S. Maria Novella
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Architect Leon Battista Alberti
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Location Florence, Italy   map
Date 1456 to 1470   timeline
Building Type church
 Construction System bearing masonry
Climate mediterranean
Context urban
Style Gothic with Italian Renaissance facade
Notes Original Latin cross plan church by Fra Sisto and Fra Ristoro, 1278 to 1350. Renaissance facade by Alberti, begun 1456.


Photo, exterior overview

Facade from south

Facade from southeast


Elevation Drawing


  Contributions appreciated.

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Discussion S. Maria Novella Commentary

"...Designed in the 1450's, [the facade of Santa Maria Novella] completed the exterior of a medieval church, and yet it has been rightly described as a 'great Renaissance exponent of classical eurhythmia,' for its dimensions are all bound to each other by the 1:2 ratio of the musical Octave. The marble panels, which produce a mosaiclike effect of discrete color patches on medieval Italian church exteriors... here contribute to a sense of rhythmic, geometric unity..."

— Joan Gadol. Leon Battista Alberti, Universal Man of the Early Renaissance. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969. p112.

"From the trecento campaign, Alberti inherited the sepulchral niches with pointed arches, the lateral portals also enclosed by Gothic frames, and the geometrically patterned green and white marble revetment. It was this biochromatism—Tuscan Romanesque in origin and never out of favor in Florence—that Alberti chose as the departure for the revetment system of this new façade (c. 1456-70). Over it, he superimposed a series of tall and narrow arches to accommodate the vertical accent of the Gothic remnants. The arch and the capitals of the engaged order he shaped in a manner not Gothic but Romanesque-antique, thus making possible the introduction of the authoritative Classical language of the entrance, consisting of fluted pilasters framed by noble columns on tall dadoes—this in homage of the Roman Pantheon, a monument exhaustively studied by 'archaeologist' Alberti."

— Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. p293-4.

Sources on S. Maria Novella

Franco Borsi. Leon Battista Alberti. New York: Harper and Row, 1977 (english translation). facade drawing, p83.

Francis D. K. Ching. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1979. ISBN 0-442-21535-5. LC 79-18045. NA2760.C46. facade drawing, p38. — A nice graphic introduction to architectural ideas. Updated 1996 edition available at Amazon.com

Donald Corner and Jenny Young. Slide from photographer's collection. PCD.2260.1012.1841.064

Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture. London: The Butterworth Group, 1987. ISBN 0-408-01587-X. LC 86-31761. NA200.F63 1987. photo, p753. discussion, p748, p798. — The classic text of architectural history. Expanded 1996 edition available at Amazon.com

Johnson Architectural Images. Copyrighted slides in the Artifice Collection.

Duane Siegrist, University of Oregon. Slide from photographer's collection, July 1993. DIL PCD.3236.1011.0837.006.

Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture, from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986. ISBN 0-13-044702-1. NA200.T7. discussion p293-294.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com

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