Santa Croce, Florence
"Santa Croce is a pantheon of the most worthy kind. The church has a serious and a gloomy solemnity, indeed it is a huge hall of the dead that no thinking person will enter without reverence" wrote Ferdinand Gregorovius, a German who traveled widely in Italy in the 19th century. This feeling is one the visitor can share on approaching the church and entering its broad interior.The greatest church of the Franciscan order, Santa Croce was begun, probably by Arnolfo di Cambio, in 1294 on the site of an earlier building dating from 1228, and was consecrated in 1443 in the presence of Pope Eugene IV. The facade, articulated in multicolored marble, and the campanile are 19th century.
Santa Croce Map
Address: Piazza Santa Croce 16, I-50122 Florence, Italy
Opening hours: 8am-6:30pm; Sun: 3pm-6pm
Transit: Bus: 12, 14, 19, 23, 31, 32.
Santa Croce Highlight
The interior is basilican, of the type usual for a mendicant order, with a nave, two aisles, and transept at the end, and an open painted timber ceiling and octagonal columns supporting broad arches. It is the church layout best suited for the rousing sermons of the Franciscans who were much in demand in this traditional woolworkers' quarter of the city.Its many tombs and cenotaphs (276 memorials in the floor) and important works of art make Santa Croce one of Italy's most impressive sacral buildings, and it is undoubtedly the largest Franciscan church, at 115.43m/378.61ft long, 38.23m/125.39ft wide at the nave and 73.74m/241.87ft wide at the transept.
Opposite the first pillar can be seen the tomb of the famous scientist Galileo Galilei, by Giulio Foggini. On the right of the side door is the monument to Carlo Marsuppini, by Desiderio da Settignano, one of the finest of 15th century monuments, and in the floor are memorials to Lorenzo Ghiberti, who made the bronze doors of the Baptistery, and his son Vittorio.
It is worth looking at the monument on the left to the Florentine composer Luigi Cherubini (d. 1482). There is a row of five chapels along the east wall. The Cappella Bardi contains Donatello's "Christ Crucified", criticized as looking like a peasant by Brunelleschi, whose own, and, he hoped, finer "Crucifixion" was created for Santa Maria Novella. In the Cappella Bardi di Vernio the wall frescoes of scenes from the life of St Sylvester Ó1340) are by Maso di Banco, while the frescoes in the burial recesses are by Maso di Banco and Taddeo Gaddi. The Cappella Tosinghi-Spinelli has interesting stained-glass windows by the school of Giotto.
The Cappella Maggiore is covered with frescoes. Those in the vault show the "Risen Christ, the Evangelists and St Francis", and are by Agnolo Taddi (1380), who was also responsible for the wall frescoes of the Legend of the Holy Cross.
The east wall of the south transept also has five chapels. The Cappella Bardi is notable for Giotto's frescoes of the story of St Francis which are numbered among his most mature and major works (ca. 1320). There are also remarkable frescoes by Giotto in the adjacent Cappella Peruzzi of scenes from the life of St John the Evangelist (right-hand wall) and of St John the Baptist (left-hand wall). These were particularly admired by the Renaissance painters and closely studied by Masaccio and Michelangelo. The last chapel on the left, the Cappella Velluti, has some damaged frescoes by a pupil of Cimabue ("Archangel Michael") and Giotto's "Coronation of the Virgin". In the south end of the transept is the Cappella Baroncelli. The frescoes of the Prophets at the entrance and of the Life of the Virgin on the walls are accounted the greatest work of Taddeo Gaddi, a pupil of Giotto. The adjoining Cappella Castellani has frescoes of the lives of the saints by Angelo Gaddi and his pupils, and a fine tabernacle by Mino da Fiesole.
The doorway (by Michelozzo) gives on to a corridor, also by Michelozzo, which leads to the Sacristy. This contains fine Renaissance cabinets and a "Crucifixion" by Taddeo Gaddi. Beyond the Sacristy is the 14th century Cappella Rinuccini, covered with frescoes by Giovanni da Milano. At the end of the sacristy corridor is the Cappella del Noviziato (or dei Medici) which Michelozzo built for Cosimo the Elder in 1445. The altarpiece in glazed terracotta, "Madonna and Child" (1480), is by Andrea della Robbia.The Corridoio della Sagrestia gives on to the Scuola del Cuoio, the leather school, where hand-made leather bags and other leather goods can be purchased.
In the south aisle can be seen the monument of the composer Gioacchino Rossini (d. 1868), and the tomb of the Florentine politician Leonardo Bruni (d. 1444), Bernardo Rossellino's prototype of the Florentine Renaissance tomb. In a recess is the delicate relief of the Annunciation by Donatello (1435). About halfway along the aisle is the tomb of Niccolò Machiavelli (d. 1527), the great writer and politician, by Spinazzi (1787). Against the fifth pillar stands the octagonal marble pulpit by Benedetto da Maiano (1472-1476) with scenes from the life of St Francis and allegorical figures. Nearer the door is Dante's monumental cenotaph (1829), Florence's tribute to the memory of the poet it had sent into exile and who died in Ravenna in 1321, followed by Vasari's monument to Michelangelo and, on the first pillar, Antonio Rossellino's relief "Madonna del latte" (1478).
Map - Santa Croce
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