The Basilica of Santissima Annunziata is the main shrine to Mary in Florence. The church appears to symbolise Roman Baroque due to its fine décor which is rooted in Tuscan religious tradition. Over central arc of the external portico of the basilica there are traces of frescoes, painted between 1513 and 1514 by Pontormo, while the central door is covered by a mosaic of the Annunciation by Davide Ghirlandaio (1509). From the portico there is access to a small hall known as the “cloister of the Voti”. It was started in 1447 based on the designs of Michelozzo and it is embellished with Corinthian columns.
Inside – marked out for its marble, stucco and gilding – there is a remarkable window with a golden grate, this is the window of the Princes, from which the family of the Grand Duke, in Palazzo della Crocetta, could participate in the liturgical events taking place in the Chapel of the Madonna in private.
It is said that there was an altar with a venerated image of Maria Santissima Annunziata in the church after 1341: the documents only talk about offers, lamps and votive offerings. “There is no art by brushes, so the face of the Virgin was made of what was truly divine,” said Michelangelo Buonarroti. So much devotion created a need for modernization and restoration works. In 1447, the Servi di Maria monks, with the help of Piero di Cosimo di Medici, decided to erect the current temple, completed in 1448 based on the designs of Michelozzo. The ceiling of the chapel, marble with gilding and enamel, is believed to come from Luca della Robbia’s studio.
Piero de’ Medici and his successors never claimed the ownership rights to the chapel of the Santissima Annunziata. Piero de' Cosimo had the space on the right of the niche made into an oratory for himself and the Medici family, with the work ending in 1463.
The large Armadio degli Argenti, kept on the main wall, is enclosed by a panel painted with stories of the life of Christ by Fra Angelico (1453), Baldovinetti, and by students of Angelico (the different parts of the panel are now in the San Marco Museum). Piero de’ Medici had a small organ, still visible in the church today, built next to the choir. The instrument, the work of Matteo di Paola from Prato, is no longer there; in its place there is an organ built by Michelangelo Paoli in 1842. In the space of the Armadio degli Argenti there is now a collection of votive offerings framing Christ the Saviour by Andrea del Sarto(1515).