The original church, surrounded by the gardens of the ancient monastery, was dedicated to San Michele allOrto St. Michael of the garden hence the name Orsanmichele. Demolished at the end of the 13th century, in its place was built a covered arcade to house the grain market.
In the 14th century, the building was added to until it became what it is today: a vast rectangular hall covered with six crossed vaults that sustain the upper rooms, originally used as grain silos. During the 14th century, it was decided to reconvert the arcade back into a church: the arches were filled in and the building was once again dedicated to St. Michael.
The extraordinary wealth of decoration is due to the decision by the so-called Florentine Arts those rich and powerful associations of the citys merchants and artesans to decorate the exterior of the church with statues of their respective patron saints.
Some of the most important artists of the 1300s and Renaissance worked to create this exceptional collection, names such as Donatello, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti. Today, most of the niches are either empty or hold copies of the original statues.