Piazza and Church of Sant'Agostino
Piazza Sant'Agostino is another peaceful oasis in San Gimignano. It is enclosed by rows of houses with a central cistern and is dominated by two large churches. The first, San Pietro, is reached through the Porta San Matteo. It was founded in the 11th century and is Romanesque with a little bell tower. The other, Sant'Agostino, is set against the background of the piazza and looks out over it from atop a stairway.
After the Collegiata, Sant'Agostino is the most important church in San Gimignano. It is so rich with works of art that it could be considered an actual museum. Inside it houses priceless masterpieces of painting and sculpture by Medieval and Renaissance Italian artists.
Augustinian monks moved into this area of the city in 1280, and thanks to a donation from the comune that same year, they began construction of the Convent and the church. The project lasted almost 20 years. The interior decorations, however, were created in the second half of the 15th century. The Augustinian convent stands next to the church with its secluded cloister from the 1400s.
The church is massive and austere, with a long side lightened by tall, straight Gothic windows. The architecture has both Romanesque and Gothic characteristics. The façade is incredibly simple, with a single, rose window up high, ornamented in brick. Entry is through a small door on the side.
The church has a single, wide nave with a wood-truss ceiling that ends in the central sanctuary. There is a central chapel, as well as two smaller side chapels.
The amazing Cappella di San Bartolo, on the right of the central door, is dedicated to the Saint of San Gimignano. It is a Renaissance work of Benedetto da Maiano. The high, white-marble altar is decorated with the story of the miracles of San Bartolo and houses the remains of the saint. Hanging above is a composition of the Madonna with Child and two angels. The left wall of the chapel has frescoes of saints: Gimignano, Lucia and Nicola. The floor is also a work of art: the original floor was made by Andrea della Robbia in majolica tile.
The altars and the frescoes alternate along the entire length of the nave: the first altar on the right is decorated with a table from the late 1500s that depicts a Madonna with Child and Saints; it comes from the Convent of San Domenico. Further along is the Deposizione of the 1300s.
The chapel choir is completely frescoed with 17 stories of the Life of Saint Augustine, created by Benozzo Gozzoli between 1464 and 1465. It is a great work that completely covers three walls; on the vault and the pilasters at the side of the altar are saints, prophets, and the Evangelists.
The wooden painting that decorates the main altar is a masterpiece from 1483 by Piero del Pollaiolo, brother of Antonio and one of the great artists of the Renaissance. It represents the Coronation of the Madonna among angels and saints.
The chapel to the right of the altar is decorated with a scene from the Life of the Madonna, frescoed by Bartolo di Fredi. The wooden painting that decorates the altar of the chapel is from 1500 and depicts the Birth of the Virgin.
On the left hand wall, a fresco from the late 1400s – San Gimignano blessing three distinguished citizens – decorates the funeral monument of a monk who commissioned the work.
On the same side of the nave is a baroque altar that guards the Madonna del Latte, a fresco from the 1300s that is attributed to Lippo Memmi.