Comune di Signa

Church of San Lorenzo

From "Signa Itinerario Storico Artistico"
Text by Andrea Baldinotti and Roberta Barsanti

Facciata della Chiesa di S.Lorenzo  (Foto GG)In 866, the church of S.Lorenzo was first mentioned in adocument, in 964 it was given to the Florentine Chapter by the Bishop Rambaldo with the church of San Giovanni Battista.
The presence of graves,unearthed during the recent restoration carried out by Vanni Desideri, persuades us to think that the area, on which the church was built, was already used as graveyard in the 4th to 6thcenturies. By the year one thousand the church of San Lorenzo was a ‘pieve’, which, according to the Repetti, was spreading out over both shores of the river Arno. The ancient ‘piviere’ (Pieve jurisdiction) was composed of fourteen parishes. In the church there is no christening font, however San Lorenzo has always been considered a pieve, at least until 1568. Nevertheless, it is quite unlikely that the Sacrament could be administered, only in the close church of San Giovanni the Baptist. A pergamena by the Florentine Chapter that dates back to 1224, mentions the presence of a pievano named Corrado; a priest threatened with excommunication. The parish priests of the surrounding churches were not respecting the obligation to participate, with their parishioners, to the functions in the pieve. In 1243, the provost of the cathedral went to Signa, because of the election of the new parish priest, on that occasion he confirmed the supremacyof the church of San Giovanni in San Lorenzo. The name of the church appears again in the privilege of Ottone III and in a "Charta offersionis" written in 1304.

In 1789, as the visible tombstone on the façade of the church attests, the Del Rosso family acquired the church. In 1834 it moved to the "Compagnia del Santissimo Sacramento e dello spirito Santo"(Saint Sacrament and Holy Spirit Company’), already "Compagnia dei Bianchi”, that still holds it.

A semicircular stone staircase leads to the portico which leads to the entrance. It is adorned with the image of San Cristoforo, a

Interno chiesa San Lorenzo (foto GG)

Florentine school fresco at the end of the 13th century. The unusual arrangement of a saint outside the religious buildings, hints at the protection he had on travellers.
The romanesque belltower hasa square basement, is twenty-five meters high, and in the upper part an elegant double lancet window stands. In 1928 the belfry was rebuilt, and the present apse was touched up in the course of the 17th century. The belltower has recently been restored by the Environmental and Architectural Assets Office. The church has a single nave adorned with rich fresco decorations.Next to the left wall, we can see oneof the aforesaid graves. On the back (inside) of the Façadethere is a fresco reproducing the Enthroned Madonna cradling the Child and sitting between Santo Stefano (Saint Stephen) and Sant' Antonio abate (Saint Anthony abbot); it goes back to the end of the 14th century or to the beginning of the following.

Ciclo affreschi di Pietro Nelli (foto GG)

On the left wall we can see a figure of a Saint (1485), by the School of Florence; next to it, the Votive Theory of some Saints, articulated in seven sections, painted in the second half of the 14th century by Pietro Nelli with the likely collaboration of Jacopo of Cione: San Bartolomeo with the image of the client, the lower part of the following picture shows San Giuliano (Saint Julian) and Santa Caterina d’Alessandria (Saint Catharine) (1366), San Romualdo and San Benedetto (Saint Benedict), San Lorenzo (Saint Laurence), a large panel representing the Martyrdom of San Sebastiano (Saint Sebastian), and lastly Sant' Antonio abbot with the image of another client. On the right wall, Santa Margherita d’Antiochia (Saint Margaret) by Pietro Nelli. At the end of the nave there is the wide romanenesque ambo, whose present location was decided in 1936, when the belltower was rebuilt, it is unknown where it was originnally placed. On the left side of the transept, upwards, there is a panel from the (17th century) representing the Madonna in Glory with some angels, San Lorenzo and Santo Stefano; it could be interesting to know that in the middle of it a more ancient sacred image was represented.

On the next wall we find a wide tabernacle, already placed at the corner of a house in Via Garibaldi, was frescoedVia Garibaldi Maestro da Signa - metà XV secolo - (foto GG)

between 1450 and 1460 by the so-called Maestro di Signa (Antonio di Maso?), student of Bicci of Lorenzo. In 1995, the tabernacle returned after a long intervention of restoration. Next to it a stone altar (pietra serena) with an altarpiece representing the Madonna with the Child and San Giovannino, by the School of Florence, from the first half of the 16thcentury.
On the walls of the apse there are three large altarpieces:the middle one is a Florentine work from the second half of the 16th c

entury; on the left, a painting attributed to Pietro Sorri from Siena; on the right, a panel by Bernardino Monaldi who put his signature and wrote the date on it (1592). The right altar of the transept contains a part of a wide fresco and the relative sinopia attributed to the so-called "Maestro di Barberino" (master of Barberino), painter of the second half of the XIV century.

Affreschi di Corso di Buono e Maestro di Barberino (foto GG) On the right wall of the nave, “Madonna della Misericordia” (Madonna of Mercy) by Corso di Buono (disciple of Cimabue), is a fresco from the end of the 13th century; he decorated the front of the central arch. Next to it, a wide triptych fresco by the “Maestro di Barberino”. A small door, on the left wall, enters the "Compagnia del Santissimo Sacramento e dello spirito Santo", already "Compagnia dei Bianchi” premises. Here there are the flags and the equipment for the Historical Procession on parades, on Easter Monday, for the occasion of the patron saint of Signa.On the stone altar (1672), there is a wooden crucifix from the 16th century. On the table, an urn that contains the remains of San Feliciano, a Roman soldier martyrizered in the 3rd-4thcentury, under the dominion of Diocleziano.Pietro da Gambassi - Cassa della Beata Giovanna (1438) (foto GG)

In the middle of the room, there is the wooden coffin that contains the mortal remains of Beata Giovanna, placed under the large crucifix by Giuseppe Santelli. The coffin, similar to a box for domestic uses, was painted in 1438 by Pietro di

Chellino da Gambassi. The inscription says:“Qui giace il corpo della Beata eremita di Signa 1307” "Here lies the body of the hermit Beata Giovanna of Signa 1307 [year of her death]". The work replaced a more ancient coffin performed in 1386 by Vanni di Bono, which, probably, Pietro from Gambassi got the idea of the iconography of the hermit from. In 1933, the work, slightly restored, was at the following exhibition: Mostra del Tesoro di Firenze Sacra. During the recent restoration and consolidation activities of the belltower, carried out by the Supervision for the Environmental and Architectural Assets Office, some graves "a cappuccina" going back to the Longobard period were unearthed.