Formerly known as Church of San Salvatore, it was given to the Franciscan friars in 1519, so that they could move from their convent in San Lazzaro, outside the city, where they had been living since 1480 and which they had to leave as a result of problems arisen in the countryside. The elegant portico at the entrance dates from 1543, whereas the beautiful portal built by Bernardino di Pietro da Carona in 1498 comes from the old convent, which does not exist anymore.
The large nave, consecrated in 1557, unfortunately lost its original features in 1706-1708, when it was completely renovated. The eight altars on the sides (painted in a way that resembles marble), the egg-shaped medallions depicting saints on the pilasters and the ribassato barrel vault all date from the time of the renovation.
Of particular interest are also the beautiful altarpieces on the first and on the second left altars. The former depicts the Visitation (1490) by Giovanni Santi, Raphael’s father, considered as one of the finest works of his maturity, whereas the latter is the Annunciation by Pietro Vannucci, best known as Perugino (1488). Both date from 1488-1490.
The third altar on the right shows an altarpiece with the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Saints by Perugino, dating from 1497, above which is a lunette depicting the Pietà. Young Raphael may have worked on the beautiful predella with the Life of the Virgin.
The pipe organ concert festival of the church of Santa Maria Nuova is the oldest of its kind in Italy and it has been held regularly for the past 54 years. The festival rose to international prominence from its very beginning, thus becoming a unique opportunity in the careers of organists from all of Europe.
From 1964 to date, 245 concerts have been held, featuring over 200 artists from all around the world.