Relics in Florence

The body of St. Juliana Falconieri is preserved under a side altar in the Church of Santissima Annunziata. A leaflet available in the church states that the body is incorrupt, although a mask seems to have been applied to her face and hands.
The body of St. Antoninus, Dominican and Archbishop of Florence, is preserved under an altar in the Dominican church of San Marco. His body is remarkably well preserved, having never decayed or even discoloured in spite of the fact that the saint died in 1459. This church and its adjoining friary are also famous for the frescoes by Blessed Fra Angelico and his assistants (c.1438-45).
The habit worn by St Francis when he received the stigmata (1224) is preserved in the church of Ognisanti. The habit has been in this church for centuries in an urn under the main altar but it has now been put on permanent diplay in a side chapel. (Very dimly lit - the exposure for this shot was about two minutes!)
These relics are shown in two rooms and the crypt in the Medici Chapel attached to San Lorenzo. The Medici, who enjoyed periods in government in Florence from the fifteenth century onwards and who produced from among their number several cardinals and two Popes, were immensely wealthy patrons of the arts. Over the years they enriched S. Lorenzo with relics of numerous saints contained in about 100 superb reliquaries of gold, silver, carved rock crystal and other precious materials. Originally housed in the main basilica, they had not been seen by the public for many years and were moved here in 1945 - unfortunately however the
Medici Chapel is effectively a museum as there is a charge for entry and no services take place there. It is not uncommon for churches to place reliquaries (with relics) and other sacred objects in museums, illustrating the tension that arises when reliquaries are both objects of
devotion and objects of historical and artistic interest. The current arrangement was meant to be temporary( - in 1945...). The catalogue of the reliquaries comments: "Let us hope that one day this experiment will become a functional, better thought out global project... This project should respect the needs of worship, so the Crypt and the Medicean Chapels would, at times, once again be places where sacred ceremonies take place." ('Treasures from San Lorenzo, the Medici Chapels' by Licia Bertani and Elizabetta Nardinocchi, Arnaud, ISBN 88-8015-023-5)

Pictures & text courtesy of Matthew Duckett.

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last edited August 25, 1998