Whenever you look for a meditative, art-filled, central spot in Florence one can always find inspiration by the Renaissance beauty inside Chiostro dello Scalzo (Via Cavour 69, Florence). Once you enter the cloister you perceive a very intimate atmosphere. This Chiostro keeps its original peaceful identity and offers a real antidote to crowded larger museums of Florence. This little cloister (chiostro) used to be the entrance to the chapel of the Confraternity of St. John the Baptist, founded in 1376. This little hidden treasure features a remarkable fresco cycle by high renaissance master Andrea del Sarto and his friend and fellow painter Franciabigio. The frescos depict twelve scenes of the life of St. John the Baptist, patron of the brotherhood (confraternita) and of Florence, and four Virtues. The original name “Scalzo” was given as cross-bearers in the Confraternity’s processions were barefooted (scalzi), as a sign of humility. The Brothers belonging to the Confraternita wore a long simple black robe and cowl as precisely depicted in the glazed terracottas of the lunette above the entrance portal. The emblem of the Company is the bust of Saint John the Baptist dressed in a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, showing helo and golden cross to the visitor. The Saint is the main central figure, portrayed in larger scale than the two brothers , as a devotional sign.
The cloister was projected by Giuliano da Sangallo and decorated in grey and brown griseille fresco by Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio (Francesco di Cristofano, 1482-1525). These paintings were indeeed less expensive than fresco decorations with gold leaf and precious mineral colors. Andrea del Sarto himself was a member of the brotherhood and tried to convey spiritual values of simplicity shared by his brothers. The frescoes were painted in various timeframes between 1509 and 1526, depicting the life of Saint John the Baptist in the main frames subdevided by grotto style motives and four allegories of Charity, Hope, Justice and Faith.
It’s surely worth a visit to the Chiostro whenever you feel like enjoying art in silence. This is one of the most enchanted little gems, perfect to offer a shelter in warm summer days and the exquisite chance to admire a Renaissance masterpiece far from crowded sites. Standing close to the frescoes is a true priviledge to appreciate technique, beauty and spirituality. The Chiostro is located a few steps from the Convent of San Marco and the Galleria dell’Accademia.
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