Visiting Piazza Annunziata

Hi! Shannon here.

On Wednesday we visited the Ospedale degli Innocenti, or Hospital of the Innocents. This was originally an orphanage. They began building it in 1419 and formally opened the doors in 1445 taking in the first infant just ten days from the date of opening. There were so many women that had infants and were not married at that time, that they installed a wheel so that the women could give up the child anonymously by placing him or her on the wheel and spinning it into the building. This actually put the child into a small basket between statues of Mary and Joseph where he or she would be taken care of for the rest of their life. Little boys were taught to read and write by the masters and then were taught skills based upon their abilities, while little girls were taught how to sew and cook by mistresses. They were either given dowries and married off, became nuns or traded or made to labor. The orphanage did come across some tough times and had to close down the anonymous window in 1875 but today it stands as a reminder to all the world the wonderful things that people can do for others when they let their hearts take over.

Today it is the home to the Florence branch of UNICEF and also the Gallery of the Ospedale degli Innocenti. It houses a museum on the history of the hospital as well as an art gallery that is amazing. You will find artwork by della Robbia who refined a technique using glazed terra cotta for sculptures. His work is all along the outside of the building and there are a few pieces inside as well. There are may other artists as well, mainly, Madonnas and Crucifix, and some sculpted works but everything was grandeur.

Then, we went to see the Santissima Annunziata or the Basilica of the most Holy Annunciation. This is considered to be the mother church of the Servite order. This is one place that will really knock you for a loop. It is the most breath-taking place I think I have ever seen. It is the home of the oldest organ in Florence and the second oldest in Italy. This Basilica is home to nine chapels and each one more extravagant then the last. It is also the home to a very interesting tale, that of a Friar Bartolomeo who was a 14th century artist in his own right. It seems he was working on a painting of the virgin Mary and could not get the face right; well he proceeded to fall asleep and when he awoke, the face on the virgin was complete, just like an angel had painted it while the Friar slept. This of course brought plenty of attention to the painting and the Basilica.

Well, I think I have over spent my time, but I think it was well worth it. Today was a pretty amazing day if you ask me. These are definitely two places that will stand out in my mind for a long time to come.

Thanks for listening,


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