"Assistance is an art and requires total devotion" - Florence Nightingale

Santa Maria della Scala

The Hospital's sacred spaces and their stories

Chapel of the Mantle
This space is the oldest part of the Hospital. The Chapel originally housed the relics brought by the Hospital and takes its name from the Madonna of the Mantle, the fresco that Domenico di Bartolo. In 1359 an external pulpit with direct access from the chapel was built to give benediction with the relics to the populace on 25th March, the Annunciation day and Hospital's holy day. The Chapel underwent further changes in the Sixteenth century and In 1610 the Madonna of the Mantle and the relics were transferred to the Old Sacristy. The chapel was used as a hall and a First Aid Room untile 1960.

The Chapel's three spans are subdivided into cross-vaults, painted by Cristoforo di Bindoccio e Meo di Pero in 1370. In the second span another two figure of Saints have come to light, painted probably by Lippo Vanni and Jacopo di Mino Pellicciaio.

At the beginning of the Sixteenth century, Pandolfo Petrucci, willed that the first span be enriched by an important artworks by Domenico Beccafumi: a frescoed lunette portraying The Meeting at the Golden Gate.

Chapel of the Mantle: left wall

Pandolfo Petrucci also commissioned the large lunette frescoed on the right wall, depicted with a wiew of Rome by Bartolomeo di David, a Beccafumi's associated. The fresco was intended to be the backdrop for a sculptural group representing the Nativity, now lost.

Old Sacristy
On the initiative of rector Giovanni Buzzichelli, the Sacristy was built to house the relics acquired from the Hospital in 1359. This huge space is covered in Lorenzo di Pietro's, known as Vecchietta, frescoes, a cycle dedicated to the Articles of Faith with references to both Old and New Testaments.

The Sacristy progressively began to lose its purpose due to the construction of a new and more practicale space suited to the new greater dimension of the church in the late Fifteenth century. At the same time a new chapel for the relics was converted from the Sacristy. Later, it became the base of one of the numerous confraternities that had been welcomed in the Hospital, the Confraternity of the "Sacred Nails".

Madonna of the Mantle

This is the famous fresco that Domenico di Bartolo painted in 1444 in the Chapel of the Mantle, the chaple that originally housed the relics bought by Santa Maria della Scala. In 1610, the artwork and the relics were moved into the Old Sacristy, where the fresco is still to be found today.

On the vaulted ceiling of the Old Sacristy we can see in the centre Christ, surrounded by angels, Evangelists, Doctors and Prophets.

On the right wall, in the first lunette, we can see Articles of the Creed: Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Below the first lunette, badly damaged, we can see the Fiery furnace...

...and the Creation with Adam and Eve.

On the right wall, in the second lunette, we can see the "Annunciation" and the "Nativity". Below, badly damaged, a scene the was indentified as the Annunciation of the birth of Samson.

On the right wall, in the third lunette, we can see the Passion of Christ and Moses showing the bronze serpent to the Israelites.

On the south wall, in the fourth lunette, we can see Christ descending to the Limbo. Below, badly damaged, a scene that was identified as "Lot's Libération".

On the south wall, in the fifth lunette, we can see Articles of the Creed: On the third day he rose again, almost completely lost, and probably an Ascension, completely lost. Below we can see parts of Jonah in the stomach of the whale.

On the left wall, in the sixth lunette, we can see above the "Universal Judgement" and below Daniel's vision of the cart of fire.

On the left wall, in the seventh lunette, we can see "Articles of the Creed": I believe in the Holy Spirit and a Pentecost. Below we can see The glory of the temple of Jerusalem and Solomon sacrificing in the temple.

Madonna's Chapel

This internal chapel, built around 1680 on the site of an older caphel dedicated to Saints Joachin and Anne, was renovated at the will of Sister Elisabetta Biagini. The chapel leads to the church of the Santissima Annunziata and to the Old Sacristy and conserves a cycle dedicated to the Madonna depicted by Giuseppe Nicola Nasini and his son Apollonio. On the altar is a cuspidate panel by Paolo di Giovanni Fei showing the Madonna and child, dating from the early Fifteenth century.

The church of the Santissima Annunziata
The oldest church was built in the first half of the Thirteenth century. The church was completely renovated in the second half of the Fifteenth century by Guidoccio di Andrea's scheme, which included the creation of a huge raised nave in the absidal area and the raising of lateral walls to the height of the Palazzo del Rettore.

The new church also involved the work of Francesco di Giorgio Martini which painted in the absidal area a Coronation of the Virgin. In the last decades of the Seventeenth century the high altar was rebuilt and two side altars added, decorated with canvases by Pietro Locatelli and Giovanni Morandi. In 1730, using the bequest of rector Antonio Ugolini Billò, it was decided that the church's great abse should be decorated by Sebastiano Conca. The painting portrays the Pool at Bethesda, where the sick hoped to be miraculously healed.

The Organ

The organ, dating from the early Sixteenth century, is the work of the piper Giovanni di Antonio Piffaro. The artwork is characterised by an elegant intaglio and both a refined and complex decoration.

The Announcing Angel

Half way up the aisle there are on both sides stone niches with the figure of the Announcing Angel and the Virgin Annunciate. Their dates are still subject of analysis although well-founded hypotheses claim that the angel's head is Fourteenth century, its body was made in the Sixteenth and the Virgin in the Seventeenth.

Vecchietta's Risen Christ and the Altar

At the top of the altar we can see Vecchietta's Risen Christ, signed and dated in 1476. Stylistically, the critics relate this artwork to the Sienese works of Donatello. Vecchietta originally meant it for the Hospital's funeral chapel. The altar is also decorated with two bronze candelabra held by angelsa made by Accursio Baldi in the Sixteenth century, two adoring angels and a pair of marble candelabra-holding angels from the Mazzuoli workshop and a marble Deposed Christ on the facade, made by the sculptor Giuseppe Mazzuoli which worked in Rome with Bernini workshop for the Chigi family.

Credits: Story

Santa Maria della Scala, servizio programmazione culturale musei
Redazione di Chiara Nencini
con la collaborazione di Michele Caliani, Olimpia Dell'Avanzato e Viola Pecchioli (progetto di alternanza scuola-lavoro, liceo Classico e Musicale "Enea Silvio Piccolomini" A.S. 2017-2018)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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