the fort, called the Medici Gate, is decorated with the arms of the Medicean family, executed by Tribolo in the time of Cosimo I. A kind of barn on the left hand is now used for farm purposes, but was formerly assigned to the Confraternity of the Virgin Mary. There are the remains of a wall painting with the date 1576. Two angels raise a canopy, beneath which, no doubt, once existed the image of some saint.
A second gate, a few steps beyond, admits to the terrace in front of the Basilica. In an out-house to the left of the entrance are some remains of fresco painting, though so much faded as to be in parts hardly recognisable. One of the subjects is that of the Eternal holding the Book of Life, on which are written Alpha and Omega. Another subject is the Ascension of our Lord. This last is in better preservation, and its composition is believed to have suggested to Raffaelle the celebrated picture of the Transfiguration at Rome.
The broad terrace in front of the Basilica commands a splendid view over the city of Florence and the whole valley of the Arno. This hill was covered in ancient times with the forest of Elisboti, or the Val di Botte, and afforded a shelter for some of the first followers of Christianity, who secretly built a small oratory on this spot, which they dedicated to St. Peter. Among these early Christians was an Armenian prince, named Miniato, who served in the army of the Roman Emperor Decius, towards’ the middle of the third century ; but having been accused of belonging to the new faith, he was thrown to the beasts in the amphitheatre outside the walls of Florence, where the Emperor had his camp. According to the legend, the fervency of Miniato’s prayers on that occasion preserved him from death, but he was afterwards put to the torture, and finally, A.D. 254, beheaded, with several of his companions, at the weir of the Arno, not far from the Porta Santa Croce. San Miniato is said to have forded the river, and to have ascended the hill of San Miniato, holding his head in his hand, and was interred on the site of the present church. The oratory over the relics of the saint was enlarged by Bishop Zenobius about the fifth century, and so greatly was he venerated, that in the course of time thirty-six churches were built and dedicated to his memory in Tuscany, and his name associated with that of St. John the Baptist as patron saint of Florence.
A monastery, beneficed by Desiderius, the last king of the Lombards, A.D. 757, was attached to the oratory; it was after-wards endowed with more land by Charlemagne, as he stated, ‘for the sake of God, of San Miniato, and for the repose of the soul of Hildegard his wife,’ a noble lady of a Suabian house, whom he had married, after divorcing Hermingard, the daughter of Desiderius. The authentic history of San Miniato begins A.D. 1013, when Bishop Hildebrand, of Florence, perceiving the neglect and decay into which the oratory had fallen, ordered the erection of the Basilica, and that it should be constructed with all possible splendour for the preservation of the relics of the martyred saint, in accordance with a decree of the Emperor Henry II. and of his Empress, Cunigunda, who had permitted the Bishop to employ some of the ruins of ancient Fiesole for this object.
The first monks who inhabited the convent belonged to the Black Benedictines, who were succeeded by the Cluny branch of the Order. Gregory XI. placed them under the episcopal jurisdiction of Florence. In 1373 these monks were succeeded by the Olivetani, who remained here till 1553, when they were expelled by the Grand Duke Cosimo I., to make room for his Spanish soldiers. The bishops of Florence for many years held the privilege of appointing the abbots, and in 1200, when the monks usurped this right, they were excommunicated by Bishop Pietro.
The attractive situation of San Miniato induced Bishop Andrea de’ Mozzi, in the year 1294, to build at his own ex-pense the palace with its machicolated walls beside the church ; he intended it for an agreeable country residence for himself and future Florentine bishops, whenever they desired to retire from the city. But this bishop bore so infamous a character, that at the request of his own brother, who was ashamed of his misdeeds, Pope Nicholas III. transferred him to the bishopric of Vicenza, a year after he had finished his palace on the hill of San Miniato. Dante, who was his contemporary, alludes to him in the following lines designating Pope Nicholas as servo de’ servi, because the popes in their bulls were in the habit of styling themselves servus servorum dei ; and the Arno and Bacchiglione being the rivers on which Florence and Vicenza are built.
