Fra Giovanni Guidotti had the Church of Tau built in around the first half of the 14th century and then donated it to the Regular Canons of St. Anthony Abbot or Tau, who went by this name because their mantles were decorated with a “T” in blue enamel.

The church was deconsecrated and divided into flats when the order ceased to exist in 1787. The interior, built on a single nave and decorated with frescoes, was then divided into three floors. The construction of the ceilings and partition walls, as well as the opening of new windows, damaged the frescoes and produced a great many “lacerations” in the walls. In spite of this, the restoration of the church, started in 1962, managed to recover much of the most important cycle of Gothic frescoes, dating from the 14th century, in the city.

The frescoes, in three superimposed sequences in the lateral fascias, were carried out by Niccolò di Tommaso and other assistants from Pistoia and illustrate the Stories from the Old and the New Testaments and the life of St. Anthony Abbot. Each of the twelve spandrels forming the roof of the church is instead dedicated to an episode from the Genesis, the Creation of Heaven and Earth and the Giants. The detailed iconographic painting is carried out with great clarity and simplicity in order to make it easier for the congregation to understand the aims behind the work of the Order. The exterior of the church, only visible on three sides, is formed of three rectangular bays, divided by large pointed arches and covered with strongly pronounced pointed cross vaults. The stone facing is the only example of its kind in the city.

After the restoration carried out on a project by Architect Bruno Sacchi in 2008, the Church of Tau was used to display some of the great bronzes by Marino Marini, without losing any of the suggestive atmosphere created by the 14th century frescoes that decorate the chapel. The monumental sculptures have been installed on specially made bases designed to set them off at their best, while bearing in mind the limits of the space and the light. The Church of Tau was also restored around a design that enables it to host special events and initiatives linked to the life of the Museum; this solution makes it possible to enjoy an even better visibility of the Church itself, which is a very important historical and artistic monument.

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The Miracle of 1953/54, the Rider of 1956/57, the Great Scream of 1962, the Composition of elements of 1964/65 and A Form in an Idea of 1964/65, together with seven other small sculptures, are on display in the interior of the Church.

The worship and iconographic portrayals of St. Anthony the Abbot
The Saint is usually shown as an old man with a long white beard, characteristic for his T-shaped staff and the small pig at his feet. This animal in actual fact was never mentioned during St. Anthony’s lifetime and only later elected as an emblem for the Order of Tau, mainly because the confraternity was famous for using pork fat to cure many ailments. The fact that friars raised pigs further strengthened the links between the image of the Saint and domestic animals, so that he has since officially become their patron saint. The Pistoia farming community therefore used to gather together at the Church of Tau for the benediction of their animals on the Saint’s Feast Day of January 17th.
Small loaves of consecrated bread were distributed on this occasion, especially in Pistoia, and preserved by the faithful: even today worship of the saint still appears to be strongly rooted in country areas, though often in different forms, and images of St. Anthony can frequently be found in the cattle stalls, as his presence alone is enough to ward off bad luck and sickness.