The Badia Fiorentina is a church and abbey located in the heart of the old city of Florence, in front of the ancient prison of the Bargello.
Badia in ancient Italian meant abbey, and Fiorentina just means Florentine.
Before the Badia Fiorentina was built, another church called St. Stephen’s Church or Chiesa del Popolo (People’s Church) was in its place.
In 960 Willa, a Tuscan noblewoman, bought the land and in 978 founded a Benedictine abbey, giving the monks who settled there money and privileges.
In those ancient times, the presence of Benedictine monks in Florence made a deep impression, because the friars normally lived far from urban centers.
Willa’s son, Hugh the Great (Ugo di Toscana), soon became Margrave of Tuscany and made many donations to the abbey.
This noble benefactor was mentioned by Dante in his The Divine Comedy:
Each one, who bears the sightly quarterings
Of the great Baron (he whose name and worth
The festival of Thomas still revives)
His knighthood and his privilege retain’d
(Paradiso, Canto XVI, 127–130)
Ugo’s memory has been celebrated every year since the Middle Ages in the Holy Mass on 21 December.
In Badia Fiorentina, his memory is also preserved by the beautiful statue by Mino da Fiesole, the coat of arms of the Margraviate of Tuscany, with red and white vertical stripes placed both above the arch of the high altar and on the facade, along with some wooden furniture.
The Badia Fiorentina is now home to the Fraternity of Jerusalem.
We will soon write more blog posts about this abbey, talking about its bell tower, its chapels, and the many mysterious stories associated with it.
Dan Brown’s thrilling Inferno begins in this abbey: the mysterious shadow that accompanies the protagonist throughout the book throws itself from the famous Badia Fiorentina bell tower.