Additions were made to the Palace of San Miniato by another prelate, Bishop Antonio d’Orso, in 132o, and his coatof-arms, a bear and chess-board squares, may still be seen on its outer walls. Bishop Orso has a martial reputation, for he headed his clergy in the defence of the Gate of Santa Croce, when it was attacked by the Ghibelline exiles, led by the Emperor Henry VII. His name appears in both Boccaccio’s and Sacchetti’s writings, and his patriotic virtue and episcopal zeal were rewarded by the monument in the southern aisle of Santa Maria del Fiore, by Camoino of Sienna.
A flight of steps leads to a platform paved with marble tombstones, and to the entrance of the Basilica. The beautiful façade is encrusted with dark green and white marbles, and is divided transversely into three compartments. The lowest contains three doors and two windows, filled in with alabaster. The door to the left is called the ‘Porta Santa,’ because the bones of San Miniato and his companions were first discovered on this spot, a fact recorded on an inscription within the church. Five arches rest on columns of green Prato marble, with composite capitals ; the compartment above has four channelled pilasters, and a small square central window between pillars which rest on lions’ heads, symbolical of the majesty and vigilance of the clergy. Doves, in mosaic deco-rate the tympanum above this window, an ornament very usual in sacred edifices of the four first centuries of our era. Two breastworks have projecting human heads at their junction with the central building, a peculiar effigy, much employed in the eighth and ninth centuries. Over the window is a mosaic of the Virgin, and San Miniato holding a crown in his hand, standing on either side of a seated figure of our Saviour. This mosaic has been renewed more than once. There are various devices in inlaid green and white marble over the whole façade ; griffons, wheels, triangles, candelabra, &c., and the roof is supported at either extremity by small quaint figures, whose arms are raised to their heads. An inlaid green marble cross, with three candelabra on either side, are within the apex of the roof, and above all is a bronze eagle clutching the bale of wool, the badge of the Guild of Foreign Wool, or Calimala, by whom this façade was erected in 1451.
The interior of the church is a very perfect type of the ancient Latin Basilica. It is divided into three parts, which may be designated as the middle, the upper, and the lower church.
The middle church corresponds to what was called the auditorium of the primitive Christian church ; it occupies two-thirds of the entire length, and comprehends the nave and side aisles. The other divisions, the presbyterium with the tribune, and the crypt, below, occupy the remainder of the space.
Three lofty arches, including that at the further extremity above the tribune, are thrown over the nave and choir. They spring from compound piers of grey Prato marble. The other columns of the Basilica, with the exception of the small ones in the crypt, are of stone, covered with coloured stucco in imitation of yellow Oriental marble. Nine arches are on either side, dividing the aisles from the central nave and tribune. The capitals of the columns are of stone, and vary, because taken from buildings of different periods. Narrow small windows above the nave, in the so-called clerestory of Gothic churches, were formerly closed by opaque slabs of marble, but have been latterly filled in with glass, and the walls above the arches of the nave were originally encrusted with green and white marble.
The interior construction of the roof is very old, dating from 1332, and consists of coloured wooden beams, which have been recently renewed.
The pavement of the nave is formed of the kind of mosaic called Opus tesselatum and is divided into eight compartments, with a variety of designs ; some are lions rampant, others doves, and all are emblematical. One square has the signs of the Zodiac, resembling part of the pavement in the Baptistery of Florence.
A Latin inscription not far from the entrance states that this pavement was placed by a certain abbot of the name of Josephus in 1207.
