The Church of the Santissima Annunziata, along Via Garibaldi, is one of the most important Renaissance churches in Arezzo. Its origins coincide with the birth of the Compagnia della Santissima Annunziata, created by a group of Arezzo nobles for the purpose of prayer, penance and charity in the first half of the XIV century.
Around 1348, the members of the lay society asked permission from Bishop Boso degli Ubertini to build an oratory, now incorporated into the church façade. In 1364, a hospital for wayfarers was also built a short distance away, dedicated to St Christopher, where on 26 February 1490 a young man from La Spezia, returning from a pilgrimage to Loreto, was staying. The man was praying in front of a statue of the Virgin when, according to tradition, she began to cry. Thus the cult of the “Madonna of Tears” was born.
The episode brought large sums of money into the company’s coffers, the fruit of alms, devotional offerings and bequests, which made it possible to design a church larger than the previous one. The design was entrusted to Bartolomeo della Gatta and in 1491 work began on a poly-absidal Latin cross building.
In 1502 the great Renaissance artist died and two years later the supervision of the works passed into the hands of Antonio da Sangallo, who made changes and extensions to his predecessor’s design. During the sixteenth century, the dome was built, a new façade incorporated the old oratory and the aisles were completed.
Before entering the church, on the right you can admire a masterpiece of the fourteenth-century Arezzo school enclosed in the large tabernacle that surmounted the entrance to the first oratory. This is the “Annunciation” datable to around 1370 and attributed by some historians to the young Spinello Aretino, by others to his master Andrea di Nerio. The fresco was part of the first oratory.
Inside, the tour begins at the first altar on the left wall, which houses an early work by Giorgio Vasari, the “Deposition of Christ”, painted for the Basilica of San Domenico in the years 1536-37 and moved to its current location around 1796-97.
The next altar has a canvas with seven “Saints” painted by Pietro Castellucci in 1676, with a central niche for a bust of the “Madonna and Child” from the early sixteenth century.
The fourth altar displays a stupendous 14th-century wooden “Crucifix” of the Tuscan school rich in pathos, followed by the Spadacci Chapel with Matteo Rosselli‘s delicate “Annunciation” of 1625-26.
The Ricciardi Chapel in the left transept houses a remarkable “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Niccolò Soggi from 1521, surmounted by the precious seventeenth-century organ.
The high altar in polychrome marble, designed by Bernardo Buontalenti, dates back to 1596. It houses the “Madonna of Tears”, a “Madonna and Child” from the first half of the XV century, protagonist of the miracle of 1490, attributed to Michele da Firenze.
In the right transept, the Spadari Chapel is the only one remaining of the niche aediculae from the late fifteenth century. Inside, one can admire the terracotta statues by Agnolo di Polo depicting the “Madonna and Child between St. Francis and St. Roch”, completed between 1526 and 1527.
Walking down the right wall in the direction of the exit, we encounter four altars. The Montauti Chapel holds “The Ecstasy of St. Francis”, a 1641 jewel by Pietro Berrettini, the second altar houses the “Madonna in Glory between St. Donato and St. Francis” from 1665 by an anonymous Tuscan, the third and fourth chapels house paintings from the first half of the XVII century with “St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata” by Bernardino Santini and the “Crucifixion” by Teofilo Torri.
A lunette in the atrium was partially frescoed in 1527 by Niccolò Soggi with “La Sibilla Tiburtina che annuncia a Ottaviano la venuta del Salvatore” (The Tiburtine Sibyl announcing the coming of the Saviour to Octavian). Finally, two large circular stained-glass windows by Guillaume de Marcillat, executed between 1524 and 1525, deserve special mention. At the top right is the “Marriage of the Virgin” and in the apse area the “Assumption of the Virgin”.
The three-nave interior of the Church of the Santissima Annunziata, one of the most beautiful Renaissance temples in Arezzo
Our Lady of Tears by Michele da Firenze (first half of the 15th century) protagonist of the miracle of 1490
Deposition of Christ by Giorgio Vasari, an early work influenced by Rosso Fiorentino (1536-37)
14th-century wooden crucifix of the Tuscan school, originally in the Church of San Maria di Murello
Ricciardi Chapel with the beautiful Adoration of the Shepherds by Niccolò Soggi, oil on panel dated back to 1521
Spadari Chapel with the Madonna and Child between the Sts. Francis and Rocco by Agnolo di Polo (1526- 27)
St. Francis in Ecstasy, valuable oil on canvas dating back to 1641 by Pietro Berrettini, known as Pietro da Cortona
Canvas with the Madonna in Glory between St. Donatus and St. Francis, by an anonymous Tuscan painter from 1665
Annunciation by Spinello Aretino or Andrea di Nerio, in the tabernacle outside the church (c. 1370)