In the 13th century the Augustinian order built a monastery in the Oltrarno quarter of Florence that soon became an important artistic, theological and cultural center. In 1397 the Signoria decided to erect a new church but it was only in 1444 that Brunelleschi began to build his last masterpiece – the Basilica di Santo Spirito – as part of a more extensive monastic complex. The sacristy – a true architectural gem – was designed by Giuliano da Sangallo in 1489 and brought to completion by Simone del Pollaiolo in 1492. The church is mentioned by Leonardo in the Codex Atlanticus around 1505, and various works by his contemporaries – among them Filippino Lippi, Cosimo Rosselli, Francesco Botticini, Francesco Granacci, Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, and Sansovino – can still be seen on its walls. In the sacristy is an early work by Michelangelo – a polychrome wooden crucifix.
The library, which consisted of 577 manuscripts in 1450, was much frequented by the intellectuals and artists of the period. Giovanni Boccaccio left his private collection of books to the basilica in his will.