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A leisurely start to the day after the strenuous time travel of yesterday, we ate breakfast and then gathered in the studio for an intensive introduction to linear perspective, drawing devices and color theory in preparation for a visit to San Mineato al Monte later this afternoon. We also reviewed the calendar for the week which includes two big hits: the Accademia and the Uffizi as well as a day trip to Siena.

After a lunch break (and laundry for some) we congregated again at 3:00 to hike up to San Mineato al Monte. The stair climb to the first stage, Piazzale Michelangelo, was turned into a race by three energetic team members. After another ten minutes ascent, we arrived at the courtyard of San Mineato.

Mineas was a third century Armenian who served as a Roman soldier. He converted to Christianity and as punishment was thrown to panthers in the amphitheater. When the animals refused to eat him, he was beheaded in front of the emperor. Mineas then picked up his head and ran to this mountain where an earlier church existed in the ninth century. The current church was begun in 1013, the facade in 1090, financed by the cloth merchants guild (calimala) whose patron saint was John (the eagle is a prominent feature throughout the structure). Adjacent to the church is the monastery (Olivetan order of monks).

The church is similar in style to the baptistery of Santa Maria dei Fiori (Tuscan Romanesque). Inside are several unique and interesting features:

  • Patterned floor includes zodiacal design
  • Interior mosaic of Christ between Virgin and Mineas (whose bones are reportedly in the crypt)
  • Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal
  • Raised choir

We then went outside (thankfully, cloud cover kept us out of the direct sun for part of the time) and the students were given two sheets of paper for drawing the facade (and trying out one-point perspective) and a panoramic drawing of the Florence skyline. A quick tour of the cemetery was an option between drawings and, for some of the group, a quiet 30-minutes of Gregorian chants as the Olivetan brothers prayed at vespers. We popped into the shop of jeweler Alessandro Dari to check out some of his incredible creations.

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