In the eyes of many people, the beautiful Romanesque church of San Miniato al Monte is the jewel in the Florentine crown.
Dating back to 1013, the church is dedicated to Saint Minias, a deacon who is thought to have been martyred during the reign of the emperor Decius (r. 249-251) and buried on this hillside. According to legend, Minias was beheaded, at which point he picked up his head and walked up the hill to the spot where he had lived as a hermit.
The façade (begun c. 1090) of white and dark-green marble, with its rounded arches and use of geometric decoration, is a perfect example of a style in architecture that is known as Tuscan Romanesque. The mosaic, above the central window, represents Christ, the Virgin and St Minias. The façade is crowned with an eagle gripping a bale of cloth in its claws, the symbol of the Arte di Calimala (Guild of the Cloth Merchants), which looked after the fabric of the church.
The design of the interior (1018-63) is unique in Florence, with a raised choir above a large crypt, home to the relics of Saint Minias. The floor of the nave is decorated with seven marble intarsia panels (1207), which are decorated with signs of the Zodiac and animal reliefs.
At the end of each aisle a flight of steps lead up to the choir. The marble transenna and ambo date back to 1207. The mosaic in the apse depicts Christ, the Virgin and St Minias (1297). It was restored in 1491 by Alessio Baldovinetti and again in 1860-61.