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Church of San Procolo

The Church of San Procolo stands on the corner of Via de’ Giraldi and Via de’ Pandolfini in the very centre of Florence. The history of the church dates back over one thousand years, while the surrounding buildings are linked to the biographies of many famous and interesting people, including Dante, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The church was probably built before 1000 and was originally dedicated to both St Proculus and St Nicomedes. In 1064, the bishop of Florence awarded the building to the Benedictine monks of the Badia Fiorentina, who owned the church for the next seven hundred years.

In 1498, Florence rose up against its ascetic ruler, a Dominican monk called Girolamo Savonarola who had organised the notorious “Bonfire of the Vanities”. One of his leading followers, Francesco Valori, was murdered by an angry mob near the Church of San Procolo. Valori’s family commissioned the famous Renaissance master Filippino Lippi to paint an altarpiece for his tomb in the church.

The Church of San Procolo was rebuilt in the sixteenth century, when the east-west orientation was reversed. The entrance is now in the east at Via de’ Giraldi 7, while the altar is in the west (in direct contrast to the majority of Christian churches).

The church underwent further restoration between 1739 and 1743, when it became the seat of the Confraternity of Sant’ Antonio Abate dei Macellai. This was a religious brotherhood which took vows of strict discipline, engaged in self-flogging and held nocturnal prayer-meetings.

In the second half of the 18th century, Grand Duke Leopold I of Tuscany wanted to counter the excessive concentration of assets in the hands of religious orders, such as the Benedictine monks of the Badia Fiorentina, who owned San Procolo. The church was deconsecrated in 1778 and sold to Cardinal Gregorio Salviati on 14 July 1786.

Cardinal Gregorio Salviati (1722–1794) was a member of a prominent local family which had once vied with the Medici for political power in Florence. Archbishop Francesco Salviati of Pisa was publicly hanged for his part in the Pazzi Conspiracy against the Medici family in 1478.

Cardinal Gregorio Salviati’s niece, Anna Maria Salviati (1752–1809), married Prince Marcantonio III Borghese (1730–1800) and gave birth to Prince Camillo IV Borghese (1775–1832), who owned the neighbouring palace. In 1803, Camillo Borghese married Napoleon’s younger sister Pauline, who died in the palace next to the church in 1825.

In 1934, Giorgio La Pira – a popular politician opposed to Fascism, who later twice served as mayor of Florence – began holding Sunday masses at the Church of San Procolo for the poorest and neediest citizens of Florence. At the “Messa dei Poveri”, bread and money were given to the homeless, the sick, the dying and convicts.

The church building was badly damaged when the River Arno flooded in November 1966. The roof collapsed in June 2005 and was subsequently completely rebuilt. Throughout this period, there were unsuccessful attempts to purchase the church, both by a nearby hotel and by the Bargello Museum to use as an extended exhibition space.


The Church of San Procolo is located just 250 metres from the city’s other most famous buildings and tourist sites – the Uffizi Gallery, the Piazza della Signoria with the statue of David, the Casa di Dante and the cathedrals of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) and Santa Croce, where Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are buried.

The church is surrounded on three sides by several very important historical buildings – the Bargello, the Badia Fiorentina and the Palazzo Borghese. Many famous artists, writers and rulers visited, worked and lived in these places over the past thousand years.

The Bargello (“castle” or “fortified tower”) to the south of the church was built in 1255 as the Palazzo del Podestà (the official residence of the chief magistrate) and is the oldest public building in Florence. In 1574, the building was turned into a prison, where executions took place until 1769.

In 1865, when Florence became the capital of the newly unified kingdom of Italy, the Bargello was turned into a museum. It is now home to the largest Italian collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures, including masterpieces by Michelangelo and Donatello. The frescoes in the Cappella del Podestà include an image of Dante painted by his friend Giotto around 1334–37.

The Badia Fiorentina to the west of the church was founded as a Benedictine monastery in 978. The initial Romanesque church on Via del Proconsolo was later rebuilt in the Gothic style (1284–1310) and the Baroque style (1627–31). In 1373, Boccaccio read a series of lectures on Dante’s Divine Comedy in the chapel of Santo Stefano.

