Santa Maria Novella Basilica is the most important Gothic church in Tuscany. It was built in 1246 by Dominican friars on the site of the 10th-century Dominican oratory of S. Maria delle Vigne. The beautiful facade was remodelled between 1456 and 1470 by Leon Battista Alberti who created the splendid portal, bordered by the heraldic sails of the Rucellai family who commissioned the work. The inside of the church, which is simply vast, has a number of important art works by Vasari, Ghirlandaio, Masaccio, Pisano, Brunelleschi and most of the important artists of the period. Its Cloister, the Chiostro Verde, derives its name by the dominant color of the biblical frescoes by Paolo Uccello (14th century). His workshop on the theme of Genesis was badly damaged in the floods of 1966. At least Uccello’s Diluvio Universale was saved from destruction. The cloisters today form a museum. Here, the frescoes in the Spanish Chapel show the Dominicans as whippets -- domini canes or hounds of God -- rounding up the stray sheep. Beside the church is a cemetery walled in with avelli (grave niches), which continue along the facade and the wall beyond.
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