Rosaria Frescobaldi called me up to ask me to write an article on the project to re-open the Basilica of Santo Spirito. It had been in the hands of two priests, and when one passed away, the other one said, even with a new priest, they were spending more time being security guards and janitors than priests. So 18 months ago, the church was shut down. Now it is only open on Sunday mornings for 2 early masses.
Rosaria, her husband Ferdinando, Agnese Massei and a few other 'neighbors' on the piazza decided they had to do something to take care of their church. They did a major study of what was needed, as far as security guards, maintainance, cleaning and caring of the church, and took it upon themselves to find the appropriate employees (they interviewed many!!) and to raise the necessary funds. The figure is 45,000 euro/year.
I went to visit Rosaria at the Frescobaldi home in via Santo Spirito. She took me down the hallway which leads to the family's private viewing 'box' that looks directly into the church. It was built 600 or 700 years ago (I have it in my notes) by the Frescobaldi family. She told me that up until the church closed, she would attend mass in her little chapel, while still in her nightgown. Yes, she still 'hears' it on Sunday mornings early, but she misses the daily life and sounds from the Church.
I love this Church. I love the simplicity of the facade and the harmony of Brunelleschi's interior. And although there is great artword inside, including a wooden crucifiction which is considered by some to have been done by Michelangelo, it always feels like it's a church of the people. The piazza of Santo Spirito was up until very recently (and still can be considered) a populare zone (working class). It was and still is where you find artisan workshops for wood, silver, gold and other metal crafts, binding, shoemakers, etc. In fact, although Rosara didn't mention this (but I learned it elsewhere), the reason the Frescobaldi, a noble family, built the chapel, was so that they wouldn't have to mingle with the 'common folk.'
But this same family, is raising money through 'amici di Santo Spirito' rather than by charging admission like a museum, because they want to keep the church open to the community to come and pray whenever they want.