A new access to the Tabernacle of Orcagna in the Church of Orsanmichele

Florence – On Saturday 8 December, at the Orsanmichele Church, the results of an extraordinary maintenance of the Tabernacle of Orcagna, promoted by the Bargello Museum Management, will be presented. The Tabernacle will also be made available to visitors in its hitherto inaccessible rear part through a specially designed glass compass located on the access door in Via dei Calzaiuoli.

Since its construction in 1359, the Tabernacle of Orsanmichele has been one of the focal points of the Florentine communal religiosity: a real architectural construction, updated on examples of very rich Gothic decoration, unusual in the city. A large scenographic machine in white marble embellished with chromatic inserts: Cintoia red and Prato green, and deep blue glass or small geometric motifs colored and gilded. Originally, the marble reliefs were also painted, as were the fake drapes suspended over the arches of the tabernacle and the architectural party were densely decorated on all sides in a triumph of colours, like a contemporary goldsmith’s shop, gleaming in the light of the oil lamps. The traces of this original project re-emerge in the best possible way following the delicate dusting operation carried out on this occasion.

The monumental tabernacle was designed and built by Andrea di Cione, known as l’Orcagna, to house the gold-bottomed altarpiece with the Madonna delle Grazie by Bernardo Daddi and to protect it in the years when Orsamichele was also a grain market. The altarpiece is visible in the front part of the tabernacle, as are the reliefs in the lower part of the architectural structure that illustrate the stories of Mary.

The great novelty that will be presented Saturday, December 8 is the opportunity to admire the back of this fascinating architectural construction where you can admire the scene depicting the Death of Mary and the Assumption into heaven, with the delivery of the Belt to St. Thomas. You can also see those emblems of the Virgin, such as small roses, stars, or shell valves, which characterize all the rich marble decoration. In this part, moreover, the Orcagna registered his signature and the date on which he completed the works: 1359.

For more than 10 years this part of the monument overlooking Via dei Calzaiuoli was inaccessible. Today, with the move of the ticket sales point to the State Museums of Florence, which prevented the view and its relocation inside the building, the Florentines and visitors can again appreciate the beauty with a broader and more complete perspective.

The Church of Orsanmichele is one of the symbolic places of Florence also because, over the centuries, has been able to best represent the different souls: religious, political and economic. The return of the back of the Tabernacle to view, promoted by the Direction of the Bargello Museums (to which the Orsamichele Museum belongs), will be an opportunity to bring together the different souls of Florence today in a great celebration that will also involve representatives of the city administration, civil and religious society.

The event, rich and articulated and which will take place on the day of the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, will be preceded at 15.30 by a concert by the Diocesan Institute for Sacred Music and will see its climax at 16.00, with the blessing of the Tabernacle officiated by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence.

This will be followed by a presentation of the work carried out with the participation of Cardinal Betori, Dr Paola D’Agostino (Director of the Bargello Museums), Giovanni Bettarini (Councillor for Town Planning, Territorial Policies, Smart Cities, International Relations, Local Development Cooperation of the City of Florence) and Eugenio Giani (President of the Associazione Amici dei Musei Fiorentini).

The maintenance of the Tabernacle, the return of an access point to the back of the monument and the inauguration of the new museum ticket sales point, are part of a broader institutional agreement involving the state administration of cultural heritage (the Bargello Museums and the local Superintendence), the Archbishop’s Curia of Florence and the third sector (the Association of Friends of Florentine Museums) and whose first results will be illustrated at 17.00 in the adjacent church of San Carlo (also in Via dei Calzaiuoli).

Here will be presented the restoration and the new arrangement, right in the Church of San Carlo, of a rare shaped and painted table of the seventeenth century depicting St. Philip Neri boy who worships the Crucifix with St. Antonine. Until the end of the nineteenth century the panel was in the church of Orsanmichele, placed under a wooden crucifix attributed to Andrea Orcagna that justified the ecstatic looks of the two figures. The Crucifix was then moved to San Carlo while the table, in the meantime flooded, was hospitalized in the warehouses.

The restoration, financed by the Bargello Museums, the Curia and the Friends of the Florentine Museums and supervised by the Superintendence, will be presented by Monsignor Vasco Giuliani, Rector of the Churches of Orsanmichele and San Carlo, by Jennifer Celani, Officer of the Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts Landscape for the metropolitan city of Florence and the provinces of Pistoia and Prato, and by Eugenio Giani.

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