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Cathedral of S. Stefano History, art and spirituality blend in the magnificence of the Prato Cathedral

In the heart of the majestic Piazza del Duomo stands the Cathedral of Santo Stefano, a marvel of Romanesque-Gothic architecture. This sacred place goes beyond its religious function, representing an authentic symbol of the art and history of the city. Its walls tell ancient secrets and preserve artistic treasures that touch the souls of visitors.

The cathedral stands out for the fascinating alternation of two local materials: the elegant light alberese and the green marble, also known as Prato serpentine. This suggestive combination of colors creates the two-tone that characterized Prato's architecture until the fifteenth century.

The current façade, erected between 1385 and 1457, overlooks the original structure in Romanesque style, designed by Guidetto da Como. Between the two facades, a specifically left void still allows you to reach Donatello and Michelozzo's pulpit through a staircase and a corridor. The original pulpit is now kept in the Cathedral Museum. This same pulpit was used for the Display of the Sacred Belt of the Madonna, one of the most important religious events. During the year, the relic is displayed to the public five times, but the solemn display takes place on the 8th of September, coinciding with the evocative Historical Parade.

The facade of the cathedral, with its clean and elegant lines, is embellished with a magnificent central portal, crowned by a refined glazed terracotta lunette. The delicate tones of white and blue painted on the lunette depict the Madonna and Child and Saints Stephen and Lawrence, accompanied by a series of graceful cherubs created by Andrea della Robbia in 1489.

Standing out as the most impressive structure in the city of Prato, the bell tower, built in the mid-12th century and completed around 1356 with the addition of a belfry with Gothic triple-lancet windows, offers spectacular views of the city.

Inside the cathedral, works of art of inestimable artistic value capture the attention of visitors. The Chapel of the Assumption and the Main Chapel host frescoes by masters such as Paolo Uccello, Andrea di Giusto and Filippo Lippi. In the right transept, you can admire the sculpture of the Madonna dell'Olivo by the Da Maiano brothers, while in the presbytery there are contemporary works of art by Robert Morris.

A true jewel of the Prato Cathedral is the Chapel of the Sacred Belt, frescoed by Agnolo Gaddi at the end of the fourteenth century and created to house the precious Marian relic. This chapel is protected by a splendid bronze gate, which adds a touch of majesty to the surrounding environment. But we cannot forget the internal pulpit, which stands out like a chalice in the central nave. This refined work was created by important Renaissance artists such as Pasquino da Montepulciano and Mino da Fiesole, who modeled the marble with mastery, creating a timeless masterpiece.

To completely immerse yourself in this atmosphere of art and spirituality, just cross the threshold of the cathedral and let yourself be carried away by the emotions that emanate from every corner. Admire the works of art that reveal themselves step by step, let the magnificence of St. Stephen's Cathedral captivate you and envelop you with its mystical aura.

Prato Cathedral is much more than a tourist visit, it is a journey into the past, an encounter with the art and faith that has shaped the history of this wonderful city.

The charm of Lippi's frescoes: a painted narrative that touches the soul The charm of Lippi's frescoes: a painted narrative that touches the soul

In the evocative Main Chapel of the Cathedral of Prato, a cycle of extraordinary frescoes comes to life, created by Filippo Lippi and his talented staff between 1452 and 1465. This work plays a fundamental role in Lippi's art and in the Renaissance panorama in its whole.

On the left, looking from the nave towards the main altar, there are the Stories of Saint Stephen, dedicated to the patron saint of the city, and on the right the Stories of Saint John the Baptist, protector of nearby Florence. These stories of the two saints unfold from top to bottom, intertwining and reflecting one another with a sublime play of mirrors. Below, on the left wall, the Funeral of Saint Stephen comes to life in an evocative early Christian basilica, while on the opposite wall, a spectacular hall hosts Herod's Banquet, with the sinuous Dance of Salome and the tragic handover of the Baptist's head to Herodias .

On the back wall, framed by the majestic stained glass window, also designed by Lippi himself, two Saints emerge inside painted niches, while two complementary scenes are revealed on the sides of the main stories.

Lippi's frescoes are an authentic masterpiece, a symphony of colors and shapes that captivates the gaze and captures the imagination. Every detail tells a story, every brushstroke conveys a profound emotion. As you get closer, you will lose yourself in the expressions of the characters, in the folds of their clothes, in the gestures full of meaning, in the painted narrative that marked the evolution of Renaissance art and which continues to enchant the hearts of those who contemplate it.

For more information: www.museidiocesanidiprato.it/it/filippolippi

Information

  • Piazza del Duomo - Prato (PO)

  • Ticket: free entrance. The visit to the chapel with Lippi's frescoes is included in the ticket to the Cathedral Museum.

  • Accessibility for disabled: yes

  • Phone: 0574 26234