7 days in Italy-5-19 to 5/25/2022

Day 3- Florence-5/21/2022

Basilica di Santa Croce

The Franciscan Basilica di Santa Croce (Holy Cross), with its striped green-and-white marble facade, dates from about 1294. The Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world, measuring 377ft. long and 124 ft. in width.  Most well known for its beautiful decoration and its status as the burial site of many of Florence’s most famous individuals such as Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was tried by the Inquisition and was not allowed a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death. There is also a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty (he is actually buried in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence).

As such, today the Basilica di Santa Croce is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Historic Florence.

The facade of the church remained unfinished for more than three centuries and was not completed until 1865, commemorating the fifth centenary of Dante’s birth.

 

The Neo-Gothic style facade, with its three cusps and its being covered with bichrome marbles.

 

The Basilica has 16 chapels, each of which was ornately decorated. Amongst those who contributed to the splendor of this church was the artist Giotto di Bondone, whose frescos can be seen throughout and include the 14th century Cappella Bardi Frescos. 

 

The interior of Santa Croce is described as Gothic, which is a style characterized by light, height, and ornamentation. 

 

Amongst those who contributed to the splendor of this church was the artist Giotto di Bondone, whose frescos can be seen throughout and include the 14th century Cappella Bardi Frescos. 

 

Side way of the basilica is filled with sculptures and frescoes.

 

 

Painting of the ascension of Jesus Christ.

 

The interior is a three aisle design divided by tow rows of thick octagonal columns.  In between the columns are wide, pointed arches which house the side chapels.

 

There are over 300 tombs throughout the church dating as far back as the 14th century.  Many affluent families wanted to pay tribute to their favorite celebrities so they would commission a funeral monument to be build for them inside the church.

 

On the left is the tomb of Lorenzo Ghiberti, one of the most celebrated bronze-smiths in Florence.  He was the one who crated those iconic Baptistery doors, making him a legend.  Despite his fame, his resting place is simple. with only a simple stone marker on the floor.  It is embellished only with an image of great eagle surrounded in laurel leave.

 

At first these tombs were simple gravestones on the floor and reserved for Franciscans who had held important roles in the order, for members of the neighborhood's most powerful families and for great military captains. For centuries the sacred spaces in churches, convents and confraternities received the mortal remains of the deceased, housing their graves to keep their memory alive for posterity, a duty that has always been a feature of Santa Croce.

 

Close look at tomb slabs.

 

The tomb of Vittorio Fossombroni was created by Lorenzo Bartolini. Above the tomb is a grouping of three marble sculptures. Higher up on an inscribed base is a bust of Fossombroni wearing the robes of the knight of the Order of St. Stephen. Flanking the tomb are two draped nude figures they represent, on the left the Genius of Tolerance and on the right the Genius of Agriculture. Genius in this sense meaning spirit or muse.

 

Vittorio Fossombroni was born in Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy on September 15, 1754. He studied at the University of Pisa and became an accomplished hydrologic engineer. He is famous for draining the swamps of Tuscany to create arable land.  In 1796, he was appointed minister for foreign affairs and was appointed president of the commission of finance. He rose to the position of president of the legislative commission and was appointed prime minister under the Grand Duke Leopold II. He died in Florence on April 13, 1844.

 

 

The high altar is located inside the Major chapel right in the center of the church.   The rest of the church does not have the same lofty heights as other gothic churches in the era.  The high altar soars above the rest of the building. 

 

Th altar is wonderfully embellished with thin windows stretch up the entire length of the Chapel and the colors in the stained glass windows are so magnificent and cast a rainbow of hues all across the church.

 

The frescoed wall and the beautiful stained glass window were by Agnolo Gaddi.

Giotto had previously painted a fantastical masterpiece in the church of Assisi, and the Bardi's were anxious to have one of their own.  In this chapel, we find Giotti's six scenes depicting the Life and Death of St. Francis.  The piece was painted in 1300's but heavily restored in he 17th and 19th century.

