One of the most imposing buildings in the historical centre of Arezzo, the Abbey of Saints Flora and Lucilla was the main Benedictine monastery in Arezzo.
Until 1196, the monks had their fortified seat in Torrita di Olmo, south-west of the city, but the Municipality of Arezzo forced them to enter the city to limit their sphere of influence. After using temporary premises, in 1209 they settled near the thirteenth-century walls, where today Piazza della Badia on one side and Piazza del Popolo on the other stand. In 1315 the complex was renovated, but more important interventions took place starting in 1489 with the construction of the Renaissance cloister, which was based on the project drawn up years earlier by Giuliano da Maiano.
Work continued into the following century with a second, smaller cloister and the refectory from 1525, which in 1549 housed Giorgio Vasari’s grandiose “Convito per le nozze di Ester e Assuero” (Banquet for the Marriage of Esther and Ahasuerus), now in the State Museum of Medieval and Modern Art. Until the early nineteenth century it remained in the hands of the Benedictines, but after the Napoleonic suppressions it found other public uses.
The Church of the Abbey of Saints Flora and Lucilla stands next to the former monastery, now a school complex. The first building was constructed in the early thirteenth century, but in the seventies of that century a larger, single-nave building was built in the transition phase from the Romanesque to the Gothic style. There were new works in the fourteenth century and in the second half of the fifteenth century. In 1564, based on plans drawn up by Giorgio Vasari, the place of worship was remodelled with the addition of side aisles, while the characteristic octagonal bell tower was erected on several occasions between 1649 and 1711. The 1914 restoration revealed the façade’s stratification of the church, still one of Arezzo’s most precious art treasures.
The left side of the counter façade houses a masterpiece of Renaissance art in Arezzo: the “San Lorenzo” frescoed by Bartolomeo della Gatta in 1476. Also on the counter façade is a painting of the “Immaculate Conception” by Teofilo Torri from 1603.
On the altars of the left wall are the “Virgin in Glory between Saint Bartholomew and Saint Martin” and the “Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica”, both canvases by Marco Mazzaroppi dating back to 1606. The “Madonna della pappa” (Our Lady of the Supper) attributed to Jacques Stella dates back to the first half of the XVII century, while the “San Mauro taumaturgo” (Saint Maurus the Wonderworker) is a canvas by Paolo de Matteis dating back to 1690. In the left transept is a tabernacle sculpted by Benedetto da Maiano around 1478.
Between 1562 and 1564, Giorgio Vasari and his collaborators erected for the high altar of the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta the sepulchral monument that would hold his remains, those of his wife and ancestors, adorned on the various sides with panel paintings with images of family members and saints. It remained there until 1865, when, following interventions aimed at restoring the medieval appearance of the place of worship, the altar was moved to the Chiesa della Badia (Church of the Abbey). The front side features the “Vocation of Saints Peter, Andrew, James and John”, already painted in 1551, while the back side features “St George and the Dragon” by Giovanni Stradano. In front of the altar is the “Paliotto Mellini – Serragli” by Bernardo di Stefano Rosselli dating back to 1478, while the apse contains the seventeenth century organ, embellished with Raffaello Vanni‘s “Saint Flora” and “Saint Lucilla” dating back to 1651.
Above the transept, right in front of the Vasarian altar, is Andrea Pozzo’s famous fake dome with its spectacular optical illusion of 1702.
Starting again from the right, the transept contains Teofilo Torri’s “Mystic Marriage of St Catherine” from 1605-06. Moving towards the exit, above the door to the sacristy, you can admire the grandiose “Crucifix” on panel by Segna di Bonaventura, made around 1319.
Next, the altars on the right wall feature the “Madonna and Child with Saints Maurus, Lucy and Louis IX” by Bernardino Santini dating back to the 1640s, the wooden “Crucifix” by Baccio da Montelupo dating back to 1504-10, and the “Visitation” by Giovanni Antonio Lappoli dating back to 1524-26.
The tour of the wonders of the Benedictine church ends on the right-hand side of the counter façade, which houses the so-called “Pala Albergotti”, a large panel by Giorgio Vasari consisting of a central part with the “Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin” of 1566, to which “St. Donatus” and “St. Francis” were added on the sides in 1570, along with eight small panels with portraits of saints in the centre of the monumental frame. This work was also transferred from the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta (Parish Church of St. Mary of the Assumption) around 1865.
The three-nave interior of the church was built as a place of worship for the nearby Abbey of Saints Flora and Lucilla
Vocation of Saints Peter, Andrew, James and John by Giorgio Vasari on the high altar (1551)
High altar by Giorgio Vasari and collaborators between 1562 and 1564
St. Lawrence on the counter façade, a masterpiece frescoed by Bartolomeo della Gatta in 1476
The famous fake dome by Andrea Pozzo, artist and Jesuit priest, with its optical trickery (1702)
Grandiose Crucifix on panel by Segna di Bonaventura, made around 1319
Wooden Crucifix by Baccio da Montelupo on the right wall of the church, a valuable work from 1504-10
Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin by Giorgio Vasari, also known as the Pala Albergotti (1566/70)
Madonna and Child with Sts. Maurus, Lucy and Louis IX by Bernardino Santini (1640s)
Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine by Teofilo Torri in the right transept of the church (1605-06)
Saints Benedict and Scholastica, oil on canvas by Marco Mazzaroppi 1606 with Montecassino in the background