Pope Benedict declared 2012 and 2013 the year of faith and to celebrate the Florence diocese has organized a series of walking itineraries exploring faith and art in Florence that are interesting enough for both Christians and non Christian alikes. Four major itineraries have been organized throughout the historic center of Florence allowing pilgrims to explore the most import places of art throughout the city. The director of the Museo del OPA, Monsignor Timothy Verdon, told us more about them.
“During the year of faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI, the Opera del Duomo, the cathedral foundation in Florence, has produced a book, of which I am the author, which allows Florentines and visitors to Florence to visit the city in the perspective of the faith. Most of the buildings most of the great works of art really grew out of the experience of Christian faith that the people of Florence have lived for 2,000 years. And so this is a way of discovering and rediscovering works of art in the optic of their creation. Why were they made, why were they made in this way? What were the elements of Christian faith that brought patrons to commission artists to create works in the way that we see them which as they say in Florence unique masterpieces.”
“These walks through the city, that’s really what they are, are introduced in the book first with a short essay on the relationship between Florence and its churches. The identity of Florentines in the past, at least, was very closely identified with the church that they frequented. To grasp the way Florentines though about the city and themselves, and the churches that they frequented is the first step. Then there is an extended visit to piazza del Duomo; the baptistery, the cathedral, the bell tower, the cathedral museum; which obviously is the epicenter of this extraordinary creativity that the Christian faith generated, here the biggest works, and in many respects also the most important works, were created. Florence worked on the building of this piazza for half a millennium, 500 years from the beginning of the baptistery around 1059 to the completion of the decoration of the cathedral in the late 16th century. Secondly is a close look at some of the most intensely religious works that Florentine artists produced which are a series of crucifixes, the most famous ones are the ones that were shown in the baptistery together in a moment of solemn religious contemplation.”
“Then is a chapter one of the most beautiful aspects of Florentine Christianity the way in which monasteries and convents in Florence in the dining halls, the refectory, there is often a painted version of Christ’s last supper, the monks the fryers as they took their meals wanted to see themselves literally as Christ’s disciples wanted to think of him as being genuinely in their mist they wanted to put themselves before the decision of whether to be faithful or whether to betray Christ as Judaist had done. This really is a unique page in the history of Florentine art. This insistence of the last supper right in the place where the most committed Christians, monk, nuns, friars, had their meals. Then there is a chapter on Marian Florentine art which is a very basic subject, obviously, the city is dedicated to Mary, she’s probably the most frequent subject and she’s treated by Florentine artists in a variety of ways such as you find in few other Christian cities of the past.”
“Then a very a meaningful chapter, which invites people to revisit the extraordinary network of hospitals, orphanages, of confraternities dedicated to assisting the poor and the needy for which this city was famous. The Florentines took justifiable pride in the fact that they were able to organize the charity that their Christian faith commanded in a rational way.”
“The last chapter proper is on Florence’s unique religious painter Fra Angelico who dedicated his whole life to depicting the stories of Christ, Mary and the saints, he’s one of the very few artists in the Western Church for you can use the term that ‘eastern Christianity uses for religious paints an iconographer’, so that entire walk or itinerary is in the museum of San Marco; and then there is a fascinating invitation to open ones eyes and rediscover the tabernacles that adorn street corners, buildings in the lower levels. Florentines of the past really wanted to see Christ, Mary and the saints all around them and their day was punctuated as they move trough the city with these images of the characters whose lives they wanted to imitate, of those in who they believed.”
There is a special kit that can be picked up for free from the OPA-Centro Arte e Cultura, in piazza San Giovanni 7. The kit contains the pilgrim’s card it grants reduced entrance fees to museums and the itineraries as well as other free stuff and discounts. The kit also contains maps and short easy to follow descriptions on each itinerary in Italian. If your looking for something more high-tech however then wait for the video guide and the apps of them that will soon be released. The itineraries culminate inside the Duomo at a special altar faith depicting Florence’s major saints made in Giotto’s workshop.