Down in the valley, below the handsome medieval town of Montepulciano, sits the Tempio di San Biagio. From above, this church dedicated to Saint Blaise looks like a compact jewel box, its cream travertine facade in contrast with the green cypresses and vineyards of the expansive Tuscan countryside.
San Biagio is monumental in scale. Designed by Antonio da Sangallo, the church is modeled after the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato, a church designed by Antonio’s older brother Giuliano da Sangallo. This church may look familiar because the Greek Cross design, borrowed from the blueprints of the Prato basilica, also inspired the architectural plans for several Renaissance churches, including Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence and Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Like many churches in Tuscany, this one was dedicated to Blaise/Biagio, a nod to the local textile industry. The patron saint of wool combers, Biagio was tortured with a wool comb/card before he was killed for his Christian beliefs in the 4th century.
Constructed between 1518 and 1540, San Biagio is considered the greatest artistic achievement of Antonio da Sangallo, even though he died (1534) before its completion.