The Museum of the Treasure of the Basilica of Santa Maria of Impruneta

The museum contains a rich collection of priceless objects (illuminated manuscripts, objects in gold and silver, vestments) linked to the history of the Basilica of Santa Maria and the worship of the ancient painting on wood of the Madonna and Child that it hosts.

Arranged in rooms attached to the Basilica, the museum takes up two floors. Four 16th century “soppani” (flat tiles in terracotta used to cover internal ceilings) are displayed on the corridor walls of the first floor, together with a series of votive plaques in terracotta, most of them carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries, though two date from the 18th century. The restoration of the Madonna of Impruneta in the mid 18th century led to the first etching to portray it and these plaques are the result of an iconographic prototype that inspired all the subsequent ex-voto.

The corridor leads into the room of manuscripts where eleven illuminated choir books are on display, the survivors of the Basilica’s rich collection of books. Seven of these precious codices date from the 14th century (the Gradual attributed to the painter Lippo di Benivieni and the antiphonaries from workshops linked to Pacino di Buonaguida), while the remainder date from the 16th century; Andrea Buondelmonti, parish priest and a descendant of the family that had held the patronage of the Basilica for centuries commissioned three of these 16th century codices from the miniaturist Antonio di Girolamo di Ugolino. Datable from around 1360-1365, the polyptych of the Madonna and Child with Angels between Sts. Peter, Lawrence, John and Stephen on the wall comes from the Chapel on the Mount of the Sante Marie and is attributed to the Master of Tobia. The room that follows contains the funerary pillow and veil of Bishop Antonio degli Agli; these priceless artefacts in fabric, created in the second half of the 15th century, were discovered when the cleric’s tomb in the Basilica was inspected to assess the damage caused during the last war.

The Silvani Room on the floor above instead hosts the “treasure” of the Basilica, today the silverware section, composed of the many priceless objects in gold and silver donated to this famous sanctuary over the centuries. The wall by the entrance displays a marble altar frontal in bas-relief (16th century), illustrating the Finding of the sacred image of the Virgin of Impruneta, according to the legend passed down by the parish priest Stefano in the second half of the 14th century; it originally decorated the altar of the Madonna and was replaced by the silver reredos donated by Cosimo III de’ Medici in the 17th century, still visible in the Basilica.

Much of the valuable silver collection is grouped together according to type. The processional cross in gilded and engraved copper, carried out between the 13th and 14th centuries, the oldest in the collection, is just one of the exhibits of note, while the partially gilded and enamelled processional cross (1425 circa), of priceless value, has instead been attributed to goldsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. The generous parish priest Andrea Buondelmonti instead commissioned goldsmith Antonio di Salvi to create the two enamelled monstrances, representing respectively the Crucifixion and the Assumption (1515). The Reliquary of the Holy Cross (1620), attributed to the court goldsmith Cosimo Merlini the Elder, contains fragments of the Cross of Christ, which, according to tradition, were recovered by military leader Pippo Spano, who was a member of a branch of the Buondelmonti family. Maria Maddalena of Austria, the wife of Cosimo II de’Medici, had them encased in this reliquary, which she later donated to the Basilica. The Altar trapping in rock crystal and ebony was also one of Maria Maddalena of Austria’s reliquaries and was donated by Christine of Loraine on the occasion of the great procession of 1633, when the image of the Madonna was taken to Florence in thanks for the end of the plague. The fifteen silver vessels donated by various clergy and important Florentine families are connected with this same event. The exhibits moreover include a series of chalices, reliquaries and candlesticks carried out between the 17th and 19th centuries, as well as more recent objects, like the pair of candlesticks in elegant Art Nouveau design (1925 circa). Several portraits and etchings hang on the walls (of particular note, the Family tree of the Buondelmonti dynasty and the etchings of the 1711 Procession).

The last room is dedicated to Religious Vestments and, apart from a beautiful chasuble of Italian manufacture (16th cent.) in green brocaded velvet and an Altar frontal in red velvet, displays a rare set of capes that were used to cover the venerated image of the Madonna, donated over the centuries by religious groups, guilds and noble families. The Processional Tabernacle with mobile doors is instead attributed to the Master of Tobia (but with subsequent interventions), and was possibly commissioned for the first procession of the Madonna of Impruneta to Florence (1354).

