The Spanish Chapel at Santa Maria Novella

Yesterday I posted about the Ghirlandaio fresco cycle at Santa Maria Novella.

Today I want to show my photos from the Spanish Chapel, which is the former chapter house of this convent.

The Spanish Chapel is situated at the north side of the green Cloister (Chiostro Verde). It was commissioned by Buonamico (Mico) Guidalotti as his funerary chapel. Construction started c. 1343 and was finished in 1355. The Guidalotti chapel was later called “Spanish Chapel,” because Cosimo I assigned it to Eleonora of Toledo and her Spanish retinue.

The Spanish Chapel was decorated from 1365 to 1367 by Andrea di Bonaiuto, also known as Andrea da Firenze. I love these paintings.

Fresco by Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze in the Spanish Chapel: Allegory of the Active and Triumphant Church and of the Dominican order (c. 1365)

The large fresco on the right wall, shown above and below, depicts an Allegory of the Active and Triumphant Church and of the Dominican order.

It is especially interesting because in the background it shows a large pink building that some think may provide some insight into the original designs for Florence Cathedral by Arnolfo di Cambio (before Brunelleschi’s dome was built). However, such an interpretation is fantasy since the Duomo was never intended to be pink, nor to have the bell tower at the rear.

This fresco also contains portraits of pope Benedict IX, cardinal Friar Niccolò Albertini, count Guido di Poppi, Arnolfo di Cambio and the poet Petrarch.

The frescoes on the entry wall represent scenes from the lives of Christ and St Peter (unfortunately, these were mostly ruined due to the later installation of a choir):

The chapel’s left wall shows “The Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas and the Allegory of Christian Learning.”

I identify with the girl in mauve who raises her hand to answer a question or make a comment!

The chapel’s altar wall features images of the large “Crucifixion with the Way to Calvalry and the Descent into Limbo.”

The four-part vault contains scenes of Christ’s resurrection, the navicella, the Ascension, and Pentecost. The “Navicella,” seen below, is my favorite.

The five-panelled Gothic polyptych altarpiece is not shown here. It is on view in an adjacent area. It was probably originally made for the chapel’s altar and depicts the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Four Saints by Bernardo Daddi, c. 1344.

Together, the complex iconography of the ceiling vault, walls, and altar combine to communicate the message of Dominicans as guides to salvation.

I am still not a happy camper with the new formatting I have to use, recently introduced by Bear with me while I learn to use it. :-(

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