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March 2, Friday

Highlights of Florence | Academy of Fine Arts | Evening Sung Mass in Florence


Our first full day in Florence. Forecast: rain. Lots of rain!
We began the day with a walking tour of the city, taking in the Duomo, the Baptistery, and the Accademia.

The interior of Brunelleschi's dome features a magnificent fresco of the Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari, the author of Lives of the Artists.

We visited the Accademia, and Michelangelo's famous David. The 17-foot high statue was completed in 1504, when Michelangelo was 29 years old.

Along the Arno

The first Mass of the pilgrimage was at the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence.
Click here to read Father Ryan's homily.

The rain was a constant reminder that we were on pilgrimage--not vacation!

The daily schedule became a familiar sight for pilgrims!


Where we're going: Florence

Our pilgrimage will begin in Firenze (Florence), one of Italy's great cities. Florence was established by Julius Caesar around 59BC. During the Middle Ages, it rose to prominence, becoming a dominant political, economic, and artistic center. Over the centuries, Florence has seen more than its share of drama, as rival factions sought to control the city and its wealth: Guelphs defeated Ghibellines, then Guelphs turned against each other, dividing into Bianchi (Whites) and Neris (Blacks). After the defeat of the Bianchi, a succession of wealthy families dominated Florence, most notably the Medici. Cosimo de Medici and his grandson, Lorenzo ("the Magnificent") sponsored generations of artists: Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Fra Angelo, Fra Filippo Lippi, Michelangelo, and many more. Florence is known for its writers as well as its painters:  both Petrarch and Dante came from Florence. Their works have had a massive impact on world literature, and Dante's Divine Comedy helped make the Florentine dialect the basis for modern Italian!
English and American writers have left their mark on Florence as well.  The English poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning lived at Casa Guidi in the Piazza San Felice, not far from the Pitti Palace. The American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne spent four months in Florence. He wrote in his diary: "I absolutely walk on the smooth flags of Florence for the mere pleasure of walking, and lie in its atmosphere for the mere pleasure of living... I hardly think there can be a place in the world where life is more delicious for its own simple sake than here."

A little bit of Florence

Did you know the Cathedral has a little bit of Florence? The Renaissance altarpiece in the Cathedral Chapel is by Florentine artist Neri di Bicci, who was part of a family of Florentine painters. His father, Bicci di Lorenzo, and his grandfather, Lorenzo di Bicci, were also artists! You'll find works by the family all over Florence. Neri di Bicci's diary, the Ricordanze, is one of the most significant surviving texts related to the art world of the 15th-century, and is housed at the Uffizi Gallery. Neri himself is buried at the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence.

Where we're praying: Basilica di San Lorenzo


The first Mass of our pilgrimage will be at the Basilica di San Lorenzo. This church is one of the oldest in Florence--a church has stood on this site since 339!  The present church has a distinguished series of architects.  Filippo Brunelleschi designed the church and the Old Sacristy (which was decorated by Donatello). Michelangelo build the adjacent Laurentian Library and designed the New Sacristy. Many members of the Medici family are buried here.
The church is dedicated in honor of San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence). Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of Rome under Pope St. Sixtus II. It was a time of severe persecution. The prefect of the city commanded Lawrence to surrender the riches of the church. Lawrence responded that it would take him some time to gather all these riches. The greedy prefect commanded Lawrence to come back again, which Lawrence did in a few day's time: leading with him a great crowd of poor people, sick people, widows, and orphans. "These are the treasure of the Church," Lawrence told the enraged prefect. Condemned to death, Lawrence was placed on a gridiron over a fire. After enduring this torture for a long time, he cried out, "you may turn me over, executioner; I am done on this side."

On Pilgrimage

Who would true valor see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather
There's no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.
--From Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan



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Seattle, Washington  98104
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