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Places of worship

Basilica of the Madonna dell'Umiltà in Pistoia

Long-term building work from a miraculous image of the Madonna to inspiration by Michelangelo

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Via della Madonna
The basilica of the Madonna dell'Umiltà in Pistoia was founded in 1495 with a project by Giuliano da Sangallo, who was given the task of constructing a building more adapt to the miraculous image of the Madonna frescoed on a wall of the old church of Santa Maria Forisportam. Work proceeded rather quickly under the direction of Ventura Vitoni until 1513: at this point the church already had completed the vestibule and the octagon up to the first order of the chapels. From then and to Vitoni’s death the construction of the building shows signs of stalling, finally stopping at the second order of the tribune.  Only from 1561 did the works start again and were finished under the direction of the granducal architect Giorgio Vasari for the direct interest, also economic, of Cosimo I who, from 1567, arranged for the Ospedale del Ceppo and the Sapienza of Pistoia to shoulder the costs for finishing the work.

As soon as the lantern was finished the building started to show signs of sagging, so much so that in 1575, one year after Vasari’s death, Bartolomeo Ammannati (Settignano 1511 - Florence 1592) had to intervene for the consolidation of the dome. He worked also on the internal completion of the basilica that in 1576 was almost finished; in 1579, under his direction the fresco with the Madonna dell’Umiltà was moved. Starting in the 1580s the decoration of the chapels started under the patronage of the most important Pistoia families, first among them the Rospigliosi.

The façade is in irregular stone lines with a double-sloping roof, and is decorated only with the doorway from the 1550s from Paris. The two pilasters with niches, flanking the doorway are all that remains of a 17th century project of the façade that was never completed. The model to which the architect aspired was obviously the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, but in the interpretation that Michelangelo gave it in the Basilica of St. Peter. In the planning of the tribune Sangallo looked at the Florentine Baptistery from which he reproduced, other than the octagonal form, the scarsell and the women’s gallery that runs behind the twin lancet windows. Vasari’s attic, on the other hand, shows clear Michelangelo inspiration for the anti-conformist character of the architecture.

The sacred image of the Madonna of the high altar is of Pietro Tacca, disciple of Giambologna. The legend tells that in 1790, during the battle between the factions of Panciatichi and Cancellieri, this painting blooded, sign of the suffering of the Virgin Mary for the civil wars of the inhabitants of Pistoia. This church also keeps a precious organ manufactured by Cesare Romani in 1581, now under repair. It's placed in the choir under the Vasari dome and it's 2 metres high and has 33 pipes.

Source: Pistoia- Pistoia Montains Tourist Information Office
History, nature and food in the shade of the Apennines
A captivating Roman city, Pistoia is a place that wows art lovers and tourists in search of centuries-old traditions. Poets and writers have always praised its charms, calling it the "city of enchanted stone" and the "city of wide streets and beautiful churches". ...