Basilica of Santa Croce tour
Piazza Santa Croce
Painted Cross by Cimabue
Chapels painted by Giotto
Duration: 3 hours
Disabled Accessibility: yes
Difference in level: 5 metres
To book the tickets of the church, please contact me at email@example.com or click here
The Basilica of Santa Croce: the Italian Pantheon
The Basilica of Santa Croce tour does not only mean visiting one of the most beautiful and majestic churches in Florence but also discovering one of the most well-known buildings in Italian history: the church is in fact known for being the so-called Pantheon of the Italians as it keeps the burials of illustrious personalities of Italian history, such as Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli.
Thanks to its Gothic style with sober lines that were designed by Arnolfo di Cambio – one of the most important sculptors and architects between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries –, the Basilica is also an authentic architectural jewel.
The internal environment of the church
The palace belonged to a knight of Malta
Our Santa Croce tour starts from the square in front of the basilica, a very important place in Florentine history both because it has witnessed the unfolding of events related to famous men – among many, Dante Alghieri and Giuliano de ‘Medici – and because in this day the square is the setting for the ‘Calcio fiorentino’ (the historic Florentine football), one of the oldest and most exciting traditions in the city.
This is also the place where you can admire some of the historic buildings of Florence, such as the Palazzo dell’Antella, a building whose decoration was commissioned by a knight of Malta who, as we will see, during his life had important contacts with the great painter Caravaggio …
Entering inside the Basilica, what first of all strike your attention will be its majesty. Well, it is important to know that Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world: the length of the building is a hundred and fifteen metres and its width is thirty-eight metres.
We will see the famous burials of the church starting with that of Michelangelo, decorated with allegories of the Arts in which he was the undisputed master: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. It will be interesting to find out why the position of this tomb is somehow connected to the large altar on its left and which is where, in a canvas representing the Ascent on the Calvary, a man has very the features of Michelangelo Buonarroti …
Galileo’s tomb and the strange correspondence with Michelangelo ...
We will then go to discover the Galileo Galilei’s tomb, the founder of modern science and the man who, according to what Ugo Foscolo in the Sepolcri says – an Italian poem dedicated to the tombs of Santa Croce –, «saw / under the ethereal pavilion rotate / more worlds , and the Sun radiating them motionless […] ». The statues of the allegories that surmounting the tomb symbolize the disciplines studied by the scientist, but they had to be three and not just two as we see today: in addition to Geometry and Astronomy, Philosophy should have completed the decoration of the tomb; for a reason that we will discover, the ecclesiastical authorities did not give permission to add it …
Detail of the bust of Galileo in his tomb
Another curious thing about Galileo is that, for about a century, his burial was located in another place of the church, almost hidden from the sight of faithful. Once buried in its present position – in a place finally more worthy and appropriate to the importance of the scholar –, his tomb was placed exactly in correspondence with that of Michelangelo: we will discover together what are the unexpected and surprising connections between the two Tuscan geniuses … In the Basilica of Santa Croce we also have the tomb of Niccolò Machiavelli, a great political theorist and author of a famous literary work entitled the Prince; just like Galileo, Machiavelli was not originally buried where we see him now and this happened for particular reasons. We will then see the tomb of the musician Gioacchino Rossini, author of the famous opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Finally we will find the Ugo Foscolo’s tomb, author of the celebratory poem which, as it was said, contributed greatly to the fame of the Santa Croce’s burials.
Where Stendhal’s Syndrome began …
Continuing the Basilica of Santa Croce tour, we discover the place where the French poet Stendhal, due to the overly admiration for the church art works, was the victim of a physical fainting which then went down in history with the name of Stendhal Syndrome. This term today defines the feeling of ecstasy and admiration felt by people in front of works of art or places of particular charm, just as happened to the French writer when, in the nineteenth century, he was visiting the Florentine church.
Approaching the high altar, we will admire the wonderful triumph of colours created in the apse area by the alternation of the brilliant figures on the windows and the bright gradations by Agnolo Gaddi, the painter who, in the second half of the fourteenth century, here made a cycle of frescos representing the Stories of the true Cross. Next to the main chapel, we can admire the innovative scenes painted by Giotto in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels. The great Florentine artist was called by these two wealthy families that, owners of ‘banks’, were able not only to afford to summon the one who was the most requested painter at the time – namely, Giotto – but even to lend a large sum of money to the king of England Edward III for his military campaigns in France. As we shall see, something dramatic happened in 1342 …
The painted Cross by Cimabue
The Cross by Cimabue and the Pazzi Chapel
After seeing the masterpieces inside the church, we go to see those that are preserved in the adjacent rooms, such as in the Sacristy, where we find the famous Cross painted by Cimabue – Giotto’s master. The corridor that connects the church with the Novitiate Chapel allows us to go outwards which is where we find an elegant portico; connected to the latter is the Pazzi Chapel, the patronage space of the family that was involved in a famous conspiracy against the Medici in the fifteenth century …
After visiting the museum and the cloister, we conclude our Basilica of Santa Croce tour in the Refectory, an environment of great refinement that, despite the disastrous floods to which it has been exposed over the centuries, still retains frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi, among including a beautiful Arbor Vitae which is a particular representation of the Crucifixion of Christ whose cross branches out like a large tree.
Once this highly suggestive path is concluded, the visitor comes to realize that, for the works of art and the extraordinary historical evidence, the Basilica of Santa Croce is a truly unique place: visiting it means discovering an important piece of Italian history.