The previous blog article on BSL focused on the spirit of the place through the interested eyes of a Borgo native. In this article instead I want to present Borgo San Lorenzo art town. The role of Borgo San Lorenzo art town within the Mugello is unquestionable. Let’s see how it has earned this title starting from history with the addition of 2 splendid churches. But first I would like you to enjoy an overview of the town through this short video.

The history of Borgo San Lorenzo art town has ancient origins. In Roman times there was a rather flourishing settlement known as Anneianum. In the ninth century the country came under the influence of the feudal Ubaldini family. In the tenth century it passed under the control of the bishop of Florence. In the late Middle Ages the economic importance of Borgo San Lorenzo art town grew considerably. In 1351 the Florentine Republic endowed the town with a still visible wall. The appearance of Borgo San Lorenzo art town was thus transformed into a more modern layout. The structure of the walls was designed in a rectangular shape including four doors with towers. The road axis cut longitudinally the whole village. The meeting point of the 2 main streets was the current Piazza Cavour.

San Lorenzo basilica
It was already mentioned in 934 A.D. and it is the largest Romanesque church in Mugello. Some details in the masonry have suggested that it stood on a pre-existing temple of the fourth century dedicated to Bacchus. The current church is the result of a reconstruction of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The plan has three naves divided by columns and quadrangular pillars and a single, large semicircular apse. The irregular hexagonal bell tower dates back to 1263.

Usually when I accompany some tourists to visit Borgo San Lorenzo art town I first take them here. The construction of the bell tower directly on the apse always makes a great impression on tourists. Incredible how for a game of strengths, the weight wounds up admirably released to the ground. The elegance of the bell tower stands out even more with the pleasant alternation of several floors in brick and mullioned windows.

As soon as you enter, we can not fail to notice the majesty of the apse decorated by Galileo Chini. The image that dominates in Byzantine style is of Christ blessing between Saints Lorenzo and Martino. Galileo Chini is one of the most illustrious representatives of the Liberty style in Italy and native of Borgo San Lorenzo. On the main altar there is a beautiful 16th century wooden Crucifix from the Church of St. Francis. On the back wall of the right aisle hangs a fourteenth-century crucifix painted on a table. On the first pillar on the right a Madonna on a table attributed to Giotto and dated around 1290. Finally, following the right aisle we find a “Madonna on the throne with Child and Angels” of the school of Agnolo Gaddi about 1380.

The church of Saint Francis
The church is now deconsecrated but it is possible to visit it with the consent of the current owners. You can contact Mugello&Tuscany to reserve a visit to the church of St. Francis.  Many benefactors in the early twelfth century began a Franciscan convent. Keep in mind that the saint of assisi was still alive at this time. Subsequently during the XIII century the conventual community was the object of various donations. One of these legacies was Folco Portinari’s, father of Dante’s Beatrix  dating back to 1287. This circumstance certainly allowed the large Franciscan religious community to begin the construction of a larger church.

The vast church has a gabled façade built into small quarry stone drafts. Above the entrance there is an ogival lunette surmounted by a large pointed gull-window. Of great interest is the ancient fourteenth-century door, made of solid oak. On the left you can see the small and elegant facade of the seventeenth-century chapel dedicated to San Sebastian.

Inside we are immediately struck by the great nave of the church which is truly spectacular. We are here in the presence of an authentic and valuable Franciscan preaching room, with a covering of wooden spans. It is built entirely of brick, which gives the whole environment a warm pinkish color. The building, in all evidence, repeats the illustrious model of the upper basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. However in our case there was to give  homage to an almost constant Tuscan tradition. It supported the idea of abandoning the use of large cross vaults. This was done to favor a wooden spans covering which are easier and safer to realize.

Just over half of the room is the large (currently buffered) door that connected the church with the cloister. This door led to the convent and shows a splendid brick arch. Near the main entrance there are the highly significant remains of what was supposed to be the original pictorial decoration of the walls. This according to a custom common to the most important Franciscan churches. Currently you can admire some valuable paintings and the sinopias of other frescoes that covered the southern wall.

Once out of the church on the right side, you can see the ancient entrance portal to the convent. This is unfortunately the only remainder of the large fence on which the western side of the cloister  rested. At the center there is an original beautiful nineteenth-century polygonal well. The entrance to the chapter house of the convent still remains. It is composed of two splendid mullioned windows with a polyfoiled rose window and a large central single window. The capitals of the supports are beautifully carved with plant motifs of the purest and most elegant Gothic style.

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