A majestic Gothic building that characterises the square of the same name with its asymmetrical façade, the Basilica of San Domenico is one of Arezzo’s most precious jewels of art and faith.
Around 1240, the Dominican friars settled in the northern part of the city, beginning the construction of a convent and its church, whose work continued until the early fourteenth century. The powerful Arezzo families of the Ubertini and Tarlati contributed to the construction.
The building, which bears some stylistic similarities to the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, has a solemn interior. Throughout the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, the interior walls were the main “training ground” for the local school of painting, influenced by the Sienese and Florentine languages but with distinctive characteristics.
The tour begins on the left counter façade, with a late fourteenth-century fresco by Spinello Aretino depicting the “Stories of Saints Philip and James” surmounted by a lunette with the “Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine” and her “Martyrdom”.
The left wall begins with the “Saint Vincent Ferreri” attributed in the past to Lazzaro Vasari,
the “Stories of Saint Christopher” of the Spinello school and the refined “Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine” by Parri di Spinello, all from the early fifteenth century. This is followed by three works from the first half of the XV century attributed to Giovanni d’Agnolo di Balduccio. They are the “Madonna and Child between Saint Clement and Saint Lawrence”, the “Annunciation” and the “Crucifix between Saints John and Michael the Archangel”. In the upper part of the wall are “St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Dominic” from the late XIII century attributed to Montano d’Arezzo. The name of the last saint remains.
The thirteenth-century portal of the sacristy is surmounted by seventeenth-century “Angeli musicanti” (Musical Angels) by Bernardino Santini.
The left chapel in the apse area is embellished by the fourteenth-century triptych by the Maestro del Vescovado (Master of the Bishopric) with “St. Michael the Archangel between Saints Dominic and Paul”. To its left is an early sixteenth-century “Madonna and Child” attributed to Angelo di Lorentino.
The main chapel is dominated by the “Crucifix” by Cenni di Pepo known as Cimabue. The work, which can be dated between 1265 and 1268, is an early masterpiece by the man whom Giorgio Vasari indicated as the first great innovator of western painting.
The “Annunciation” by Spinello Aretino dating back to 1386 and the “Crucifixion between the Madonna, St. John and two knights” from the first half of the fourteenth century by the Master of Saints Flora and Lucilla can be admired in the left chapel of the apse area. The chapel also hosts the stone “Madonna and Child” from the 1330s that protected Porta San Biagio.
Returning towards the exit, the right-hand wall is opened by “Christ as Judge and the Madonna of the People” by the Maestro del Vescovado, dating back to the first half of the fourteenth century.
This is followed by a ruined fresco by Parri di Spinello from the first half of the fifteenth century, of which the “Angeli musicanti” has been saved. A fresco of the Spinello school with “St Catherine of Alexandria, St Laurence and St Barbara” anticipates the glazed terracotta with “St Peter Martyr”, executed in 1515-20 by Giovanni and Girolamo della Robbia. Looking further up, one observes the “Sermon of Blessed Ambrogio Sansedoni” from the end of the thirteenth century by Montano d’Arezzo.
Continuing along the path we come to the Dragomanni Chapel, sculpted by Giovanni di Francesco Fetti between 1360 and 1377. In the centre of the shrine is a fresco with the “Dispute between Jesus and the Doctors in the Temple” by Donato and Gregorio d’Arezzo, painted after 1321.
At the end of the right-hand wall are some fragmentary fourteenth-century paintings, including an “Adoration of the Magi” and a “Deposition”, while in a niche is a sixteenth-century polychrome terracotta “Madonna and Child”.
The tour ends on the right counter façade, with the “Crucifix between the Madonna, St Nicholas, St John and St Dominic” and the “Stories of St Nicholas” in the lunette, an early fifteenth-century masterpiece by Parri di Spinello.
The majestic interior with a single nave of the Basilica of San Domenico, commissioned in the XIII century by the Dominicans
The Crucifix by Cenni di Pepo, known as Cimabue, an early masterpiece by Giotto’s master (1260/65)
San Michele Arcangelo tra i SS. Domenico e Paolo by the Master of the Bishopric (first half of the 14th century)
Madonna con il Bambino, scultura in pietra che proteggeva Porta San Biagio (anni Trenta del XIV sec.)
Crocifisso tra la Madonna e Santi e nella lunetta Storie di San Nicola di Parri di Spinello, (inizio XV sec.)
Storie dei SS. Filippo e Giacomo, nella lunetta Matrimonio mistico e Martirio di Santa Caterina by Spinello Aretino
The Dragomanni Chapel, a masterpiece sculpted by Giovanni di Francesco Fetti between 1360 and 1377
Disputa tra Gesù e i dottori nel tempio, fresco by Donato and Gregorio d’Arezzo made after 1321
Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, San Lorenzo e Santa Barbara, fresco by the Spinello school (early 15th century)
Crocifisso tra i SS. Giovanni e Michele Arcangelo by Giovanni d’Agnolo di Balduccio (first half of the 15th century)
Madonna con il Bambino, polychrome terracotta by an anonymous Tuscan on the right wall (16th century)
San Pietro Martire, polychrome glazed terracotta by Giovanni and Girolamo della Robbia (1515-20)