The Museum of the Treasure of the Basilica of Santa Maria of Impruneta

The museum contains a rich collection of priceless objects (illuminated manuscripts, objects in gold and silver, vestments) linked to the history of the Basilica of Santa Maria and the worship of the ancient painting on wood of the Madonna and Child that it hosts.

Arranged in rooms attached to the Basilica, the museum takes up two floors. Four 16th century “soppani” (flat tiles in terracotta used to cover internal ceilings) are displayed on the corridor walls of the first floor, together with a series of votive plaques in terracotta, most of them carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries, though two date from the 18th century. The restoration of the Madonna of Impruneta in the mid 18th century led to the first etching to portray it and these plaques are the result of an iconographic prototype that inspired all the subsequent ex-voto. The corridor leads into the room of manuscripts where eleven illuminated choir books are on display, the survivors of the Basilica’s rich collection of books. Seven of these precious codices date from the 14th century (the Gradual attributed to the painter Lippo di Benivieni and the antiphonaries from workshops linked to Pacino di Buonaguida), while the remainder date from the 16th century; Andrea Buondelmonti, parish priest and a descendant of the family that had held the patronage of the Basilica for centuries commissioned three of these 16th century codices from the miniaturist Antonio di Girolamo di Ugolino. Datable from around 1360-1365, the polyptych of the Madonna and Child with Angels between Sts. Peter, Lawrence, John and Stephen on the wall comes from the Chapel on the Mount of the Sante Marie and is attributed to the Master of Tobia. The room that follows contains the funerary pillow and veil of Bishop Antonio degli Agli; these priceless artefacts in fabric, created in the second half of the 15th century, were discovered when the cleric’s tomb in the Basilica was inspected to assess the damage caused during the last war.

The Silvani Room on the floor above instead hosts the “treasure” of the Basilica, today the silverware section, composed of the many priceless objects in gold and silver donated to this famous sanctuary over the centuries. The wall by the entrance displays a marble altar frontal in bas-relief (16th century), illustrating the Finding of the sacred image of the Virgin of Impruneta, according to the legend passed down by the parish priest Stefano in the second half of the 14th century; it originally decorated the altar of the Madonna and was replaced by the silver reredos donated by Cosimo III de’ Medici in the 17th century, still visible in the Basilica.

Much of the valuable silver collection is grouped together according to type. The processional cross in gilded and engraved copper, carried out between the 13th and 14th centuries, the oldest in the collection, is just one of the exhibits of note, while the partially gilded and enamelled processional cross (1425 circa), of priceless value, has instead been attributed to goldsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. The generous parish priest Andrea Buondelmonti instead commissioned goldsmith Antonio di Salvi to create the two enamelled monstrances, representing respectively the Crucifixion and the Assumption (1515). The Reliquary of the Holy Cross (1620), attributed to the court goldsmith Cosimo Merlini the Elder, contains fragments of the Cross of Christ, which, according to tradition, were recovered by military leader Pippo Spano, who was a member of a branch of the Buondelmonti family. Maria Maddalena of Austria, the wife of Cosimo II de’Medici, had them encased in this reliquary, which she later donated to the Basilica. The Altar trapping in rock crystal and ebony was also one of Maria Maddalena of Austria’s reliquaries and was donated by Christine of Loraine on the occasion of the great procession of 1633, when the image of the Madonna was taken to Florence in thanks for the end of the plague. The fifteen silver vessels donated by various clergy and important Florentine families are connected with this same event. The exhibits moreover include a series of chalices, reliquaries and candlesticks carried out between the 17th and 19th centuries, as well as more recent objects, like the pair of candlesticks in elegant Art Nouveau design (1925 circa). Several portraits and etchings hang on the walls (of particular note, the Family tree of the Buondelmonti dynasty and the etchings of the 1711 Procession).

The last room is dedicated to Religious Vestments and, apart from a beautiful chasuble of Italian manufacture (16th cent.) in green brocaded velvet and an Altar frontal in red velvet, displays a rare set of capes that were used to cover the venerated image of the Madonna, donated over the centuries by religious groups, guilds and noble families. The Processional Tabernacle with mobile doors is instead attributed to the Master of Tobia (but with subsequent interventions), and was possibly commissioned for the first procession of the Madonna of Impruneta to Florence (1354).

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