San Miniato al Monte
On one of the highest points in Florence stands the Basilica “San Miniato al Monte”, named after St Minias and built between the 11th and 13th century by Bishop Hildebrand. It was financed by the Florentine wool and Clolth Merchant Guild (Arte di Calimala, as evidenced by the statue on top of the church's front façade, which shows an eagle standing on a bag with wool - the symbol of this wealthy guild.
The church is named after St. Minias, the first evangelizer and Christian martyr in Florence. Minias is thought to have been a Greek merchant or possibly an Armenian prince who left his home to make a pilgrimage to Rome. In about 250, he arrived in Florence and took up life as a hermit.
He became a victim of the persecutions of the Emperor Decius (249-251 A.D.) and was beheaded. Legend has it that, after his decapitation, he picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders and went to die in the cave on Monte alle Croci where he had lived as a hermit. That cave is now the location of the church that bear his name. Minias’ relics rest in a crypt in the church that was built by Alibrando (Hildebrand), Bishop of Florence, and endowed by Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor. Bishop Hildebrand had the Basilica built in 1018 on the site of a 4th century chapel.
The interior of San Miniato al Monte is Romanesque, with three naves, an elevated presbytery and a crypt. The floor of the nave is a marble inlaid with geometric and zoomorphic motifs, including the wheel of the Zodiac (1207). In the inlaid marble Aedicule (15th century) commissioned from Piero de’ Medici and designed in 1447 by Michelozzo there is a wonderful majolica vault work of Luca della Robbia, The marble pavement in the central aisle dates back to the 13th century.
The exterior of the Church of San Miniato is decorated with green and white marble in geometric patterns similar to the facades of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. A mosaic from the 12th century decorates the facade over a central window. From the terrace in front of the church one can enjoy a superb view of Florence even higher up than the … and one can walk down to beautiful Piazzale Michelangelo and then to Florence going through the Garden of Roses displaying works by sculptor Jean-Michel Folon and arriving in Borgo San Nicolo,