The Badia of Florence

The Badia of Florence

Art and Observance in a Renaissance Monastery
Anne Leader
Distribution: Global
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

“This meticulously researched, well-documented book is thoughtfully conceived and extremely well illustrated, and it contains an ample scholarly apparatus. It immediately becomes a standard source for the monastery's rich history. . . . Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

“Historians of Italian Renaissance religion, art, and architecture will . . . be gratified to find in Anne Leader’s authoritative monograph a thoroughly researched and closely analyzed account of the Badia’s monastic history, building chronology, and artistic prrograms, focusing on the first half of the Quattrocento. . . . At a time when academic presses are limiting the number of images they publish or they are avoiding art historical projects altogether, this lavishly illustrated book is a feast for the eyes.”

“Anne Leader, Professor of Art History at the Savannah College of Art and Design, has produced an elegant and important book on the Benedictine Abbey in Florence known as the Badia. ”
 — The Medieval Review

“[An] excellently researched and enlightening book.”
 — Catholic Historical Review

“[T]he book as a whole presents a comprehensive study of an important Florentine institution at a key moment in its history. . . . the research it presents will take on added importance in the context of future studies of similar rebuilding campaigns in Florence and elsewhere. ”
 — Speculum April 2013

“To an exceptional degree, Anne Leader's book is valuable on two levels. It places the Florentine Badia so fully and successfully within its historical setting that it serves as an excellent introduction to monastic life and reform in a late medieval or early Renaissance Italian city. . . . Leader proceeds in the rest of the book to a detailed account of the architecture and art of the Badia, showing how a building project served the interest of monastic reform, and arguing an arresting thesis about the attribution of the frescoes. ”
 — Church History

“The great value of this book, as of any case study that examines a single institution, is that it allows established truths, as much as general preconceptions, to be tested. Leader is to be complimented on a significant contribution to our understanding not simply of a building and its inhabitants, but of Florentine patronage, religious life, burial patterns, workshop structures and social organisation, among other themes.July 1, 2014”
 — Burlington Magazine

“This richly illustrated, interdisciplinary study examines the Badia during a crucial period of reform and rebirth, revealing the renovated Badia as integral to the spiritual, political, and social life of early Renaissance Florence.”

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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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