The church of Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest and most famous churches in Florence.
The church, designed by two Dominican friars, Friar Sisto da Firenze and Friar Ristoro da Campi, took over one hundred years to complete (1246 - 1360) and architectural designs continued to carry in even longer up until the consecration of the church in 1420.
Santa Maria Novella gets its name form the original 9th century church found on the same site; Santa Maria delle Vigne, and "Novella" means "new" therefore, the new Santa Maria.
The church includes a cloister and chapter house and an exquisite collection of art and funerary monuments found in the various chapels inside. The chapels include; the Filippo Strozzi Chapel, containing many exquisite frescoes, the Gondi Chapel containing the famous wooden crucifix by Brunelleschi, the Strozzi di Mantova Chapel containing frescoes inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, the Della Pura Chapel, the Rucellai Chapel which holds the tomb of Paolo Rucellai, the Bardi Chapel, the Spanish Chapel once the former Chapterhouse, and the Sacristy which holds a masterpiece of Giotto; the enormous painted Crucifix with the Madonna and John the Evangelist. Since the origins of Santa Maria Novella in the mid 1200's, the church has seen many additions and improvements done by various famous architects like Giorgio Vasari who in 1567 performed the first total remodelling of the church with other improvements done as late as 1858.
The square found in front of the church was used for a common custom; chariot racing, during the a500's up until as late as the 19th century with the two obelisks, designed by the sculptor Giambologna in 1608, marking the star and finish of the race.