The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte

The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, in Florence, is an absolute jewel. Not only because of its outer beauty, but also due to the masterpieces of visual art kept within its walls. Its entire structure's mystical atmosphere conjures up the past and has created a unique historic relationship with the city, a city that loves and cherishes it.

The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, in Florence, is an absolute jewel. Not only because of its outer beauty, but also due to the masterpieces of visual art kept within its walls. Although it is a much sought-after tourist destination, the basilica is kept somewhat away from the more chaotic tourist circuits, attracting only the most attentive and intrepid visitors.


Upon entering the basilica, one is struck by the contrast between the natural outdoor light and the darkness of the interior. It is this darkness that holds the brunt of the charm of the place. The shadows fall naturally throughout the architecture, while thoughtful lighting in the shadowed areas intrigue and invite visitors. Massimo Iarussi's lighting design balances this natural and artificial light play while keeping the integrity of the architecture intact.


To pull off this type of design, with a minimal amount of impact on the space, Massimo larussi used Lumeniris, Museo and Lumenbeam projectors. Some of these projectors were placed at up to 20m away from their target illumination area, so as to remain hidden, and used beams as narrow as 6°, which allowed for precise lighting over such a distance. Lumeniris luminaires were used to light the main areas of the church, as well as to highlight the ceiling and the main aisles. Yolk-mounted Lumenbeam luminaires were used to light the dome at the back of the church. The light precisely strikes the architectural elements and frescoes without spilling onto nearby surfaces. They help preserve the shadows and enhance the overall contrast.


The architectural elements throughout the basilica are tactfully lit in order to allow the contrast between bright daylight and the shadows to effortlessly guide the eyes of visitors towards the presbytery, then towards the apsidal basin and its marvelous mosaic, which is the focal point of the basilica. The flooring's mosaic marble inlays are illuminated by Museo luminaires mounted on the trusses above. The luminaires were customized to evoke traditional lanterns and are equipped with precision optics (10°) to make each of the tiles stand out clearly.


At times, the lighting design called for softer floodlighting.  In such instances, Exenia's Museo Compact projectors, with color temperatures of 2700K and 40° optics were used. The side aisles are illuminated by dimmable pairs of Museo Small luminaires.  In the Ciborium of Michelozzo, two Museo Micros were used with differentiated triple optics and are independently dimmable thanks to the control protocol, Lumentalk.


The use of the control protocol, Lumentalk, made it unnecessary to install additional data because it is capable of sending digital signals over the electrical wiring that was already in place. Lumentalk was paramount in preserving the historic architecture and helping to make the lighting design seem inherent to the space while still granting DMX/RDM digitally controlled fixtures.


In both daylight and during the night, the luminaires work to compliment the architecture and art of the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte without interfering with the structure and its innate shadow play. The outcome of such a design is that the austerity, and awe of such a monumental space stays intact while still allowing visitors, parishioners and clergy to move safely throughout.


7 x Lumenbeam Small, 2700K, Very Narrow 6° with Snoot
14 x Lumenbeam Small, 2700K, Narrow Spot 10°
4 x Museo Micro 3x, 2700K
2 x Museo Micro 4x, 2700K
56 x Museo Small 2x, 2700K
11 x Museo Small 2x, 3000K
15 x Museo Compact, 2700K, 18°
1 x Museo Compact, 2700K, 30°

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Location: The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy
Market: Arts + Culture
Client: Basilica di San Miniato con il patrocinio del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali
Lighting Design: Massimo Iarussi
Installation: SIEF 2000
Photographer: Matteo Bencini - Matteo Trentanove