Dante grew up across the street and this was where he first saw Beatrice Portinari at Mass (the Badia Fiorentina was her parish church). Because he lived in the vicinity, it is extremely likely that Dante also frequented the Church of San Procolo.

Besides such Renaissance masterpieces as Filippino Lippi’s Apparition of the Virgin to St Bernard (1482–86), the Badia Fiorentina also contains the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci’s family, which dates from 1472. Leonardo’s father Piero was buried there in 1504, as were three of the artist’s half-sisters in 1477, 1490 and 1505 (Leonardo himself died and was buried in France).

Leonardo da Vinci’s father was a wealthy notary whose office from 1468 to 1504 was situated in the line of buildings on Via Ghibellina which directly adjoin the Church of San Procolo to the south. After he died in July 1504, the office was taken over by Leonardo’s half-brother Giuliano from 1504 to 1507.

Leonardo’s father died in a house further down Via Ghibellina, between Via Giovanni da Verrazzano and Via dei Pepi, where he lived from 1480 to 1504. The following block, between Via dei Pepi and Via Michelangelo Buonarroti (Via Ghibellina 70), includes a house purchased in 1508 by Leonardo’s contemporary and archrival, Michelangelo, who lived there from 1516 to 1525.

The northern wall of the church stands on Via de’ Pandolfini, which continues as Via dell’Agnolo (this was once one street called Via San Procolo). From around 1451 to 1470, Andrea del Verrocchio lived in a house at the corner of Via dell’Agnolo and Via de’ Macci. Next to the house was his workshop, where Leonardo da Vinci trained as an artist for almost a decade from 1466.

Standing directly to the east of the church is the Palazzo Borghese, which was originally built in the second half of the fifteenth century by the Salviati family, who later also owned the Church of San Procolo. In the early nineteenth century, the palace was inherited by Prince Camillo Borghese, who reconstructed the building in the Neoclassical style in 1821.

In 1803, Camillo Borghese married Pauline Bonaparte, the sister of Napoleon. Pauline scandalised Florentine society by posing nude for sculptor Antonio Canova as Venus Victrix and by flagrantly conducting a series of outrageous extramarital affairs (including with the violinist Niccolò Paganini). She died of cancer, wearing her favourite dress, at the Palazzo Borghese in 1825.


The main eastern facade at Via de’ Giraldi 7 is made of rough stone and has a central rose window and two large side windows. There are three more windows on the northern wall occupying Via de’ Pandolfini 29.

The ceiling is decorated with frescoes painted by the Giotto school, including an image of Christ in a mandorla (“almond”) supported by two angels. The frescoes were covered up in the eighteenth century, but rediscovered when the ceiling collapsed in 2005.

An old description of the church mentions a “high altar, stucco Corinthian columns” and “valuable paintings”. The high altar was decorated in the eighteenth century by Florentine artist Gaetano Piattoli (1703–1774), who painted San Procolo Healing a Boy.

An unverified source claims that the high altar was originally painted by Giotto around 1334. The painting allegedly depicted the Virgin Mary on a field of gold with the Christ Child in her lap. She was flanked by four saints (two of whom were bishops), while two angels lifted curtains above the Madonna.

Most of the artistic treasures have long since been removed from the church. They are now either at the Badia Fiorentina, in important public museums (the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia) or in storage at the Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici e Storici a Firenze (Superintendence for the Artistic and Historical Heritage in Florence).

The Church of San Procolo possessed many important works of Gothic and Renaissance art. These include Pacino di Bonaguida’s Altarpiece with St Nicholas, St John the Evangelist and St Proculus (1310–20), Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Four Stories from the Life of St Nicholas (c. 1330) and Madonna and Child with St Nicholas and St Proculus (1332), Lorenzo Monaco’s Annunciation with St Catherine of Alexandria, St Anthony Abbot, St Proculus and St Francis of Assisi (1410–15) and Filippino Lippi’s Crucifixion with the Virgin and St Francis (1498–1500).


The church is for sale directly from the current owner. As the building is not being used as a church, the new owner will be free to adapt it to his or her own private or commercial use. If you are interested in acquiring this unique historical building in a prime location in the centre of Florence, please contact

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