Orsanmichele, which started life as a grain market and ended up as a church, is one of the most curious buildings in Florence.
It stands on the site of an ancient oratory (late 8th/early 9th century), which was called San Michele in Orto (‘orchard’). The oratory was destroyed in 1239 and about fifty years later (c. 1290) a loggia/grain market was erected in its place. The loggia was destroyed by fire in 1304 and in 1337 the present building was constructed, the work of Francesco Talenti, Simone Talenti, Neri di Fioravante and Benci di Cione.
The arches were filled in between 1367 and 1380 when the decision was taken to relocate the grain market and convert the building into a church. Shortly after two additional storeys were added to the building for the storage of grain.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the decoration of the exterior of Orsanmichele was entrusted to the city's guilds, which, over the years, commissioned statues of its patron saints to fill the fourteen niches.
The statues have all been replaced by copies; all but one of the original statues are exhibited on the first floor of the church.
East side (Via Calzaiuoli)
North side (Via Orsanmichele)
West side (Via dell' Arte della Lana)
South side (Via dei Lamberti)