The Church of Sant’Agostino, with its mighty bell tower and severe stone façade, dominates the square of the same name along Via Garibaldi, which has been a market and social place for centuries.
The building was built together with the nearby convent at the behest of the hermit friars of Saint Augustine, one of the main mendicant orders that arose in the thirteenth century, attested in Arezzo as early as 1257. The Augustinians remained until the Napoleonic suppressions of 1808.
Initially a small building was built, partially open for worship from 1273, but in 1330 the friars promoted work on a three-nave place of worship, which by 1377 was one of the largest in the city.
After a long suspension due to a lack of funds, bequests from the wealthy merchant Mariotto di Cristoforo Cofani and later from his sons made it possible to complete the convent complex between 1469 and the middle of the following century. The marble tombstone of the wealthy Aretine is still visible in the floor near the high altar.
The painter, architect and art historian Giorgio Vasari wrote that between the first half of the fourteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth century, the church was embellished with cycles of frescoes and paintings on wood panels by well-known painters such as Barna Senese, Iacopo del Casentino, Parri di Spinello, Taddeo di Bartolo, Bartolomeo della Gatta and Luca Signorelli.
Unfortunately, there is no trace of their works any more, because between 1755 and 1766, the building was completely overhauled by an intervention that considerably reduced its size and transformed the interior according to the styles still in vogue. The late Baroque and Rococo styles brought a dowry of new altars and elegant stucco work, thanks to the Ticinese craftsmen working in Arezzo at the time.
Externally, the ashlar façade and the robust quadrangular bell tower completed during the fifteenth century remained. The conical tip of the latter was damaged by lightning in 1825 and was only rebuilt in the 1920s. Later, the four small cusps were also added.
To the left of the entrance, on the counter façade, is a wooden “Crucifix” applied to a canvas dating back to 1626-27 by Bernardino Santini with “The Trinity between St John the Evangelist and St Francis”.
The main work on the left-hand wall is the “Circumcision of Jesus”, a six-handed masterpiece by Niccolò Soggi, Domenico Pecori and Fernando de Coca painted between 1506 and 1511. This work has a singular history, as it was made for the oratory next to the Holy Trinity Church, but was moved to St. Augustine’s during the eighteenth century. On 3 May 1922, it was stolen by a thief and disassembled into five parts to be more easily placed on the market, but the thief was arrested a few weeks later. The police finished recovering the various parts on the following 8 June. What had been saved was reassembled on a panel and even today the gaps and signs of that episode are still clearly visible. Also of interest on the same wall is the “Madonna con il Bambino consegnare la cintola a Sant’Agostino e Santa Monica” (Madonna with Child Handing the Girdle to St Augustine and St Monica) by Bernardino Santini from 1640-45.
The presbytery area is marked by works of various authors and periods. Among these are the five paintings in the apse area: “Beato Bonaventura” (Blessed Bonaventure) and “Santa Chiara da Montefalco” (Saint Clare of Montefalco) from 1660 by Salvi Castellucci, “Sant’Agostino” and “Santa Maria Maddalena” attributed to Matteo Lappoli from the early 16th century, and in the centre the “Madonna del Buonconsiglio” (Our Lady of Good Counsel) dating back to 1780-90 by an anonymous painter, framed by the contemporary stuccoes by Francesco Rusca and Carlo Speroni.
On the right-hand wall, the most important works are the canvas with “Sant’Agostino tra il Crocifisso, la Madonna e i santi Nicola da Tolentino e Guglielmo d’Aquitania” (St. Augustine between the Crucifix, the Virgin Mary and Saints Nicholas of Tolentino and William of Aquitaine) dating back to 1640-50, still by Bernardino Santini, and the large late 15th-century fresco attributed to the circle of Lorentino d’Andrea. The work depicts “San Bernardino tra San Girolamo e Sant’Ignazio di Antiochia” (St. Bernardine between St. Jerome and St. Ignatius of Antioch) and is the only survivor of the paintings that enriched the church until the XVIII century.
The three-nave interior of the Church of Sant’Agostino, the result of work carried out between 1755 and 1766
Apsidal area and altar rich in stucco work by Ticino masters in the second half of the 18th century
Crucifix applied on Trinity between Sts. John the Evangelist and Francis by Bernardino Santini (1626/27)
St. Bernardino, Sts. Jerome and Ignatius of Antioch from the circle of Lorentino d’Andrea (late 15th century)
Circumcision of Jesus, a masterpiece by Niccolò Soggi, Domenico Pecori and Fernando de Coca (1506/11)
Marzocchi Altar with the Sacred Heart of Jesus painted by the Dominican painter and the Dominican nun Imelda (1923)
Saint Augustine between the Crucifix, the Madonna and Saints, an oil on canvas by Bernardino Santini (1640/50)