Follow this article and you will realize that you cannot miss a visit to Bosco ai Frati in Mugello.

Around the 7th century the monks of Saint Basil erected a chapel and a room for pilgrims. The monks of Saint Basil remained on this site until the year 1012. Then the Bosco ai Frati remained in a state of neglect for about 200 years. In the early twelfth century the Ubaldini, powerful feudal lords of Mugello called the Franciscan friars to reside there.

In 1273, Fra’ Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, who later became a saint, received the emissaries of Pope Gregory X. The Pope had sent the official insignia to make him cardinal. The story tells that Fra’ Bonaventura was intent on rinsing dishes and pots. This happened in a large stone basin, still present in the convent. Fra Bonaventura was not at all impressed by the appointment as cardinal. In fact, he asked the papal emissaries to hang the signs on a branch of a cornel tree because he wanted to finish his work. Even the cornel tree is still present in the convent garden.

1348-1349 were the years of the great plague throughout Europe. Thus the Franciscan friars abandoned the convent for the first time. Two more times the Franciscan friars abandoned the convent: from 1810 to 1815 and from 1866 to 1870. The first for the coercions of Napoleon. The second for the laws of the new Kingdom of Italy on the suppression of convents

In 1420 with Cosimo “the Elder”, the Medici family, bought a vast estate in Mugello. The convent of Bosco ai Frati also belonged to the purchased property. In fact, as repeatedly reiterated in this blog, the Medici came from these lands. With the bull of Pope Martin V, in 1427, after about 80 years of abandonment, the Franciscan friars returned to the convent.Thus began the period of excellence of the Bosco to the Friars, for at least two centuries. The patronage of the Medici family brought important works of art to the church and to the convent. These are altarpieces, paintings and priceless volumes engraved as an endowment for a large library. From 1427 to 1438, renovations and structural restorations were carried out by the renowned architect Michelozzo.

 But the most important work present at the Bosco ai Frati is undoubtedly the wooden crucifix attributed to Donatello. the sculpture presents a dramatic and raw realism. The limbs of Christ appear fleshless and emaciated obvious signs of suffering and death. The body of Christ appears heavily abandoned on the lignum crucis.

 The tragic and realistic Christ crucified strongly recalls the name of the great sculptor Donatello. Naturally it is the Donatello in the final phase of his activity. It is a plausible attribution given by the very high artistic quality of the sculpture. In it the anatomical vigor makes this crucifix a painful and in-depth reflection on the destiny of man. So even just for the crucifix of Donatello you cannot miss a visit to Bosco ai Frati in Mugellocrocifisso bosco frati
Now it’s time to talk about 2 great works that were present at the Convent of the Bosco ai Frati. The most famous is an altarpiece, painted between 1450/1452. We mean the altarpiece of Bosco ai Frati commonly called “the sacred conversation”. This is a work by Giovanni da Fiesole called “Fra Angelico” . Fra Angelico together with Giotto and Andrea del Castagno represents the enviable legacy that Mugello has given to art. The Pala in question, a true Renaissance masterpiece, was transferred to the museum of San Marco at the end of the eighteenth century.sacra_conversazione_altarpiece“Madonna with child” with saints Antonio from Padua, Ludovico from Tolosa and Saint Francis on the left. Also
Cosma, Damiano e St. Peter martyr on the right.  tempera on wooden panel (1450 – 1452 c.a.) – 174 x 173 – Florence, Museum of San Marco

A second well known work is the “Resurrection of Lazarus” triptych by Nicolas Froment. Also this work was transferred around 1780 to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Nicolaus_Froment_resurrezione_Lazzaro Nicolas Froment (1461) – The triptych – “Resurrection of Lazarus” (in the center), “Jesus in the house of Martha” (left) and “washing of the feet” (right) oil on wooden panel – 175 x 134 (center) , 176 x 66 (each of the two branches) Florence, Uffizi Gallery

Today only a few large paintings are housed within the walls of the church. A painting by Jacopo Ligozzi is dated 1589 with the title “Allegory of the Cordon of Saint Francis”.


Then a painting on canvas by Lodovico Cardi, nicknamed “Il Cigoli” dating back to the early 1600s.


Lastly, the most ancient, an Annunciation, oil painting on a panel by Antonio del Ceraiolo dated 1515.


credits: ilfilo.net – foto Andrea Lapi – prof.Marco Pinelli

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