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Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri A place full of mystery, art and miracles

Immersed in the suggestive square of the same name, the basilica stands majestically, flanked by the imposing presence of the Emperor's Castle. Its story begins within the walls of an ancient prison, surrounded by the charm of legends and the strength of the supernatural. Way back in 1484, a sick child named Jacopo della Povera had an extraordinary vision of the Madonna, who broke away from the painting and descended into the depths of the prison dungeon, only to return in her place. This prodigious event was followed by the miraculous healing of the child, giving rise to a fervent veneration for this Virgin.

Capturing the popular feeling of devotion, Lawrence the Magnificent commissioned the architect Giuliano da Sangallo to erect a church on the site of the miracle at the end of the fifteenth century, calling it Santa Maria delle Carceri. The basilica, with a Greek cross plan typical of the Renaissance period, reveals an external cladding in alberese and serpentine marble, although it remained unfinished. This characteristic bichromatic covering, also present in the external structure of the Cathedral of Santo Stefano, recalls the Romanesque aesthetics, but in this case it manifests itself in a Renaissance reworking, in which a harmonious solution with a classical imprint is sought, giving an elegant proportion to the building. The upper part of the structure rises with a small dome with Brunelleschi-style oculi, crowned by a lantern that shines like a spiritual beacon.

The interior of the church follows a classic and linear line. The white and blue majolica frieze that runs along the perimeter of the church has been attributed to Andrea della Robbia; it gives a touch of artistic refinement. The valuable stained glass windows, created in 1491 based on a design by Domenico Ghirlandaio, paint a kaleidoscope of colors and reflections that illuminate the sacred environment. The main altar, designed by Giuliano da Sangallo, houses the miraculous fresco of the Madonna delle Carceri between Saints Leonard and Stephen, dating back to the 14th century, incorporated into a canvas created by the painter Antonio Marini in the 19th century. This mix of eras and styles converge in a work of extraordinary beauty and spirituality.

Visit the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri, it will envelop you in its mystical atmosphere and its enigmatic charm.

Information

  • Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri, 21 - Prato (PO)

  • Ticket: free entrance

  • Phone: 0574 27933