The Jubilee of Mercy was born under the sign of surprise and so, satisfying this vocation, we thought that the occasion of spiritual redemption would combine perfectly with the chance to discover the territory. In this very special Holy Year, Pope Francis invited each diocese to choose "Jubilee churches" in which to receive a plenary indulgence. And so, in all corners of Tuscany, "Holy Doors" will be opened in some of the most picturesque churches in the country. Armed with a pen, we've started to mark on a map the more than forty churches in the archipelago of our regional Jubilee. It's an amazingly varied journey, which we've divided into different stages for convenience. In this article, we touch on the cities of Florence, Fiesole and Prato.
In the Florence area, three churches have been chosen to spread forgiveness to faithful in search of redemption and, in all three cases, these churches are worth discovering. Of course, we start at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which includes the Baptistery, Giotto's Bell Tower, Brunelleschi's Dome (to be admired both inside and outside), the ancient Cathedral of Santa Reparata and the brand new Cathedral Museum - where the unfinished facade of Arnolfo di Cambio has been reconstructed, all of which deserves a visit alone. Along with the Cathedral, Florence adds the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata, the main Marian shrine in Florence. This church, with its richness and abundance of decorations better reflects the Catholic churches of Rome rather than the classic Tuscan basilica, and it's here that the Medici, who were very devoted to the icon kept in the Chapel of Our Lady, had a private walkway and secret window built from which to contemplate the sacred image.
The last church in the Florence area to open a Holy Door is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Impruneta, of whose origin is caught up in a legend of miraculous discovery. It is said that when the citizens decided to build a temple in honour of the Virgin, the walls that were erected by day were taken apart overnight. The stones were then loaded onto a cart and the horse stopped and, kneeling, began to dig. At this spot, the image of the Virgin was found and the citizens could finally build their building.
We continue our pilgrimage through the hills of Fiesole, whose diocese has chosen the ancient Cathedral of San Romolo as its Jubilee church - erected by Bishop Jacopo il Bavaro in 1028 and expanded in the thirteenth century – along with the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Valdarno.
We conclude this Jubilee itinerary with the city of Prato, recently visited by none other than Pope Francis! In the medieval centre of town, Prato Cathedral will throw open the door of mercy. To describe the city's cathedral, we rely on words of Curzio Malaparte in Toscani maledetti, since we surely cannot better them:
“I look out the window and leaning a little to one side, the marble front of the cathedral appears before me, striped white and green, the 'Pergamo' by Michelozzo and Donatello, hung like a nest in one corner of the facade and the beautiful bell tower that served as a model for Giotto's bell tower, but more than that, it is simple, streamlined and blunt: of cut stone, good, smooth rock from Prato".