San Pier Maggiore

Our reconstruction of San Pier Maggiore, also available for mobile use via the Hidden Florence 3D app, reintegrates paintings from the National Gallery and Fitzwilliam Museum within the now destroyed church interior. San Pier Maggiore offers a remarkable story, as the church was demolished in the 1780s but elements of its fabric survived in the domestic and commercial buildings that took its place. Some of these are visible from the street, others are hidden within residential blocks and shops. The church was one of the most important in Florence, patronized by the powerful Albizi and Pazzi families. It was attached to the oldest and most prestigious Benedictine nunnery in the city.

Numerous artworks from the church survive, some still in Florentine collections but many dispersed in museums and galleries across Europe and North America. Our reconstruction focuses on the elaborate high altarpiece created by Jacopo di Cione and assistants in 1370-71. This is now divided into individual panels, most of which are preserved in London’s National Gallery. Other major works from the church in the UK include Francesco Botticini’s Assumption of the Virgin (1475-76, also National Gallery), and Tommaso Manzuoli’s Visitation (1560, Fitzwilliam Museum).

The reconstruction builds on six years of research. A first version of the model was created by the University of Cambridge and Miguel Santa Clara in collaboration with the National Gallery for the Visions of Paradise exhibition in 2015-16, curated by Dr Jenny Sliwka. The church reconstructed as a point cloud nested within today’s urban setting was shown in the film made for the exhibition. In 2019, working with app developer Calvium and AR studio Zubr, we created a new, fully rendered reconstruction of the interior for the Hidden Florence 3D app which geo-locates the visualization of the church and Jacopo di Cione’s polyptych onto the gallery space in London, the site of the church in Florence, or anywhere in armchair mode.

Our ambition is to create a third version of the model in the future which will integrate more of the research we have gathered on the church and a much larger range of the paintings from San Pier Maggiore that are today scattered in different collections.

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