after they were begun, and original plans may have included more sculpture (some façades are still
Plan of Santa Maria Novella Interior of Santa Maria Novella, begun in late
All churches had altarpieces, which focused the congregation’s attention on a holy figure while the priest
said Mass at the altar. The most glorious altarpieces were over the main altar; usually the subject of the
main panel (the corpus) is Christ, the Virgin, or the saint to whom the church is dedicated. At the base of
the altarpiece, there may be smaller paintings showing narrative scenes from the life of the main subject;
this base is called a predella. Side chapels would also have altarpieces. In addition, in medieval Italian
churches you will often see a large painted crucifix hanging above the sanctuary. All of these types of
paintings gave artists the opportunity to develop distinctive styles in very public spaces.
Florence was not the only city that contributed to the development of the arts in the fourteenth century.
The city of Siena became very prosperous in the early fourteenth century, and there was a major campaign
to enlarge the cathedral and create new decorations for it. The rebuilding project was never completed,
but the new double-sided altarpiece was finished in 1311. Duccio di Buoninsegna’s Maestà (also called the
Virgin and Child in Majesty) shows Mary enthroned, with Jesus on her lap and rows of saints and angels on
either side of her. Originally, there was also a predella below and pinnacles above, which showed scenes
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