The Church of Santa Maria Novella was built in the 13C by the Dominican Order on the site of a earlier church, hence ‘Novella’, and the new church was finally consecrated in 1420. The site is large, with a small burial ground and three cloisters in addition to the Church.
The nave of the church soars upwards, with the dramatic crucifix by Giotto (1390-95). The church was decorated by the finest Renaissance artists – Masaccio, Ghirlandaio, Giotto, Filippo Brunelleschi, Gianbologna, Filippino Lippi – it is quite extraordinary.
There are several interesting chapels in the church: the Tornabuoni Chapel is the main chapel, and the largest, behind the main altar. The frescoes are by Ghirlandaio. The adjacent Strozzi Chapel was decorated by Filippino Lippi.
The Large Cloister is closed to the public, but there are two others which can be visited. The Cloister of the Dead was originally a cemetery and is one of the oldest parts of the complex, dating back to the 13C.
The Green Cloister was built in 1330-50 but suffered greatly in the floods of 1966 when the cloister was under water, destroying half the frescoes in the cloisters. The frescoes here by Uccello must have been remarkable. The Spanish Chapel of the 14C leads off the Cloister and was originally the Chapter House for the Convent. The construction and decoration (painted by Andrea di Firenze in the 14C) was paid for by a merchant/tax collector, Mico Guidalotti. This is where the Spanish community of Florence used to meet, lead by Eleanor of Toledo, the Spanish wife of Cosimo I. It is miraculous.