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Russian-orthodox Church Of The Nativity Of Christ

Period of the monument: XIX century
Location: Florence
Year of restoration: 2011/2018
Category of works: OS2-A
Client: Parish Council Russian Church of Florence – Aurora Costruzioni Generali, Florence
Supervision: Superintendence for Architectural and Environmental Heritage of Florence
Work performed: Recovery of the rooms of the new Museum of the Church , restoration of the paintings of the sacristy, of the apse, external stone restoration and restoration of some iron elements on the outside


The idea of the construction of the church in 1873, intended for the Russian Orthodox rite, is due to Grand Duchess Marija Nicolajevna, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I.

Only in 1879, however, did the initiative take way by the donation by Prince Pavel Demidoff of S. Donato of the furnishings of his private chapel to the church of the Russian Embassy, then located in a rented room on the current Lungarno Vespucci.

The sumptuous ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone took place on October 28, 1899.

In the successful attempt to give image to a “national” style, the Russian Orthodox church summarizes in its exotic form the architectural experiences of Russia during the second half of the nineteenth century, marked by a fabulous and eclectic assembly of different revivals to which contribute the many ornamental and colorful exuberances of the interior.


The restoration of this building engaged Sansone srl for a long period of time (2011-2018) and involved all the elements of the building: the vaults of the sacristy and the museum area, the roof of the church and in particular the colored ceramics of the roof, the interior and exterior wall decorations, the front facade, the main staircase, gates, gratings, windows, and metal radiators.


  • General restoration of plasterwork performed by removing layers of paint in tempera or lime, brushing, thorough sponge washing, blockage with acrylic resin
  • Plastering of ancient plaster on cracks and scratches, abrasions, and missing parts using a suitable mixture composed of slaked lime and fine sand
  • Restoration of the internal and external pictorial wall decorations with particular attention to the icons of S. Bartolomeo and S. Giacomo
  • Restoration and painting of iron or ferrous alloy items, such as gratings, windows and gates
  • Polishing of gritstone tile floors by light sanding, grouting of tile joints, lead polishing, and oxalic acid polishing
  • Treatment of the sandstone staircase and the window sill by general cleaning with suitable solvents, small grouting of the parts in need with a mixture of lime binder and ground stone, and final treatment by means of protective water/oil repellent
  • Cleaning of mosaics and decorative ceramics




Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity of Christ

The icons of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle and Saint James the Apostle are part of the series of the Twelve Apostles donated by the Prince of San Donato Paolo Pavlovič Demidoff to the Russian Orthodox Church of Florence. They came from the private chapel of the Villa of San Donato in Polverosa in Florence and were made by V.K. Vasiljev in 1855.

The restoration of the icon of St. Bartholomew required special attention due to the presence of very disparate elements (the wooden support, the preparatory and pictorial layers) and great delicacy in the execution and choice of materials.


Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity of Christ

First dry cleaning to highlight the parts that needed pre-consolidation
Execution of test dowels in order to proceed with the cleaning with special solvents
Punctual consolidation with syringe on all the parts, flakes or fragments, which were in a state of detachment

Pictorial reintegration, carried out with stippling and striping in all points where the original color was missing

Final protection with semi-gloss varnish to enhance the nuances, without emphasizing the tones


Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity of Christ

Not only the interiors, but also the exteriors of the church are decorated with colorful murals of great visual impact, made with a technique called “a secco”, which is a simple and relatively recent tempera mural. Flounces, ribbons, wall panels, frames, decorations with sacred themes and geometric or floral motifs, not to mention the splendid decorative ceramics on the roof and the characteristic “onion-shaped” domes: a true triumph of shapes and colors give the church its unique character.

The pictorial surfaces presented multiple types of degradation: lifting, gaps, presence of salt substances and stains, retouching, and rough plastering.

The intervention allowed the restoration of the decorations and the full recovery of the pictorial vision as a whole, also thanks to the meticulous work of cleaning and maintenance of all the ceramic, mosaic, and stone elements (cornices, friezes, capitals).