The Dominicans, after 800 years, still run today worship in the Basilica by offering an important reference for visitors and faithfuls.

The church of Santa Maria Novella has very ancient origins. In the sixth century AD, the city of Florence was in a state of abandon because of the invasions of fierce population, like the Goths, Byzantines and Lombards to name a few. In this scenario the “terrae novellae” also knowns as “reconquered lands”, were used for new cultivations and crops acquiring new value. Among the crops of vineyards just outside Florence city walls stood a church, so called of St. Mary “Inter Vineas” (literally “amongst the vineyards”) or Santa Maria Novella.

In the early 1200s the Dominicans led by Giovanni da Salerno settled in these lands. With the help of skilled preachers the friars managed to turn the small church into a symbol of the spiritual renewal of the city. The buildings and the square in front of the Church were soon expanded under the expert guidance of the Dominicans.

The Dominicans were devoted to the study of the arts of mathematics, astronomy and many other disciplines. They were devote advocates of the Christian religion and great humanists at the same time. Around the convent and the church was soon formed a thriving academic and religious community. Their motto was ” contemplari et aliis contemplata tradere’, to observe praying and studying.

At the end of thirteen century Santa Maria Novella with its great library acquired the status of “studium generale”, in other words it became a real university with the powers to grant academic degrees to its students. Soon the Dominicans had to expand the library and the convent in order to house hundreds of incunabula and manuscripts. Therefore praying, studying and evangelization activities became one activity in Santa Maria Novella.

Today the Dominicans continue with the same spirit to manage the religious service in the Basilica offering a reference point to visitors and faithfuls who want to be part of this welcoming community.

Dominicans' historical archive

Visit the historical archive of Santa Maria Novella's convent
Go to the archive