The monastic complex was built between 1323 and 1328 on the order of Cardinal Niccolo’ da Prato to serve as a monastery for Dominican nuns. Throughout the centuries, the various buildings underwent many transformations and the complex was progressively expanded. Furthermore, at the end of the 18th century Grand Duke Leopoldo turned the monastery into a conservatory, that is to say a Catholic school for girls.
Nowadays the complex hosts schools at different levels of education, from early childhood education to secondary school and the Fondazione Conservatorio San Niccolò di Prato organizes guided visits upon request.
Here are a few hints about what to expect. Visitors enter the church through an interesting 14th century door. The interior boasts a beautiful main altar in colored marble which features an Assumption by Alessandro Gherardini and a Renaissance tabernacle by Francesco Ferrucci. There are several frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries. The sacristy houses an elaborate lavabo from the della Robbia school and a 15th century wooden crucifix. The monastery’s refractory houses frescoes by Tommaso di Pietro, a cloister from the 15th century, the 1500s Sala del Capitolo and the Cappella della Spina.
The Orto di Gosto boasts the Scala Santa, one of the few examples in Italy modelled after Saint John in Lateran in Rome—a structure formed by a chapel accessible by a frontal staircase.