The Badia of Florence

The Badia of Florence

Art and Observance in a Renaissance Monastery
Anne Leader
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/30/2011
Format: Hardback 205 color illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35567-6
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Santa Maria di Firenze, an ancient, venerable Benedictine abbey (called the Badia) located in the heart of Florence, is the subject of Anne Leader’s new book. In 1418, 17 Benedictine monks journeyed to Florence from Padua to save one of their order's oldest houses from ruin. Realizing that reformed spiritual practice alone would not save the Badia, Abbott Gomezio di Giovanni commissioned the creation of a new cloister, to be decorated with vivid and engaging frescoes designed to motivate its residents. Leader’s richly illustrated, interdisciplinary study examines the Badia during this crucial period of reform and rebirth. It reveals the renovated Badia as integral to the spiritual, political, and social life of early Renaissance Florence, as well as to the broader program of expanding Benedictine Observance throughout Italy.

Author Bio

Anne Leader is PhD in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She is the editor of IASblog.


“This in-depth look at one of the key monuments of early Renaissance Florence illuminates the centrality of architectural space and visual imagery to monastic reform programs. Leader skillfully shows how the Badia’s spatial design and fresco cycle illustrating the life of St. Benedict helped to revitalize spiritual ideals at the oldest, richest monastery in early Quattrocento Florence. In reconstructing the Badia’s complex history, she sheds new light on Renaissance patronage patterns, artistic practice, and the development of Tuscan narrative painting. Packed with exquisite photographs and new architectural drawings, this book is a real feast for the eyes.”
 — Sharon Strocchia, author of Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence

“The most comprehensive and holistic approach to the important, yet much neglected, Florentine monastery ever undertaken.”
 — Adelheid M. Gealt, Indiana University Bloomington

“[A] splendid and beautifully-written book . . . ”
 — Caroline Bruzelius, author of The Stones of Naples: Church Building in the Angevin Kingdom, 1266-1343

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Table of Contents


1. The Development of an Urban Monastery
2. Benedictine Decadence and the Path to Reform
3. Badia Patronage and the Paradox of Autonomy
4. Architectural Design as Monastic Reform
5. Icon, Symbol, and Narrative at the Florentine Badia
6. The Badia Painters
Epilogue: The Badia from the Renaissance to Today


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