San Miniato is a wonderful sight on the hill above Florence, its marble facade glistening in the sunlight. Close up it is even more appealing, a jewel of the Romanesque inside and outside.

San Miniato was an early Christian martyr who came to Florence from the Levant in the 3rd century and was martyred in the Roman amphitheatre that stood on the site of today’s Piazza della Signoria, by order of the Emperor Decius. It is said that his decapitated body picked up his head and walked into the hills. His shrine, the site of the present church, was built where he finally collapsed. The church was initially run by Benedictine monks, then by Cluniacs, and finally, from 1373 to the present day, by the Olivetans. In the Benedictine shop on the right as you exit, monks sell honey and herbal potions.

The church was built in 1018, with a green-and-white marble facade added at the end of the 11th century and mosaics in the 13th century. On the pinnacle a gilded copper statue of an eagle carries a bale of cloth (1410): This is the symbol of the Arte di Calimala, the wool importers’ guild, which supported the church in the Middle Ages.

Inside, an inlaid floor (c1207) incorporates zodiac and animal themes. In the nave is a chapel (1448) by Michelozzo, built to house a miraculous crucifix that is now in Santa Trinita.

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