 

The altar is surrounded by Agnoli Gaddi's frescos illustrating the Legend of the cross.

The Cross plays a central role in the Christian religion because it symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ, the sacrifice that brought salvation to mankind and that lies at the heart of the mass still celebrated on the altar today. 

 

The gilt reredos of the high altar features a central image the Madonna and Child as well as the Four Doctors of the Church; St. Ambrose, St,. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great and St. Jerome. Above these are the Four Evangelists and a scene of Christ and the Virgin surrounded by six-winged seraphim.

 

Pala Bardi Saint Francis and twenty stories form his life circa 1245-1250

 

View of the basilica from the altar.

 

 

Leonardo da Vinci commemorative Plaque.  His body is buried in Chateau d'Ambroise in France

 

 

Tomb of Galileo on the right.

 

The monumental Tomb of Galileo Galilei, circa 1737 by Gioanni Battista Foggini, in white and polychrome marble.

The sarcophagus, with two statues on either side, sits on a tall, three-part plinth. On the left Astronomy holds a parchment with sunspots carved by Vincenzo Foggini, while on the right Geometry displays a plank on an incline demonstrating the equation of falling bodies by Girolamo Ticciati. Above the tomb, a niche modeled to resemble a shell contains a bust of Galileo by Giovan Battista Foggini, who also designed the monument as a whole, and is topped by the family crest. 

 

Tomb of count ittorio Alfieri who was an Italian dramatist and poet. He was considered the “founder of Italian tragedy” and died in 1803. His family bought a spot inside the church as his resting place and commissioned neoclassical artist Antonio Canova to create his tombstone.

Canova was famous for his baroque-inspired designs which always had a fair amount of dramatic flair. The allegorical figure who is in the process of laying a wreath on his tombs is Italy. She is mourning the loss of one of her children. It was once said of Canova that “as long as Canova exists, immortality can be bought“. His sculptures are so powerful they seem to find a way of stirring the souls of people until time immemorial

 

Michelangelo's tomb on the right.

 

Michelangelo's tomb by Giorgio Vasari was completed in 1575.  The bust of Michelangelo and the statue Painting were commissioned from Giovan Battista Lorenzi, Sculpture from Valerio Cioli, Architecture from Giovanni Bandini and the frescoes from Giovan Battista Naldini. The result was a manifesto of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno: all the artists involved were members of the Academy and its symbol of tree interlocking crowns adorns the central register. Vasari also considered the emblem, which Borghini devised for the institution, to be Michelangelo's personal crest in memory of the three circles with which he would earmark blocks of marble that he chose in a quarry.

 

Plaque underneath Michelango's tomb.

 

Michelangelo died in Rome on 18 February 1564 and was buried in the church of Santi Apostoli, but his nephew Leonardo purloined his uncle's remains and brought them back to Florence "secretly in a bale, under the title of merchandise". The body reached Florence on 11 March and though every effort was made to keep the news of its removal to Santa Croce a secret, the word rapidly spread. The church was soon so full that it proved difficult to move the body into the sacristy, where it lay in state to allow the citizens to pay tribute to the great master who had been absent from his city for thirty years.

 

Cenotaph of Dante Alighieri (whose mortal remains are in Ravenna), erected between 1819 and 1829 in order to celebrate the poet in consideration of the lofty civic value that Santa Croce had acquired.

 

Memorial monument dedicated to Carlo Marsuppini by Desiderio da Settignno, Circa 1454-1459. 

 

  

Turning towards the southern walls, this is the Baroncelli Chapel in all its splendor.

 

The chapel was built in 1338 and is covered in frescoes by Tadeeo Gaddi.  Gaddi loved to push the limits by experimenting and try new and exciting methods and the use of geometry, perspective by creating almost three dimensional illusions inside his paintings.

 

 

Christ on crucifix.

 

The Baroncelli Chapel represent the Stories of the Virgin.

 

    We are now moving on the other part of the church.

 

NEXT.... Day 3-Basilica continuation

 

 

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