Exploring Renaissance Marvels – Year 10 Trip to Italy
March 26, 2024

Exploring Renaissance Marvels – Year 10 Trip to Italy

We took 52 Year 10 pupils to Florence, split into two groups of 26. We stayed in the beautiful and spacious villa near Lucca owned by the Marshall family who are friends of St James. Each group travelled to Florence for two days where they met Dr Hipshon for their tours.

We visited some of the most iconic works of art ever produced: Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ and his ‘Birth of Venus’, but also explored the many other glorious works of art, sculpture and architecture left behind by the Renaissance masters. In San Marco we were able to see the frescoes painted by Fra Angelico in their original setting. Fra Angelico said that when he painted, the Spirit was with him and painted through him. For this reason, he never changed a stroke he had applied with his brush. His work has a purity and clarity to it accompanied by a tangible stillness. They are works for contemplation and gazing, rather than glancing and leaving. It is as if he, and the other great Renaissance artists, were able to show the presence of God and allow the viewer to feel it for themselves.

At Santa Maria Novella we were able to experience the entire Renaissance in one building. The medieval world is represented by a chapel painted immediately after the Black Death in 1348, full of a foreboding vision of heaven and hell. Nearby is the first ever painting using linear perspective by the young Massaccio, a fresco which changed the world of art forever. Then there is the chapel behind the altar where Ghirlandaio produced a glorious blaze of late Renaissance colour, realism and intensity. Standing in this chapel, surrounded by frescoes from floor to ceiling, is a truly immersive experience.

The great achievements of this explosion of creative talent are vivid reminders of the vision and skill of their creators. Brunelleschi’s dome, dominating the skyline, was the largest dome in the world at the time and an incredible feat of engineering. Ghiberti’s bronze doors on the Baptistry, shifting the nature and purpose of sculpture with their exquisite modelling and use of shallow perspective are now brilliantly restored and beautifully displayed in the Museum of the Duomo. There we also saw Michelangelo’s last work and some of the finest work of Donatello, Michelangelo’s predecessor and, perhaps, his inspiration.

In the vast and cavernous space within the Duomo itself we recalled the events of 1478 when Giuliano de’ Medici was brutally murdered during the celebration of a Mass while his brother, Lorenzo, narrowly escaped the assassin’s blade.

Did the boys connect with all this and appreciate it? They certainly had an adventure, punctuated by gelato and pizza. The important thing is to allow them to come face to face with the finest work of humanity and let the art do its work. It feeds the soul and plants a seed. I very much look forward to reading their projects and hope they will be able to express some of their own thoughts about what they saw.