The facade of Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria NovellaPhotography by Carlos Dorce

Santa Maria Novella
Photography by Carlos Dorce

Santa Maria Novella was the first great basilica in Firenze. The church was designed by Fra Sisto Fiorentino and Fra Ristoro da Campi and the construction began in the mid-XIIIth century. In the XVth century, the rich textile merchant Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai (1403–1481) hired the great Leon Battista Alberti (February 14, 1404 – April 20, 1472) to design the upper part of the facade of the church (1456–1470). Alberti designed a long frieze decorated with squares in the middle of the black and white marble facade.

In the XVIth century, the mathematician and cosmographer Egnazio Danti (April 1536 – October 19, 1586) lived in the convent of Santa Maria and he was commisioned to design and construct three astronomical instruments to do observations of the Sun. He designed a quadrant (on the right of the facade) bearing six sundials in 1572 and an equinoctial armilla (on the left) in 1574.

Equinoctial armillaPhotography by Carlos Dorce

Equinoctial armilla
Photography by Carlos Dorce

QuadrantPhotography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The third instrument was a gnomonic hole which he didn’t complete.

Additional information: you can find a statue of Leon Battista Alberti in the Courtyard of the Ufizzi Gallery:

Statue of Leon Battista Alberti
Courtyard of the Ufizzi Gallery (Firenze)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Location: Santa Maria Novella (map)


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