Church of San Francesco

Chiesa e Chiostro di San Francesco dai tetti (A. Matteucci)
Chiesa e Chiostro di San Francesco dai tetti (A. Matteucci)
FERDINANDUS MAGNUS DUX ETR.III AN. SAL. M.D.CIII: the façade bears the name of Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici, who commissioned the work, and the year of construction, but the history of this building began in 1233, with a first small oratory dedicated to the saint of Assisi. Starting from 1261, work began on the current church, which transformed it into one of the largest Franciscan monasteries in Italy. With large foundations of stone material from Monte Pisano supporting the mighty brick structure, this colossus almost 100 meters long is the work of architect Giovanni di Simone, the author of the Monumental Campo Santo in Piazza dei Miracoli and saviour of the Leaning Tower thanks to a project to correct the first inclination. His mastery was manifested in the construction of towers and the church bell tower is a beautiful example of his skills: suspended, resting only on two perimeter walls in which the architect inserted two corbels to support a well of concentric bricks lightened by arches. Its slender figure, marked by a cell opened by mullioned windows and a cuspidal roof, is visible from a great distance. The façade is in white marble and marks the end of the work of the first fourteenth-century intervention, interrupted due to the Pisan economic crisis after the plague and the Florentine conquest of the city. Inside, the perspective of the high walls is marked by large windows designed by Ignazio Pellegrini in 1757, and by the Gothic windows of the apse chapels, introduced by a large arch that divides the nave from the transept like a proscenium, revealing the marble dossal of the altar (c. 1370) made by Tommaso Pisano, son of the great Andrea.
History in a nutshell: built on a pre-existing church in 1261, its works continued until the 15th century, when the whole church was turned into a barrack and later became the Collegio della Sapienza (College of Wisdom), founded by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1543. It was the seat of the Inquisition court in 1575 and in 1787 was donated to the Augustinians until the Napoleonic desecration. In this period, the convent became a hospital, and later a depot for artillery wagons. Only in 1901 was it returned to the Franciscans and reopened for worship.
The chapels: from the left we find the chapel of the Martyrs with frescoes from the workshop of Agnolo Gaddi from the last decade of the fourteenth century; the second chapel is that of the Conception, where once the beautiful Majesty by Cimabue (1280) was kept (now in the Louvre); follows the chapel of Agostini della Seta, with frescoes by Francesco Neri da Volterra restored by Galileo Chini in 1901. Here the table of San Francesco by Giunta Pisano from 1255 was kept (now in the National Museum of San Matteo in Pisa); in the main chapel we find a cycle of frescoes attributed to Jacopo di Mino del Pellicciano from 1342 (vault), paintings by Galileo Chini and a band with St. Peter attributed to Taddeo Gaddi (bottom right); the chapel of SS. Sacramento preserved the table depicting San Francesco receiving the stigmata by Giotto from 1295-1300 (now in the Louvre, here we see a copy); follows the chapel of the Gherardesca with the beautiful triptych with Sant'Antonio by Ventura Salimbeni and Giovanni Stefano Marucelli ( Jesus); at the end, the chapel of the Fantini with the triptych of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Francesco Manetti (1908).
  • The sacristy (accessible from the left wing of the transept): it is introduced by a corridor with detached frescoes attributed to Giovanni da Milano. Inside, we find some sinopias coming from the chapter house of Niccolò di Pietro Gerini. The Sardi-Campiglia chapel is decorated with frescoes by Taddeo di Bartolo (1397) with Stories of the Virgin. The vaults with Evangelists and Doctors of the Church are attributed to Barnaba of Modena.
  • The large cloister: rebuilt in the fifteenth century, it preserves some tombstones, including that of Francesco da Buti, first commentator of the Divine Comedy. In the past was frescoed by Taddeo Gaddi with Franciscan stories.
  • Chapter room: decorated in 1392 with frescoes by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini portraying the Stories of the Passion.
Galileo's moon: the first altar on the left inside the church shows the large canvas of the Nativity by Ludovico Cardi (1602), nicknamed il Cigoli, friend and adviser of Galileo Galilei, called his lunaris nuncius. Observing the pale moon that almost hides behind the choir of angels, we note that, while maintaining a circular aspect, it is represented during one of its phases. It is from this detail that we understand that Cigoli was already aware of the first theories on the light reflected from the Earth on the Moon, as reported in Sidereus Nuncius by Galileo published only 8 years after the painting. The astronomical treatise was the result of Galilei’s experiments carried out in Padua and from the Campanile di San Marco in Venice, from which, thanks to the improvement of the telescope (Flemish invention), he was able to identify the roughness on the surface of the Moon. In addition to the Pisan painting, Cigoli paid homage to Galileo's discoveries when painting the dome of the Pauline Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, where at the foot of the Virgin there is an exact reproduction of the Galilean Moon.
The chapel of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca: inside the church, the second chapel of the right wing of the transept was owned by the della Gherardesca family and looking at the ground we can see the following inscription TUMBA COMITIS UGOLINI. In 2001, anthropologist Francesco Mallegni exhumed the remains of Ugolino and his family members buried here (even if they were originally in the cloister, where an epigraph still remains). A DNA analysis of the bones revealed five individuals from three generations of the same family. In addition, analyses of the ribs of the alleged skeleton of Ugolino revealed traces of magnesium, but not zinc, which would be evident if the Count had consumed meat in the weeks before his death. Another detail that definitively drops the accusations of cannibalism, is that Count Ugolino was a very old man for the time, therefore almost toothless when he was imprisoned. However, the accusations of high treason still remain. This same chapel was transformed, in the Fascist era, into the chapel of the Fallen and decorated in 1928 with monarchical and lictor symbols.
The glass windows: Near the left transept, in front of the apse chapels, at the top there is a large mullioned window (1929), painted by Francesco Mossmeyer in the style of the originals, which depicts the face of Benito Mussolini. Not quite a Franciscan model, is linked to the Fascist period. Both wings of the transept are decorated with 5 stained glass windows, painted on the original model by Francesco Mossmeyer in 1926, representing the stories of San Francesco. There are 7 apses, repainted between 1903 and 1930 by the atelier of Ulisse de Matteis and by Mossmeyer, but that of the main chapel was commissioned in 1341.
Via San francesco, 45
Recapito 335 6607657
Vicolo del Ruschi, 7
Via San Francesco, 69
Recapito 329 8770611
Via Renato Fucini, 4
Recapito 050 580647
P. A. D'Ancona, 13
Recapito 050 577568
050 S.R.L.
Via S. Francesco, 36
Recapito 050 543106
Via S. Andrea, 37
Recapito 050 970829
V. S. Lorenzo, 52
Recapito 050 564433
Recital - Il Vettore Paganiniano
Chiesa di San Francesco, Sala del Capitolo
Apertura delle mura medievali
mura medievali