The aisles were formerly covered with frescoes, of which a few fragments remain. A portion of those to the right of the entrance are in tolerable preservation, especially a Madonna and Infant Christ, with saints on either side ; St. John the Baptist, St. Mark, and St. Francis on her right ; St. John the Evangelist, St. James, and St. Anthony on her left. The Baptist rests his head on the arm of the Madonna’s throne, and the Infant Christ leans forward with outstretched arms to greet him. The date of the fresco, 1496, and the name of the painter, Paolo di Stefano, are inscribed below. Beyond this fresco are several figures of male and female saints, possibly by the same painter. St. Anthony, on a larger scale than the other saints, is standing with his book and staff. On one side is a young saint, probably St. James, who holds a sword and a book ; on the other side is a Bishop, St. Nicholas, one hand holding the balls ; a small kneeling figure, the Donator of the fresco, is in a Florentine costume of the fifteenth century. On a pilaster near, is a Magdalene, with the date 1407. Beyond are three more saints, and a figure of Christ standing beside the cross, with the instruments of the Passion on the wall behind. The left aisle contains two frescoes, which have been transported hither from the adjoining convent. One is a Crucifixion, attributed to Orcagna ; the other, in the form of a lunette, contains half-length figures of the Virgin and Child in a Mandorla, with St. Anthony and St. Lawrence on her right hand ; the Magdalene and another saint on her left. This fresco is attributed to Buffalmacco. There is also a fragment of a fresco on the wall, of Santa Catarina with her wheel, and the Baptist.
Between the two flights of marble steps leading up to the choir and tribune is the altar and chapel of the Holy Crucifix, which was built at the expense of Piero de’ Medici, il Gottoso, the son of Cosimo, Pater Patrie, and the father of the celebrated Lorenzo the Magnificent.
It was constructed after a design of Michelozzo Michelozzi to receive the miraculous crucifix, whose image bowed its head to Giovanni Gualberto in approval of his generosity when he spared his brother’s murderer. This image stood in the crypt of the church until the year 1488, when it was placed here ; but in 1678 it was transferred to a chapel in the church of S. Trinità of Florence, where it was claimed by the monks of the Vallombrosian Order who officiated in that church, and another crucifix was then substituted in this chapel. The altar is protected by an iron grating of much elegance. It has a canopy of marble with cassetones, and the badge of the Calimala is introduced into the decorations, as well as the arms of Piero dei Medici. The altar is composed of white marble with a slab of jasper, beneath which is a gradino with miniature paintings of the Virgin and Child and the Twelve Apostles. The picture above the table is painted by one of the school of Giotto. There are about eight small compartments, each of which contains a different episode in the life of our Saviour. The Annuncia tion, the Ascension, the Scourging, the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Buffeting, the Betrayal by Judas, the Last Supper, and the Washing of the Feet. The two standing figures on either side are San Giovanni Gualberto in his black Benedictine habit, and San Miniato. Leo X. bestowed liberal donations on this chapel.
The marble steps on either side lead to the choir, which is separated from the tribune by a low screen of inlaid marbles of various colours, as well as decorations in relief. The pulpit to the right, next the screen, and standing on two small pillars with composite capitals, is of the same inlaid and raised marble work ; it has a lectern attached to it, resting on the outspread wings of an eagle, and the whole is supported by. a grotesque figure on a lioneffigies of the Evangelists. This pulpit was executed by an artist of the name of Alberti, mentioned by Francesco Sacchetti in his ‘ Tales,’ who appears to have worked in this Basilica towards the end of the fourteenth century, together with Andrea Orcagna and Taddeo Gaddi. This kind of marble mosaic and relief resembles the exquisite inlaid work of Agra in India.
The intarsia woodwork of the choir has designs of crowns, palms, and the eagle of the Guild of Foreign Wool, or Calimala.
The high altar in the tribune is composed of green and white marble, and has a crucifix executed by Andrea della Robbia. The five narrow windows to the back of the altar are. filled up with thin transparent slabs of alabaster, which when illuminated by the morning sun produce a very rich effect. Above, is a truly grand mosaic : Christ sits in majesty, His right arm raised, and the fingers extended in the act of benediction ;. in His left hand he holds the Book of LifeAlpha and Omega are inscribed on either side, and the emblems of the Evangelists with their names in Roman letters. On His right hand stands the Virgin, with a palm tree beside her, signifying Judeathe birthplace of the Son of God ; on His left, San Miniato, in royal garments, is offering his crown to the Saviour ; his name is inscribed in semi-Gothic letters. Beside him is the Tree of Knowledge ; around are a variety of birds, and conspicuous among these is the pelican, symbolical of the sacrifice. In the arch above the tribune is a frieze with the dove, and adorned with the images of saints, &c. Beneath this mosaic is the date 1297 in Roman numerals, probably to mark its restoration, since the black habit of the Benedictines, and the omission of the white habit worn by the Cluny branch of the Order, which was introduced in A.D. 910, as well as the omission of San Giovanni Gualberto, who in later works is always associated with San Miniato, indicate that the mosaic was probably executed be-fore the year 1000, and may be the work of Mino, Apollonio, or Tafi. It is at all events a singularly fine and imposing example of this branch of art, and harmonises with the architecture of the church.
