Santa Maria Novella Historic Pharmacy

Antique Medicine Jars used to prepare and store medicines and other products
Antique Medicine Jars

During our third week of classes, we went on a field trip to the Santa Maria Novella Historic Pharmacy, in Florence, Italy. The moment you walk into this beautiful building, you are overtaken by the aroma of different perfumes, lotions, and oils. Our tour guide took us from room to room, explaining the fascinating history of the pharmacy, which also happens to be one of the oldest pharmacies in the world.

Shortly after the year 1221, Dominican friars arrived in Florence and settled in the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Vigne (which today is known as Santa Maria Novella). The Dominican Friars began to cultivate herbs and used them to create medicines, pomades, and balms for the monks’ infirmary of the monastery. One of the products the monks began creating included aromatic waters. Our tour guide explained that the first documented sale of the aromatic water products was rose water, and its intended use was as a disinfectant during the devastating Black Plague epidemic. Over time, news spread throughout different lands

Antiquities at the Santa Maria Novella Historic Pharmacy in Florence, Italy.
Antiquities at the Santa Maria Novella Historic Pharmacy

regarding the superb quality of the products being sold at the old pharmacy. Because of this, the friars decided to open the building to the public, and it has been operating publicly ever since. While this is just a brief history of the Santa Maria Novella Historic Pharmacy, it provides important insight into how widely respected and beneficial it was to the patrons of Florence.

Our tour guide showed us several rooms, including the Sales Room, the Sacristy of the Chapel of San Nicolo, the museum, and more. We were able to get a firsthand look at how medicines and

other products were created, as well as what machines were used to do so. We saw authentic tools and the jars used to help prepare and store products, which allowed us to better imagine the creation process. All in all, this was a fascinating field trip, located in a stunning building filled with stories and accomplishments that you cannot even begin to imagine.


About Lauren Stephenson

Kent State University student, Lauren Stephenson (Health Communications major) is among those studying abroad this summer in Italy. The Florence Health Institute is an opportunity for students who are pursuing a career in Nursing, Public Health, or any related field, to study the impacts of their field through an international lens.

In this creative and interprofessional study abroad experience, students will study in Florence for one month during the summer for a total of seven (7) credits. All courses will be offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level in order to satisfy a variety of students’ academic needs.

Learn more about the Florence Health Institute »

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