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The heart of every church is its sanctuary, the area in which the priests and other sacred ministers assemble; near the sanctuary there is normally also a position for the musicians and singers who accompany the rites.

The room in which you are now standing evokes the sanctuary of Santa Maria del Fiore. Here, together with precious liturgical and devotional objects, are the singing galleries (cantorie) created by Luca della Robbia and Donatello and formerly attached to the north-east and south-east crossing piers of the Cathedral, above the high altar. These raised platforms for singers and for the organs were commissioned in the early 1430s, when the dome was nearing completion and the Opera del Duomo began to think of liturgical furnishings for the area beneath it. In both galleries the depiction of children conveys the joy Florentines felt at finally finishing the cathedral begun so many years before, in far-off 1296—a joy also expressed in the Bible text inscribed beneath Luca della Robbia’s figures: Psalm 150 which describes a concert with various instruments in God’s honor.

English and Italian translations of the Psalm appear on the walls. The version used by Luca della Robbia, with abbreviations and spelling variants, is the Latin one given in the Vulgate Bible: Laudate Dominum in sanctis eius; § Laudate eum in firmamento virtutis eius. § Laudate eum in virtutibus eius, § Laudate eum secundum multitudinem magnitudinis eius. § Laudate eum in sono tubae; § Laudate eum in psalterio et cithara. § Laudate eum in tympano et choro; § Laudate eum in chordis et organo. § Laudate eum in cymbalis benesonantibus; § Laudate eum in cymbalis iubilationis. § Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum!

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