The altar to the right of the apse contains a painting of San Giovanni Gualberto in a Benedictine habit, and is possibly the work of Giovanni da Milano (c. 1300-1379), the pupil of Taddeo Gaddi, as it is stated in a document that this painter was employed in the church of San Miniato. The altar to the left of the apse has a later and very poor painting, but to the right of this picture is a small but beautiful fragment of a fresco with a figure of our Saviour full of feeling and expression. It probably belonged to a group which has been destroyed. Not far from this is a fresco which, like those in the aisle below, has been transported here from the convent. It represents our Lord leaning against His Mother with His arm around her neck, as if He were sinking from exhaustion. It is most tenderly and beautifully rendered, and is probably of later date than the other frescoes here. Near the door of the sacristy is a painting or panel of San Miniato attributed to Agnolo Gaddi. The small paintings round the central figure represent episodes in the life of the saint. Agnolo Gaddi is stated to have executed a picture for this church between 1394 and 1395, and there is remarkable similarity in the composition with another by the same master in the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, where a figure of San Marco is almost identical with that of San Miniato here.
The sacristy of San Miniato is a square vaulted chamber, whose walls are covered with frescoes by Spinello Aretino (1333?-1410). Benedetto di Nerozzo degli Alberti, a prudent and wealthy merchant of the fourteenth century, had been exiled from Florence at the instigation of his envious fellow citizens ; he died at Rhodes about 1387, but retained so warm an attachment to his native city, that when he made his testa-ment in Genoa ten years before his death, he charged his heirs; to adorn the sacristy of San Miniato with paintings, and to defray the expense from his patrimony. The Abbot of the Convent happened at that period to be a certain Fra Jacopo, a native of Arezzo ; and he therefore selected his fellow-countryman Spinello to execute the work. Spinello Aretino, was in fact the son of a Florentine Ghibelline, born in Arezzo during his father’s exile from Florence. He was devoted to painting from his childhood, and had derived much benefit from meeting with Jacopo da Casentino in Arezzo, and before he had reached his twentieth year he had excelled his master. One of the Acciajoli family had engaged him to paint some frescoes for a church of San Niccolb in Florence, most of which were unhappily destroyed by fire, but those that remained were at a later period incorporated with the Farmacia of Santa Maria Novella, where they may still be seen.
The frescoes of the sacristy of San Miniato, which were painted only a few years later, are still in wonderful preservation. They represent scenes in the life of St. Benedict, and are very quaint and admirable. His figures are so correct that contemporary painters used them as a standard of proportion. Spinello is also remarkable for the grace and finish of his work.
The four Evangelists on the vaulted ceiling with their symbols on a blue ground, which are, however, retouched, have been attributed to Niccolo di Piero Gerini (- -1385), as well as Spinello. The Fetters of the Donator, Ser Benedetto di Nerozzo degli Alberti, as well as the Eagle, the badge of the Guild of Foreign Wool, are introduced as decorations into the woodwork round the chamber.
The Benedictines in the frescoes are represented in the white habit of their Order, which was introduced by the reformed monks of Cluny under San Bruno, A.D. 910, and was later adopted in Italy.
