The Church of S. Stefano degli Agostiniani

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The Church of S. Stefano looks like a typical convent church without a façade, characterized by the simple and long side with two doors opening on Via dei Neri. It was in fact the residence of the Augustinian friars who started building the church in 1367. 

Great encouragement to the construction was given by the prior, Michele from Empoli, friar at the convent from 1390 to 1432. The church must have acquired its present aspect in those years, especially the architectural structure with four chapels on the left, five on the right and three apses. The construction of the convent took longer and was more complex. In fact in the XVI century they were still working on it, while the inside of the church had been enriched with art works and furnishings given by the wealthy families who had obtained patronage of the chapels and by the two religious confraternities, of the Cross and of the Annunziata, which had had their seats there since the end of fourteenth century.

With the 1808 dissolution the friars left the convent which was then used as a seat for the new public schools and given to the Council thus ending its religious history. The church became State property and during the last war it was seriously damaged. In the 70s it was completely restored after many years of work.

Inside the church there are frescos by Masolino in the transept on the right and in the Chapel of S. Elena (sinopias), the beautiful Annunciation in marble by Bernardo Rossellino (put back in its original place on the occasion of the last reorganization of the gallery of the Collegiate, where it had been transferred in 1956) and valuable Tuscan sixteenth-century paintings, like Passignano, Vannini, Manetti, Furini. Among them there is Lorenzo di Bicci's St Nicholas saving Empoli from the Plague, featuring a view of the town in the 1440s.