Beato Angelico, Sposalizio della Vergine

Money and Beauty: an itinerary in Florence

Florence's history of wealth and culture

Don’t miss enjoying a series of specialized itineraries that showcase Florence in 1252, the year the golden florin was first created. History lovers have the chance to learn more about the basic organizational structure that formed the backbone of the world’s modern banking system and economy. This system, invented by ultra-wealthy Florentine banker-merchants, became renowned throughout Europe and it ultimately generated large-scale cultural and artistic commissions that transformed the city into a treasure trove of art. Construction of the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the Medici’s parish in the 15th century, was commissioned to Filippo Brunelleschi by Cosimo the Elder, while Verrocchio was in charge of creating Cosimo’s tomb and a funeral monument dedicated to Piero and Giovanni de’ Medici. The nearby Medicea Laurenziana Library was designed by Michelangelo and the Palazzo Medici—a prototype of Renaissance architecture—was commissioned to Michelozzo. Santa Maria Novella hosts myriad chapels commissioned by merchant families like the Bardi, Rucellai, Strozzi and Gondi. It’s largest chapel, hosting Ghirlandaio’s frescos, belongs to Giovanni Tornabuoni, an uncle of Lorenzo the Magnificent and a treasurer to the pope. Santa Trinità boasts the Chapel of Francesco Sassetti, where Ghirlandaio and his workshop created the ‘Stories of Saint Francis’. Therein, you’ll find the cities of Geneva and Lyon, where Sassetti protected the interests of the Medici Bank. The commissioner’s family and Lorenzo the Magnificent with his descendents are also depicted in these works.

The Basilica di Santa Croce hosts the chapels of various banking families such as the Bardi, Peruzzi, Baroncelli, Rinuccini, Castellani, Alberti, many of which were frescoed by Giotto and his workshop. Andrea de’ Pazzi commissioned Brunelleschi his chapel, which became one of the most significant examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy. Likewise, Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned a wing of the convent and Tommaso Spinelli, the treasurer of Pope Paolo II, funded the construction of its fifteenth-century cloister. Florence’s Oblate Library is hosted in a complex that was originally a hospital founded by Folco Portinari, who was also from a banking family. The Brancacci Chapel’s stunning frescos by Masolino and Masaccio are linked to an ambassadorial event centered around the sultan of Egypt (1422) and its commissioner Felice Brancacci, who was involved in the silk trade. Botticelli is buried in San Salvatore d’Ognissanti and it hosts one of his frescos along with another by Ghirlandaio in the Vespucci Chapel. The Museum of the Innocents hosts a large altar piece by Domenico Ghirlandaio depicting maritime commerce with a Nordic city. Meanwhile, the San Marco Museum, constructed by Michelozzo by will of Cosimo de’ Medici hosts works by Beato Angelico and many of its spaces are dedicated to the memory of Girolamo Savonarola, who was prior from 1491 to 1498. A treasure trove of art, the Horne Museum recreates the residence of a wealthy mercantile family from the fifteenth century.