St. Benedict was the son of rich parents, who lived at Norcia, in the Papal Dominions, east of Spoleto. They took him to Rome while still a boy for his education. South wall, facing the entrance :Perceiving the vices of the world, he quits his father’s home and starts, with his nurse, for a desert region. Spending a night at the house of a friend, he miraculously repairs a wooden trencher which his nurse had borrowed, and which had been accidentally broken. West wall :Arrived at Subiaco, about thirty miles east of Rome, he adopts the monastic habit and, notwithstanding many obstacles offered by the devil, he retires to a cave, and is fed by a monk, named Romanus. On Easter Day he receives food from a presbyter, who had prepared a meal for his own consumption, but had been apprised by a vision that St. Benedict was starving amidst the mountains. North wall: The devil appears to St. Benedict in the form of a raven, but by making the sign of the cross he exorcises the demon, and afterwards mortifies his body by rolling himself on a bed of thorns. The monks of a neighbouring convent requested St. Benedict to become their abbot, but when they found the rules he imposed upon them too severe, they presented him with a cup of poison ; but St. Benedict making the sign of the cross as he stretches out his hand to receive it, the cup breaks in pieces. East wall :St. Benedict departs from the convent, and Maurus and Placidus, the sons of a Roman nobleman, become his disciples. North wall :While dwelling amidst the mountains St. Benedict marks with three stones the spots where there would be sufficient water for the supply of three convents. A labourer having allowed the iron of his bill-hook to fall into a lake, St, Benedict, by his supernatural power, brings the iron to the surface. In this fresco Spinello is said to have painted his own portrait as the labourer, standing with the handle of his bill-hook in his hand. Maurus, the disciple of St. Benedict, by his master’s command, walks on the surface of the water to save Placidus from drowning. East wall :While building the Convent of Monte Cassino, the monks were prevented from moving a big stone because the devil had chosen to sit upon it. St. Benedict makes the sign of the cross, and compels the devil to depart, and the stone is immediately raised. West wall :The devil causes a wall to fall down and crush a young monk, whom St. Benedict restores to life. The devil, in the form of an ape, dissuades one of the monks from joining in the prayers with the rest of the community, and St. Benedict, in order to liberate the monk from his infatuation, gives him a blow. East wall :Totila, King of the Goths, sends his armour-bearer, disguised in royal robes and attributes, to prove whether St. Benedict was really endowed with supernatural discernment, and the saint at once unmasks the imposture. South wall :-Totila goes in person to prostrate himself at the feet of St. Benedict. On the death of the saint a vision appears to his disciple Maurus, of a pathway made of silk, and illuminated with swinging lamps, which stretches from the cell of St. Benedict to heaven, and on which the spirit of the saint ascends to paradise. This compartment, which concludes the series, is considered the best.
A wooden tabernacle in this sacristy encloses a canvas picture of San Miniato. The doors of the tabernacle are painted on their inner surface with a Madonna and an Angel of the Annunciation. Outside are San Giovanni Gualberto in a white Benedictine habit, holding the cross, and San Miniato with the palm and pomegranate, symbols of his martyrdom and of his wide-spread influence. An inscription in Gothic characters beneath, states that the saint was a son of the King of Armenia. This tabernacle is attributed to a certain Antonio di Francesco, and was painted about 1406 or 1407. It was brought hither from the crypt in 1707, where it is supposed to have stood near the remains of the saint until 1553, when the precious relics were temporarily removed to the Church of San Michele Bertaldi, now San Gaetano, because Cosimo I. had filled San Miniato with his soldiers.
The crypt, or confessional, of San Miniato is several steps lower than the nave. Thirty-eight slender columns of different styles, some fluted and some perfectly smooth, support the vaulted roof, and the lower portions of several of the grand circular columns also appear, which descend from the choir and tribune above. The high altar covering the relics of San Miniato and of his companions is enclosed by an iron railing of elegant workmanship, said to have been made by a Siennese artificer, Petruccio Betti : this is probably correct, since the ironwork of Sienna was famous in its day. Few traces remain of the Evangelists, Saints, and Fathers of the church on the vaulting above the altar, which are attributed to Taddeo Gaddi, and are said to have been executed in 1341, when Gaddi painted and gilded the capitals of the columns, some of which are Roman, and others of different periods and styles.
