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OLTRARNO, CHURCH OF SANTO SPIRITO


Church After the victory over the Duke of Milan on August 28th 1397, the feast day of St. Augustine, the town decided to build a new and beautiful Church for the Augustinian monks, in order to commemorate the victory. The building soon became the symbol of the whole community of Oltrarno and was financed by the Comune of Florence. Despite this ordinance, for 37 years the Church only had minor repairs.


The resolution became executive only in 1434, when the project was entrusted to Filippo Brunelleschi. The new Church was to be built in the present location. However Brunelleschi suggested changing the orientation of the facade towards the river. By demolishing the houses between Via Santo Spirito - which at the time was called Il Fondaccio - and the Arno, the square would from have overlooked the river "so that everyone coming to Florence from Genoa would have seen the facade along the river", to quote Antonio Manetti, Brunelleschi's biographer.



Visitors entering the town from Porta San Frediano and walking towards the New Bridge (Ponte alla Carraia), would have crossed the dark and narrow Fondaccio to unexpectedly find themselves facing a large square with a Church in the most populated district of the town. However Brunelleschi's project was opposed by the Frescobaldi and Capponi families, who did not want their properties - situated in Via dei Coverelli (originally called Via del Chiasso Perduto) and in the Fondaccio - to be demolished. The first extraordinary novelty of Brunelleschi's project was thus rejected and the Church had to be built with the orientation we see today. The job was given to Brunelleschi in 1428, though the work started with great delay and progressed very slowly, After the architect's death in 1446 the initial project was greatly changed to such a degree that it altered the original layout of the building. In the sixties, the 38 chapels in the form of niches, that were designed to give movement to the outside of the building, were hidden by a plain wall. Besides radically altering the profile of the Church, this enclosure raised the eaves and changed the distribution of the loads on the four large arches that should have supported the dome, and so it was changed while it was being built. In the eighties the project of the facade was also altered. Brunelleschi had originally planned four entrance doors that were replaced, after a long debate, by three. The facade remained for a long time unfinished and the stone structure was covered with plaster only in the 18" century.