Did you know ? the story of santa maria novella
Born in 1221, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is considered the oldest pharmacy in the world. Founded by Dominican friars, its history began when they had access to Santa Maria Inter Vineas, a small church outside of Florence. There they grew herbs and plants in its garden to make medicines, ointments and balms.
In 1332, a wealthy merchant, Dardano Acciaioli, fell ill and was treated by the Dominican friars of Santa Maria Novella. Once he was cured, as a sign of gratitude for the care he received from the friars, he decided to finance the construction of the chapel of San Niccolò. Originally built for the sick, it is now the main room of the pharmacy.
The restoration of the chapel into a sales room was undertaken by Damiano Beni in 1847. The Gothic vault is painted by Paolino Sarti and represents the four continents. The wooden furniture dates from the 14th century, as does the long counter. Two wooden statues represent the healthy life, an explicit reference to the effectiveness of Santa Maria Novella's care.
The sacristy of the chapel was transformed into a cellar in 1612, where the watery products of the distillation of herbs and roses, called "waters", were kept. For this reason, the sacristy was called the water room.
The first perfumed waters date back to 1381, when the Black Death decimated the population. The Dominican friars distilled rose water (acqua di rose) to purify rooms and heal, taken with wine or in pills.
Later, in 1533, Catherine de Medici had to leave Florence to marry the future king of France. Among the guards, pages and ladies who accompanied her, she also asked for a perfumer. It was Renato Bianco, raised by the Dominican friars, who left with her. In Paris, he became Rene the Florentine, and greatly participated in the expansion of the art of perfume in Europe and the world.
For her wedding, and thus her coronation as Queen of France, Catherine de Medici requested a special essence for this special day. Acqua della Regina is a tribute to this request.