Mona Lisa and Sant’Orsola Monastery


Sant’Orsola was one of the Florence’s most important monastery; it had extensive buildings and at the start of the XVI century was inhabited by more than sixty nuns, as well as the young girls waiting to their vows.

The convent was not just a place of prayer and the sisters alternated their meditation with different types of work: many produced cloth for household linen, others sacred vestments or gold thread.

Getting a daughter in Sant’Orsola was not easy and, in addition, a costly business: it not only required the girl to come from a good background but also a large sum of money.

Mona Lisa visited the nearby convent of Sant’Orsola from the time of the marriage and supported it through offerings and the purchase of the products made by the nuns.

After her husband’s death she moved to the convent of Sant’Orsola, where she was assisted by her daughter, sour Ludovica, as established by her husband in his will, made in January 1527.

In the will, among the numerous clauses, Francesco asked to be buried in the family tomb, built around 1526, inthe church of the Santissima Annunziata; he asked the monks to pray for his soul… and then he thought to Mona Lisa.

Francesco first defined Lisa ‘eius dilectam uxorem’, his beloved wife, and then ‘mulier ingenua’, a rare expression in Latin language, never found in the notary acts, which does not mean ‘faithfull wife’, but a woman with nobility of spirit, a woman of good principles.

At the end, he charged his daughter sour Ludovica to care for her mother and take all those steps necessary to look after her health.

Francesco del Giocondo died in March 1538 and, after his death, Mona Lisa spent some time with Piero’s family (her first son) in Via della Stufa; then, probably, she fell ill and suor Ludovica convinced her mother to retire into the convent, assisted by her and the other nuns.

Lisa’s death has always been a mystery because it was never registered in the ‘Libri dei Morti’, in the ‘Books of dead’ of the city, neither in the notary acts; luckily, the priests of San Lorenzo church, who knew well Lisa, noted her death in their books with the following words: Mona Lisa wife of Francesco del Giocondo died on 15 July 1542 and was buried in Sant’Orsola.

The funeral happened in solemn form and all the priests of San Lorenzo and all the nuns of Sant’Orsola participated to the funeral procession and the solemn high Mass.

At the end of the burial rite, Lisa’s body was buried in the church of the convent or in the crypt below.

As we know, the convent has been considerably transformed (and in part, destroyed) but the part below the church seems untouched.

Just in this place, under the floor, scholars and archaeologists will carry out researches by ‘geo-radar’, to locate discontinuances in the ground, and then will proceed by excavations.

The inside of the convent is ruined and just now, before beginning great works for a new multifunctional building, it is the moment to research and excavate.

The renovation of Sant’Orsola is a good opportunity to create a memorial to Leonardo and Mona Lisa and a small museum dedicated to the history of this ancient Monastery.

Sant’Orsola: in corso il trasferimento dell’immobile dall’Agenzia del Demanio

[photo Sant’Orsola’convent]