The Augustinian Convento (monastery) of San Gallo was located just outside the Porta (gate) San Gallo at Florence, Italy. It is notable for at least two reasons. Firstly, its architect forever afterwards used San Gallo as his family name. Secondly, although the convento has long been demolished, three notable religious paintings that were commissioned for the convento are still in existence.
The Augustinian convento at San Gallo was built at the expense of the ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de ’Medici (il Magnifico – the magnificent), 1449 – 1492. Lorenzo did this only a few years before his death, possibly in 1487. His generosity in this regard was stimulated by the support he received from a famous Augustinian at the time who lived at the Augustinian Convento Santo Spirito, Florence.
This Augustinian, Mariano da Genazzano O.S.A. (1450 - 1498), took a public position against Girolamo Savonarola O.P., a Dominican mendicant who challenged the decadent state of life in Florence and in the most senior officials of the Church in Rome. Mariano da Genazzano O.S.A. was acclaimed as the one of the best preachers in the classical style in Italy at that time. On at least one occasion in the pulpit, however, he was totally objectionable and uncharitable in the verbal abuse and calumny that he directed at Savonarola. As architect for the convento at San Gallo, Lorenzo de’Medici engaged Guiliano, the son of Francesco Giamberti. After this Augustinian assignment Giuliano always called himself Giuliano di San Gallo (1445 - 1516), by which name he has been known ever since. The convento was built just outside the Porta San Gallo, which was a gate in the city wall of Florence.
In 1488 – which was possibly before the Convento San Gallo was completed - Giuliano di San Gallo worked directly for the Order of Saint Augustine on a different project. He designed the sacristy of the Augustinian Church of Santo Spirito in Florence. Twenty six years later in 1514-1515 he became the assistant architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica (construction began in 1546) in Rome. Until he retired through ill health after eighteen months at this task, he worked with Raphael (Raphael Sanzio, 1483 – 1520), the painter and architect. In late 1510 and early 1511, two Augustinians made a return journey between Germany and Rome on foot on a matter regarding the observant movement of the Order of Saint Augustine in Germany. The senior member of the pair was Anton Kresz O.S.A. from Nuremberg, and his junior companion was Martin Luther O.S.A. It is said that they visited the Augustinian communities at both the Convento San Gallo and the Convento Santo Spirito during their journey to Rome and their return to Germany.
An artist who became one of the greatest painters of the High Renaissance was commissioned to execute three paintings for the convento at San Gallo. This was before his paintings had gained their full appreciation, both artistically and financially. This happened in 1512-1513, which was early in the career of Andrea del Sarto (1486 - 1530). The location of the Augustinian convento at San Gallo proved its downfall in the following century, when the monastery was demolished during the siege of Florence in 1529-1530. With the demolition of the Convento San Gallo in 1529-1530, the Augustinian community took the paintings of Andrea del Sarto with them to the new location that they were given.
Within the protection of the walls of Florence, this was the church of San Jacopo tra i Fossi (literally meaning "between the moats"). It was located between the moats – or ditches - of the city walls. The Church of San Jacopo was originally built on part of the site of a Roman amphitheatre, which extended from San Jacopo to San Firenze. It had three Gothic naves. The principal entrance was in the alley leading from the Piazza dei Peruzzi to the Canto dei Soldani. Today, this is now the Via dei Benci. This is approximately the first section of Via Tripoli, near the Tower of the Zecca. In 1170 the church had been given to the care of the Vallombrosian monks of San Salvi, whose monastery was outside Florence. But in 1531 they were deprived of San Jacopo. It was transferred to the Augustinians as a reward for their adherence to the Medici.
For further reading
For more information on these three paintings executed by Andrea del Sarto for the Convento San Gallo, go to the Augnet page about Andrea del Sarto.