7 May 2021
Established by Dominican friars shortly after their arrival in Florence in 1221, the pharmacy used medicinal herbs grown in the monastic garden to make medications, balms and ointments for their convent’s small infirmary.
Once news of the quality of the products produced by the pharmacy spread beyond Italy, it became opportune to open to the public. In 1612, Father Angiolo Marchissi, the manager at the time, received the honour of calling the business His Royal Highness’ Foundry.
Thanks to the ingenuity of the formulas developed by the apothecary fathers, 18th century saw the fame of the pharmacy spread across national borders, reaching Russia, the Indies and as far as China.
Following the Italian government’s confiscation of the church’s assets in 1866, the pharmacy became a state-owned enterprise, nevertheless it was then transferred to Cesare Augusto Stefani, the nephew of the last monastic director, whose family acquired the name, the goodwill and the assets of the company. The Stefani’s continued to run the business for four successive generations.
Today, Santa Maria Novella is owned by Eugenio Alphandery. With a background in engineering, Eugenio’s first calling to Santa Maria Novella was in 1989 to repair a machine that was essential to the brand’s operations. Since then, he has melded his old-working knowledge with new technology to steer the esteemed company to what it is today. Though many of the monks’ production methods are still in use, the process has been streamlined and updated with machinery designed by Alphandery.
The fame of Santa Maria Novella began to spread well beyond Florence after Catherine de Medici, the daughter of a Florentine ruler who became the queen of France in 1547 after marrying Henry II, commissioned the Dominican monks of Santa Maria Novella to create a signature scent for her, which came to be called Acqua della Regina (Water of the Queen).
Aqua della Regina was the first European perfume to use alcohol instead of oil or vinegar, as was the custom then. The citrus- based scent became popular at the French court and today continues to be a bestseller, renamed Acqua di S. M. Novella Profumo.
With an eye for innovation, the pharmacy prepares its products in Liberty style facilities in Via Reginaldo Giuliani, four kilometres from the head office in northern Florence. The equipment used to create them has been specifically designed and built to combine modern technology with ancient producing methods, remaining true to the brand’s rich heritage.
Santa Maria Novella both perpetuates and renews the ancient traditions of herbal care. Using only natural raw materials of the highest quality and continuing to follow ancient procedures, the house focuses exclusively on the herbalist’s art, basing all preparations on traditional herbs and oils of natural origin.
Central to the pharmacy’s tradition, Costmary, the Balsamite plant, is used in many of Santa Maria Novella’s products and ancient recipes. This medicinal plant, cultivated by the Dominican monks in the 13th century, still grows today in the Giardino di S. M. Novella.
This month, Santa Maria Novella has launched its first flagship store in Sydney. Located in Paddington, the boutique offers a wide range of colognes, face and body care, soaps, room fragrances, wax products, hair care and oral hygiene, liqueurs, pets care, ceramics, leather goods and barber line; including many of the brand’s hero products.
Santa Maria Novella Sydney Flagship Boutique
Shop 10, 2-16 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021