The pavement of the crypt is composed of monumental slabs, containing inscriptions recording the names of those interred beneath, some of which are of recent date.
Once more returning to the body of the church, the chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal is on the left side of the nave. A cardinal’s hat and his shield are sculptured above the entrance. This prelate was related to the Royal House of Portugal, and, as Archbishop of Lisbon, he was created Cardinal by Pope Calixtus III. in 1456, with the name of San Eustachio, when he was only twenty-six years of age. In 1459 he visited Florence on a diplomatic mission, when he fell ill and died, and was buried in this Basilica. Bishop Alonzo of Florence raised this beautiful chapel to his memory, a fitting tribute, if his character corresponded to the description of it by a Florentine writer, Vespasianus Bisticci, who writes as follows : ‘Cardinal Jacopo was of a most amiable nature, a pattern of humility, and an abundant fountain of good through God to the poor, discreet in providing for his servants, modest in ordering his household, an enemy of pomp and superfluity, keeping that middle way in everything which is the way of the blessed. He lived in the flesh as if he were free from it, rather the life of an angel than a man, and his death was holy as his life.’
The small square chapel has a vaulted roof, with fluted pilasters of the Corinthian order in the angles. The four lunettes beneath the vaulting, divided by narrow windows, have each paintings of two seated prophets, but they are much damaged. The roof is decorated with circular medallions, containing Robbia-ware figures of angels. The pavement is composed of inlaid mosaic of porphyry, serpentine, and oriental granite. The monument to the cardinal to the right of the entrance is by Antonio di Matteo Gamberelli, called Il Rossellino (1427-1479?). The dead man lies as if asleep on his bier, with a sweet and placid countenance. Two seated children support the bier at either end. Anangel above holds a crown of glory. Still higher are other angels, and a circular alto-rilievo of the Madonna and Child. Shields with coats of arms are on a cornice above. It is one of Rossellino’s best works. Opposite this monument is a marble episcopal throne, with an inscription on the wall, recording a Papal Indulgence, granted by Paul II. to pilgrims visiting this shrine. Above the throne is a very sweet fresco of an Annunciation, attributed to Piero del Pollajolo (1443-1496). The chapel is altogether most complete in the richness and variety of its decorations.
To the right of the principal entrance of San Miniato, before issuing from the central door, is the monument of the Tuscan poet, Giuseppe Giusti, who died in 1850 at the early age of thirty-nine. It is by the sculptor Reginaldo Bilancini. Giusti’s poetical and prose works are remarkable for elegance and for delicate satire, which he directed against the inertness of the Government at the period in which he lived. He was a good patriot, and much beloved by the excellent and revered Marchese Gino Capponi, beneath whose hospitable roof he spent the last months of his life, and breathed his last. His correspondence, in singularly pure Italian, has been published since his death.
The monument to the right of Giusti, is that of the painter, Giuseppe Bezzoli, whose works were much esteemed by his fellow townsmen.
The rugged walls of the Campanile or Bell-tower of San Miniato rises conspicuously above the church, and is seen from all parts of Florence. It was erected in 1518 by Baglione or Baccio d’ Agnolo (1462-1543), who also constructed the beautiful Campanile of Santo Spirito. The original Bell-tower of San Miniato fell down in 1499, and a smaller tower near the tribune of the church having also gone to ruin, this was raised chiefly at the expense of the monks ; but the fortifications having absorbed whatever sums could be raised, the Campanile was never completely finished. It is renowned for the elegance and beauty of its proportions. The broken and defective portion at the top was occasioned by the cannon balls of the troops of the Prince of Orange, stationed on the heights of Giramonte during the siege of 1529 and 1530. Fortunately the ingenuity of Michael Angelo Buonarroti, while Commissary-General of the Republic, who added a great bank of earth between the roof of the Basilica and the Campanile to the mattresses already placed against the tower by the engineer Giovanni Antonio del Lupo, preserved it from destruction, while sustaining repeated shocks for ten successive days ; until a great gun placed on the top of the tower compelled the enemy to direct his aim in another direction.