the museo marino marini is located in the historic center of florence, within the former church of san pancrazio, between via della vigna nuova and piazza santa maria novella. sometime after 1100 a priory was constructed within the ecclesiastical settlement of san pancrazio, first documented at the beginning of the 9th century. the benedictine nuns used it during the 13th and the 14th centuries until the vallombrosan friars took over, undertaking a radical restoration of the convent. this intervention was completed between 1457 and 1467 by leon battista alberti, and sponsored by the rucellai family. alberti’s chapel and with the tomb of the holy sepulcher.
in 1808, the church of san pancrazio became deconsecrated by an edict of the napoleonic government. this reorganization witnessed the removal of the albertian triforio, re-assembling it in the façade with strongly varied proportions. the building then undergoes the fate of the dispersion of its furniture, and finally auction as part of the napoleonic lottery. later the structure becomes the venue of the governmental prefecture and then a tobacco manufacture during which time a fire destroyed the apsidal masonry. the final incarnation of the structure was as a military depot. finally, in 1988, the city rediscovers a historic building returned from improper use through a laborious restoration work, and the opening of a museum that happily combines ancient and modern, designed by architects bruno sacchi and lorenzo papi, florence’s first museum of contemporary art.
from the nineteenth century to the present day
during the following centuries, the san pancrazio structure underwent strong transformations according to the change of taste of the times; until, in the mid-nineteenth century, the church was completely transformed according to a project by architect, giuseppe ruggieri. The moderately baroque configuration was not the last metamorphosis of the building; as a consequence of the tumultuous events of the napoloeonic era, the church of san pancrazio was deconsecrated by an edict on october 20th 1808. following the suppression of religious orders and confiscation of the property of the convents, the furnishings of the church were auctioned and dispersed, and the church was destined for sale within the imperial lottery of france. following the closure of the rucellai chapel, the alberti triforium present on the façade was dismantled and reconstructed according to an altered form of the original composition. access to the rucellai chapel was formerly a fundamental element in defining the façade on the square. a large semi-circular window topped the new reconstruction of Alberti’s triforium, giving rise to an unexpected neoclassical aspect. after being the seat of the prefecture, in 1883, the ex-church of san pancrazio was destined to house a tobacco manufacturing operation, and the transformation and tampering continued: the eighteenth century nave was divided into two floors by means of a metal slab (the bolted iron beams can be observed at present). in 1937, the church became a military warehouse, accompanying the nearby barracks, which meanwhile had been installed in the adjacent convent. between the nineteen sixties and seventies, the church was abandoned by the military administration, and the building began to be recovered.
Dal 1982 l’intervento di restauro del complesso di san pancrazio viene affidato agli architetti lorenzo papi e bruno sacchi; per la precisione, i progetti dei due architetti devono innestarsi su un parziale intervento già operativo negli anni precedenti, che aveva visto la demolizione della facciata interna barocca e l’elevazione di due tralicci a sostegno di una nuova copertura del vestibolo. il filo conduttore del restauro, inteso non quale pura esercitazione di recupero astratto, ma di adattamento alla nuova funzionalità museale, ha puntato alla restituzione della leggibilità del monumento, in tutte le sue scansioni, dall’involucro medievale all’orditura interna settecentesca, con le ulteriori sovrastrutture protoindustriali in ferro della fine dell’ottocento. l’intervento ex novo si caratterizza soprattutto nel dipanarsi di un percorso liberissimo – scale e passerelle nettamente individuate per forma e colori dai manufatti antichi – che permette di riconoscere appieno e di interscambiare le memorie di una storia antica e gli eccezionali documenti di una poetica moderna ed attuale, quella di marino marini. l’unico settore dove il progetto odierno ha dovuto intervenire con una reinvenzione radicale è la parete di fondo, corrispondente all’antico coro di cui non rimanevano vestigia alcune, risolta con una“parete di luce”, una grande vetrata scandita da una intelaiatura la cui geometria astratta ripropone le scansioni di forza dell’edificio antico.
In the second half of the 14th century, through the initiative of Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai, distinguished member of the family giving patronage to the main chapel of the church, brought to light a side chapel – the first, on the west side of the church – one of the “wonders” of the florentine renaissance, the tomb of the holy sepulcher, a jewel of leon battista alberti. The tomb of the sepulcher was located in the first chapel on the left side of the church and connected with the main nave by means of an elegant triforio formed by two sleek corinthian columns surmounted by a beaded frieze.
saturday-sunday-monday 11 – 12 – 15 – 16 entrance for up to 25 people
tuesday-friday by reservation
within the museum, “paths” were conceived and created in order to better read and understand the works of Marino Marini, paying particular attention to the exaggerated three-dimensionality of the pistoian artist. the ability to circle the sculptures and explore around them is exceptional. the work can be viewed from an ever-changing perspective, sometimes unusual, with projections from different levels, and at different angles. the monumental ground floor of the museum presents marini’s unambiguous figurative poem in a grandiose way: the metaphor of the knight as the tale of a man who loses his faith in reason and self-control. also present in the main hall, the countersong of the pomone “controcanto delle pomone,” are works of monumental dimension according to another of marini’s figurative themes often woven together with that of the knight. the mezzanine in the museum has the quality of a reflective pause, an intimate island, which accents a less epic and polyphonic marino, but perhaps a more intriguing one. in this area of the museum, works of varied subject matter are preserved, including a series of smaller sculptures, of which a small group represents marino marini’s work as a portraitist. the common thread that binds and guides the presentation of the works on the upper floor is their theatrical staging. the space assumes an expanded and powerful stature and the context of the works in relationship to marino marini’s themes is purposefully accentuated. the ballerinas and dancers of the 1950’s have been placed here. representing states between dull anguish and all-encompassing possession, they are the extreme evolution of the formal path through the museum.
the building contains vast underground spaces, commissioned and built from the second half of the 14th century, that still intrigue today. these spaces are divided and many are principally used for complementary and dynamic events enhancing the vitality of the museum, including: lectures, screenings, performances, and exhibitions. all that in the most concrete interpretation always held by marino marini of his art was that it was to be an occasion for encounters, life, humanity, and cultural engagement.
the religious complex of san pancrazio, constituted by the church and the adjacent monastery, was for centuries one of the primary landmarks of florentine life. In fact, one of the doors to the city opened right next to it, superimposed with that of the ancient Roman city. the sacred complex was an articulated body, developed considerably in the fourteenth century by the tireless work of the monks, and due to the generous support of a few bourgeois families. the religious settlement likely dates back to the ninth century; the current structure, impressive despite the alterations and ruin brought by time and history, dates back to the thirteenth century. in the last decades of the century, the fundamental works composing the “island” of san pancrazio reemerged, the heart of a strongly characterized city district. it was then that the large hall was raised, covered with exposed trusses, ending with a choir and a transept with chapels; the perimeter formed by the shell of the current museum is still largely this late-medieval building, whose most prominent view is from the vantage of the ancient sacristy, at the end of the east wall, the only one that has retained the the cross ribbed vault.