(b. 1377, Firenze, d. 1446, Firenze)

Exterior view

Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence

Santa Maria degli Angeli is an oratory built for the Camaldolese monastery in Florence. It was begun in 1434 and, for lack of funds, was left incomplete in 1437. The building reached a height of only about 5 meters in the three years of work, and remained in its unfinished state until the 1930s when it was completed in an unattractive and controversial manner, and was given to the university and thus its more modern name Rotonda degli Scolari ("Scholars' Rotunda").

In the 1930s, the oratory was completed, yet due to the loss of Brunelleschi's original plans, the building cannot be regarded as an accurate product of his design. Brunelleschi's plans for the structure are known only through a series of later drawings, mostly dating from the sixteenth century, as well as a written description of his plan, dating from 1579.

Unusual in form, Santa Maria degli Angeli was planned as a domed octagon with a sixteen-sided exterior; semicircular niches were cut into every other facet of the exterior wall. Inside, eight chapels with deeply recessed lateral apses opened off the sides of the octagon, and were linked by a narrow passageway that pierced the apses and served as an ambulatory around the octagon.

In Brunelleschi's last works, Santo Spirito and the barely started Santa Maria degli Angeli, the planarity of his earlier works was replaced by a greater plasticity of forms, with the use of engaged columns instead of pilasters, and semicircular chapels. The major innovation at Santa Maria degli Angeli was the employment of a circular plan, influenced by the Temple of Minerva Medica, Rome. The centrally planned church became a significant development of the Renaissance, evolving throughout the 15th century and reaching maturity in the 16th.

The photo shows the rotunda.

View the ground plan and section of the building.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.