Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

Florence - The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella

In the splendid city of Florence there is the most ancient pharmacy of Europe: it is the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Some evidences dating back to 1221 attest, in fact, how Dominican monks in a part of their convent, at that time at the gates of Florence, distributed distillates of healing herbs.

The current perfumery officially opened to the public in 1612. This caused other European cities such as Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Tallinn (Estonia) to claim primacy. But the activities of the Florentine "pharmacy" would be well before and never interrupted. In fact, it has been active without interruption for over 4 centuries.

The ancient "spezieria", today no longer a pharmacy, but a perfumery and herbalist shop, is located in a real monumental environment. The environment is enriched by decorations and antique furniture, dating back to various eras. It also preserves a valuable collection of scientific material. Thermometers, mortars, scales, measuring cups, as well as valuable pharmacy jars from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

There are many rooms. There is the Sala di Vendita, which was originally one of the chapels of the convent, dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Bari. Then there is the so-called Green Room, overlooking the garden. This was built between 1335 and 1337, between the infirmary of the convent and the chapel. The original idea was to make it a private apartment, but it was never used for that purpose.

Then there is the Hall of the Ancient Apothecary, embellished by the rich stucco decoration of the vaulted ceiling of the eighteenth century. Here there are fantastic animals, sphinxes, dragons, royal eagles, masks, festoons of fruit and roses, all motifs dear to the repertoire of the time. Also worth seeing is the Sacristy, used since the seventeenth century as an aromathery. This was the room where the distilled waters were kept and for this reason it was called "Room of the waters".

The museum itinerary of the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, finally develops in what were once the production laboratories. The laboratories are today a real museum. It is a place that was created with the idea of giving light and life to the machines once used for manufacturing, and to the copper and bronze objects.

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Florence - The Last Supper by Andrea del Castagno

Today we are going to talk to you about a little-known art treasure located in Florence. It is the Last Supper by Andrea del Castagno, which is kept in the Sant'Apollonia Complex.

The Sant'Apollonia Complex was once one of the great female monasteries of Florence. Currently this place is divided between the University of Florence, the military command and the Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia Museum.
The Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia was the monumental refectory of the Benedictine nuns. It was frescoed on an entire wall by Andrea del Castagno in 1447. The entire lower part of the wall, in particular, is occupied by a splendid Last Supper.

The scene takes place in a richly decorated environment. And every architectural element is taken care of in the smallest detail. The perspective setting is rigorous, accentuated by the geometric effect of the lines of the floor and ceiling. Above are depicted the Resurrection, the Crucifixion and the Deposition in the tomb.

The dinner of Jesus with the apostles takes place in an old-fashioned room, decorated with luxurious and refined elegance. There is a long table with a white tablecloth, which highlights the horizontal development of the scene. Around the table, the apostles and Jesus are seated on chairs covered with a cloth with floral patterns. All except Judas are on the opposite side on a stool. The placement of Judas separate from the rest of the apostles is typical of the iconography. However, he is usually located to the right, rather than to the left of Christ. His bearded figure in profile recalls that of a satyr from Roman mythology, from which Christians had borrowed many of the physical characteristics of the devil.

Inside the Cenacolo there are also other works by Andrea del Castagno, painted around the middle of the 15th century. There is a frescoed lunette (and its sinopia) with Christ in pity among angels. But there are also a Crucifixion and the sinopia of the Vision of Saint Jerome between Saints Paula and Eustace. On the south wall of the room there is also a Crucifix attributed to Baccio da Montelupo. While other fifteenth-century works coming from the former monastery are exposed in the antirefectory together with paintings by Paolo Schiavo and Neri di Bicci.

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cattedrale di firenze

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore - The head of the bull

Among the many legends that are part of the tradition of Florence, there is a very old one. It regards the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It is the legend of the bull's head.

But let's go with order. The Florentine Cathedral hides to the eye several details often invisible at a first glance. An example? If you look on the left side of the Duomo, between Via Ricasoli and Via dei Servi, you can see a marble gargoyle. This gargoyle depicts a large ox head, with horns.

The question that arises at this point spontaneously is: what is a bull's head doing among the statues that adorn the Duomo of Florence?

The statue could be one of the many tributes to the various towing animals used to transport the materials necessary to realise the Cathedral. However, there is also another explanation for its presence. It's a more curious and goliardic story: the legend of a betrayal and the original revenge of a lover.

Popular tradition narrates that around 1400, the construction of the Cathedral had already reached a certain height. In that period, there was a baker who was very jealous of his wife. He lived in a house in Via Ricasoli.

It seems that one of the master carpenters, who worked on the Cathedral, had become the lover of this woman. The husband had his store right there in front. Unfortunately, at a certain point the baker discovered the affair and denounced his wife for adultery to the Ecclesiastical Court.

Then, in order to take revenge, the master carpenter placed the head of the cuckolded bull right in front of the baker's house. In this way, he would remember the betrayal forever.

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