The Greek Cross church of San Biagio

November 4, 2014 / Art & Archaeology
Montepulciano, Tuscany

Outside of the city walls of Montepulciano, overlooking the surrounding landscape is the church of San Biagio.

Church of San Biagio, Tuscany

Built between 1518 and 1580, using the design of Antonio Sangallo Il Vecchio (the Elder), the church was constructed upon an ancient pieve (parish church) dating from around early Christianity.

San Biagio is considered to be one of the most important architectural examples from the Renaissance, since it was during this time that architects from the XV and XVI centuries began creating spaces using mathematical proportions.

View of San Biagio from the Loggia

This beautiful travertine church was built using the ultimate in symmetric design in the shape of a Greek cross (nave and transept are of equal proportions).

San Biagio interior of church

Outside, each façade is similar, and while Sangallo’s plans called for two bell towers, the second was never constructed (there is only one on the right).

San Biagio church exteriori, Tuscany

Although rather stark and formal inside, there is an air of harmony and serenity. This sensation may have something to do with the church’s architectural symmetry inside as well, which you notice immediately once you walk through the door.

San Biagio cupola

Since the space is also rather contained, the linear details of the arches and columns naturally direct your eyes up toward the high ceilings where you are rewarded with a view of the cupola, enhanced by the natural light that surrounds it.

San Biagio Cupola, Tuscany

With all these wonderful visual sensations, you feels as though you’re inside a compact, yet monumental, perfectly contained architectural treasure and you realize that those Renaissance architects knew a thing or two about drawing you into the space of a place.

San Biagio's cyrpress tree viale

Jean Tori

by Jean Tori

Artist- Art website: Art blog: Design company: Jean also rents holiday houses in her medieval hamlet in Umbria at

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