Back home we celebrate Epiphany, the Manifestation of the Christ Child to the nations through the visit of the Magi from the east, on the first Sunday after 1 January. Here however, 6 January is a national holiday. We had a hard time finding a church where we could celebrate mass, as they were all on Feast Day schedule. Eventually, we found the Chiesa di Ognisanti (Church of All Saints) about a 2.5 km walk from the hotel along the Arno. But it was a chilly morning, and we had a bus … So we were dropped off a short walk from the church.

The Chiesa di Ognissanti (All-Saints Church) is a Franciscan church founded by the lay order of the Umiliati. The church was dedicated to all the saints and martyrs, known and unknown. (from Wikipedia)

We came ready to jam it up at mass, Ruben and his crew would have their most excellent mass ever. But we were informed we may not use guitar music in their church. Wha–wha–what? Apparently it was written in the church’s constitutions … exactly what that means, I don’t know. But we were welcome to use their pipe organ. Umm, thanks … but no thanks. After mass and a little impromptu tour (there was another group waiting at the back of church as the hour drew to a close–definitely another church function), we headed out to the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. We walked down some pretty narrow alleys. But it was a cold morning and the sun was up. And when we broke through the concrete jungle out into the piazza, the sunshine felt good.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Novella is situated just across from the main railway station in Florence which shares its name. Chronologically, it is the first great basilica in Florence, and is the city’s principal Dominican church. The church, the adjoining cloister, and chapterhouse contain a store of art treasures and funerary monuments. Especially famous are frescoes by masters of Gothic and early Renaissance. They were financed through the generosity of the most important Florentine families, who ensured themselves of funerary chapels on consecrated ground. (from Wikipedia)

Our next stop was the Duomo of Florence.


The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (English: Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the main church of Florence. Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.

The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. The three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major attraction to tourists visiting the region of Tuscany. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. (from Wikipedia)

I didn’t take these pictures. But they give an idea of the interior.

But the following pictures, I took.

Our next stop was the Piazza della Signoria, where Michaelangelo’s David originally stood. In its place is a replica.

Piazza della Signoria 001

Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio. It is the focal point of the origin and of the history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political hub of the city. It is the meeting place of Florentines as well as the numerous tourists, located near Ponte Vecchio and Piazza del Duomo and gateway to Uffizi Gallery. (from Wikipedia)

Our last stop on the official tour was the Piazza Santa Croce, and a visit to a local gold and leather store. I’m sure the travel agency we worked with had its connections. It seemed like a hard sell, and some of our group definitely came away with merchandise … far from what we had intended this pilgrimage to be.

Rolo B Castillo © 2014