This bulky structure halfway down Via dei Calzaiuoli looks more like a Gothic warehouse than a church—which is exactly what it was, built as a granary and grain market in 1337. After a miraculous image of the Madonna appeared on a column inside, its lower level was turned into a shrine and chapel. The city’s merchant guilds each undertook the task of decorating one of the exterior Gothic tabernacles with a statue of their guild’s patron saint. Masters such as Ghiberti, Donatello, Verrocchio, and Giambologna all cast or carved masterpieces to set here (those remaining are mostly copies, including Donatello’s “St. George”).
In the dark interior, an elaborate Gothic stone Tabernacle (1349–59) by Andrea Orcagna protects a luminous 1348 “Madonna and Child” painted by Giotto’s student Bernardo Daddi, to which miracles were ascribed during the Black Death of 1348–50.
Tip: On Mondays (10am–4:50pm) and Saturdays (10am–12:30pm) only, you can access the upper floors, which house many original sculptures that once adorned Orsanmichele’s exterior niches. Among the treasures of this so-called Museo di Orsanmichele are a trio of bronzes: Ghiberti’s “St. John the Baptist” (1412–16), the first life-size bronze of the Renaissance; Verrocchio’s “Incredulity of St. Thomas” (1483); and Giambologna’s “St. Luke” (1602). Climb up one floor further, to the top, for an unforgettable 360[dg] panorama ★★ of the city.