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Le pievi di San Giovanni Valdarno

The churches of San Giovanni Valdarno

Monuments and places of worship characterise the town of San Giovanni Valdarno

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San Giovanni Valdarno
Church of San Lorenzo
This church has a compact and quite bare appearance from the outside. The exterior façade is made of arenaria sandstone up to the level of the simple portal, at which point it continues in laterizio brick. The interior of the church consists of a wide nave with a smaller side nave connected by four arches. The ceiling inside is cross-vaulted and on the back wall of the presbytery there is a polyptych by Giovanni del Biondo which depicts the Coronation of the Virgin. Many paintings hang today in the Basilica museum, such as the ‘Decollazione di San Giovanni’. Sadly, few of the church’s frescos are still visible today. The best preserved example is the ‘Martiro di San Sebastiano’, painted by the brother of Masaccio, Giovanni Cassai – also known as ‘Lo Scheggia’ (‘The Splinter’). One curious fact concerning the church is that in 1780, the body of man was discovered buried in one of the church’s pillars. This ‘mummified’ corpse was discovered upright within the pillar and today can be see through a niche.

The church of San Giovanni Battista
Building began on this church, which is named after the patron saint of both Florence and San Giovanni, in 1312. The first part to be constructed was on the side of the Sant’Andrea Gate, which was destroyed at the beginning of the last century. Today, the church has a decidedly Classic style. The façade is complemented by a gable and portico with three aches on Tuscan-style pillars. The interior of the church is rather plain and simple. There is one rectangular nave with wooden decorations. The main altar used to be home to a polyptych by Mariotto di Nardo which today can be seen in the Basilica museum.

Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie
The Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie sits at the western edge of piazza Masaccio. The building dates back to the end of the fifteenth century, although it has been altered and renovated many times since then. The most significant changes were made to the church after a serious fire in 1596 and also after the bombing raids of the Second World War. The church was built around 1484, after the famous ‘miracle of Monna Tancia’. It became a Sactuary of the Madonna in 1986. The rather solid looking exterior is softened by the ground level portico and stairway and by a series of windows on the first floor. These windows culminate in a triangular gable. There are also four statues of the saints Agostino, Giovanni Battista, Lorenzo and Francesco below an interesting bell tower. On the centre of the wall behind the atrium, between two stairways, there is a large polychrome terracotta sculpture by Giovanni della Robbia.

The sculpture dates back to 1513 and depicts the Assumption. A stairway leads inside the sanctuary through two large doors which date back to 1697. There are three wide naves separated by monolithic pillars and lowered arches. A fresco was painted on the vaulted ceiling at the end of the seventeenth century by Giuseppe Nasini and Vincenzo Ferrati. There is a fourteenth century Florentine School Madonna with Child behind the main altar. The main alter was rebuilt after the 1596 fire by Bernardo Buontalenti. To the left of the altar there are frescoes representing the three events of the ‘miracle of Monna Tancia’. According to Vasari, the artist behind these frescoes was a pupil of Perugino. After 1720, a large chapel was built adjoining the church. This chapel had to be completely rebuilt in the 1950s after it was destroyed by Second World War bombing.

Church of Santissima Annunziata
This church is part of the Agostinian monastery. Until the start of the sixteenth century, the building was used as a hospice which depended on the community of San Giovanni and which was run by nuns. It was turned into a monastery around 1528 when the number of nuns began to increase. The small church attached to the monastery is decorated with delicate stucco carvings. The main altar dates back to 1685. The church is home to two important paintings by Antonio Puglieschi, who also carried out the fresco on the ceiling. One of the most important canvases in the church is a fifteenth century painting depicting the Madonna with Child which was painted by the Maestro of the Nativity at Castello.
San Giovanni Valdarno
A village in the Arezzo territory filled with artistic patrimony
San Giovanni Valdarnohas maintained its medieval appearance, with the typical urban shape of the so-called “new lands”: at the centre is a large piazza, and all around are shaded porticoes delimiting the streets. San Giovanni offers are lovers more than a few attractions, including churches, museums and cultural centres. Of course, good cuisine is also in abundant supply. ...