So many churches, so little time. You really have to manage your real life if you want to find time to see everything!
At least, that is my excuse as to why, before now, I have never before been in this famous Florentine church. Plus the fact that when I pass it, I am usually in a hurry to go somewhere else nearby. Like, for example, lunch or a glass of wine at the Cantinetta Antinori, one of my favorite places in this amazing city.
But, I did stop in and have a gander at the church recently and wow, I was blown away. First of all, it was twilight in beautiful Florence at that moment, and the streets nearby were filled with shoppers and tourists and the whole atmosphere was electric. The city felt alive.
Usually, when I happen to be in front of this church, it is closed. Just bad timing, because of course the church is open everyday, but at specific hours.
Because it was open and I had time, I entered. I felt the richness of the interior immediately. And I was sorry it took me so long to visit.
Unlike so many Italian churches, this interior was well lit and the contrast of the dark building materials with the colored marbles and gold highlights lit the place up like a Christmas tree. The effect was quite something.
The church was also full of people, unlike so many Italian churches. The church interior felt alive and it was kind of a magical moment to me. I thought of how happy the founders would have been to know that in 2019, their church was an active part of the city’s life. What more could an architect or patron hope for?
I wonder why it is that I am always, always most attracted to sculptures holding up the vases of holy water in these churches?
The two matching marble holy water fonts at the entrance were sculpted in the form of shells supported by angels by Domenico Pieratti.
The pictures below aren’t great, but smack dab in the middle of the ceiling over the transept, was the Medici shield. Never subtle, always evident. I love the Medici family!
Let’s have a quick look at what Wikipedia tells us about the church:
San Gaetano, also known as Santi Michele e Gaetano, is a Baroque church in Florence, located on the Piazza Antinori.
A Romanesque church, dedicated solely to Saint Michael the Archangel, had been located at the site for centuries prior to its Baroque reconstruction. Patronized by the Theatine order, the new church was dedicated to Saint Cajetan, one of the founders of the order, though the church could not formally be named after him until his canonisation in 1671.
Funding for this reconstruction was obtained from the noble families in Florence, including the Medicis. Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici was particularly concerned with the work, and his name is inscribed on the façade.
Building took place between 1604 and 1648. The original designs were by Bernardo Buontalenti but a number of architects had a hand in building it, each of whom changed the design. The most important architects were Matteo Nigetti and Gherardo Silvani.
In 2008, the church was entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a traditional institute of clerical life which exclusively offers Mass in Latin according to the pre-Vatican II Roman Rite.
The façade has three portals: the center portal has a triangular tympanum surmounted by reclining marble statues representing Faith and Charity, sculpted by the Flemish artist, Baldassarre Delmosel. In the center above the door is the heraldic shield of the Theatine order; higher above is the shield of Cardinal Giovanni Carlo de Medici, a prominent patron. Above the side doors are a statue of St Cajetan (right, by the same Delmosel) and St Andrew Avellino (left, by Francesco Andreozzi).
The interior is richly decorated as is customary in Baroque churches (uh, hello…the interior is like a jewel box!)
Along the cornice are 14 statues depicting apostles and evangelist, sculpted by Novelli, Caccini, Baratta, Foggini, Piamontini, Pettirossi, Fortini, and Cateni. With each of these statues is a bas-relief depicting an event in the life of each saints.