Santa Croce, Florence

The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church in Florence, Italy, and a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. It is situated on the Piazza di Santa Croce, about 800 meters south-east of the Duomo. The site, when first chosen, was in marshland outside the city walls. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Foscolo, the philosopher Gentile and the composer Rossini, thus it is known also as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell'Itale Glorie).

Basilica di Santa Croce
Basilica of the Holy Cross
Santa Croce (Florence) - Facade
Basilica di Santa Croce is located in Florence
Basilica di Santa Croce
Basilica di Santa Croce
Location in Florence
43°46′6.3″N 11°15′45.8″E / 43.768417°N 11.262722°ECoordinates: 43°46′6.3″N 11°15′45.8″E / 43.768417°N 11.262722°E
LocationFlorence, Tuscany
DenominationRoman Catholic
StatusMinor basilica
Architectural typeChurch
StyleGothic, Renaissance, Gothic Revival
ArchdioceseArchdiocese of Florence


Franciscan symbol IMG 5082
Franciscan symbol on the facade of the temple

The Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Its most notable features are its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, and its tombs and cenotaphs. Legend says that Santa Croce was founded by St Francis himself. The construction of the current church, to replace an older building, was begun on 12 May 1294,[1] possibly by Arnolfo di Cambio, and paid for by some of the city's wealthiest families. It was consecrated in 1442 by Pope Eugene IV. The building's design reflects the austere approach of the Franciscans. The floorplan is an Egyptian or Tau cross (a symbol of St Francis), 115 metres in length with a nave and two aisles separated by lines of octagonal columns. To the south of the church was a convent, some of whose buildings remain.

The Primo Chiostro, the main cloister, houses the Cappella dei Pazzi, built as the chapter house, completed in the 1470s. Filippo Brunelleschi (who had designed and executed the dome of the Duomo) was involved in its design which has remained rigorously simple and unadorned.

In 1560, the choir screen was removed as part of changes arising from the Counter-Reformation and the interior rebuilt by Giorgio Vasari. As a result, there was damage to the church's decoration and most of the altars previously located on the screen were lost.

The bell tower was built in 1842, replacing an earlier one damaged by lightning. The neo-Gothic marble façade dates from 1857-1863. The Jewish architect Niccolo Matas from Ancona, designed the church's façade, working a prominent Star of David into the composition. Matas had wanted to be buried with his peers but because he was Jewish, he was buried under the threshold and honored with an inscription.

In 1866, the complex became public property, as a part of government suppression of most religious houses, following the wars that gained Italian independence and unity.[2][3]

The Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce is housed mainly in the refectory, also off the cloister. A monument to Florence Nightingale stands in the cloister, in the city in which she was born and after which she was named. Brunelleschi also built the inner cloister, completed in 1453.

In 1966, the Arno River flooded much of Florence, including Santa Croce. The water entered the church bringing mud, pollution and heating oil. The damage to buildings and art treasures was severe, taking several decades to repair.

Today the former dormitory of the Franciscan friars houses the Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School).[4] Visitors can watch as artisans craft purses, wallets, and other leather goods which are sold in the adjacent shop.


The basilica has been undergoing a multi-year restoration program with assistance from Italy’s civil protection agency. [5] On 20 October 2017, the property was closed to visitors due to falling masonry which caused the death of a tourist from Spain.[6] The basilica will be closed indefinitely during a survey of the stability of the church.[7][8] The Italian Ministry of Culture said that "there will be an investigation by magistrates to understand how this dramatic fact happened and whether there are responsibilities over maintenance."[9]


Basilica di Santa Croce altar and crucifix
The altar and crucifix
Basilica di Santa Croce Ora Pro Animis gate
A gate in the gardens with the letters "OPA" for ora pro animis ("pray for souls")

Artists whose work is present in the church include:

Once present in the church's Medici Chapel, but now split between the Florentine Galleries and the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in Milan, is a polyptych by Lorenzo di Niccolò.

Funerary monuments

Michelangelo Tomb Santa Croce
Michelangelo's tomb
Galileo's tomb
Galileo's tomb
Charlotte Bonaparte Tomb
Charlotte Bonaparte Tomb

The Basilica became popular with Florentines as a place of worship and patronage and it became customary for greatly honoured Florentines to be buried or commemorated there. Some were in chapels "owned" by wealthy families such as the Bardi and Peruzzi. As time progressed, space was also granted to notable Italians from elsewhere. For 500 years monuments were erected in the church including those to:

In literature

A Room with a View (1908), E.M. Forster, chapter 2

Romola (1863), George Eliot


  1. ^ Chiarini, Gloria (2007). "Basilica of Santa Croce". Florence Art Guide. Archived from the original on 29 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
  2. ^ Besse, J M (1911). "Suppression of Monasteries in Continental Europe: C. Italy". Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Archived from the original on 5 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
  3. ^ "Santa Croce: Overview". Opera of Santa Croce. Archived from the original on 28 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
  4. ^ Archived 2006-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Associated Press (October 20, 2017). "Tourist killed by falling masonry at famous Florence church". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  6. ^ Agency (October 19, 2017). "Florence tourist death: Falling masonry kills Spanish visitor to Basilica di Santa Croce". The Independent. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  7. ^ Associated Press (October 29, 2017). "Tourist killed by falling masonry in famous Florence church". The Guardian. Milan. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  8. ^ Gasperetti, Maco (October 20, 2017). "Collapse at Santa Croce in Florence despite safety measures". Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  9. ^ Downs, Ray (October 19, 2017). "Tourist killed by falling stone at famous Italian church". UPI. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  10. ^ Borsook, Eve (1991). Vincent Cronin, ed. The Companion Guide to Florence, 5th Edition. HarperCollins; New York. pp. 100–104.

External links

Works related to Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Suppression of Monasteries in Continental Europe at Wikisource

Enrico Pazzi

Enrico Pazzi (20 June 1818 – 27 March 1899) was an Italian sculptor, mainly active in Florence, Italy. He is known for his Monument to Dante (1857-1865) in the Piazza Santa Croce, Florence, and for the Prince Mihailo Monument in the center of Serbian capital city Belgrade.

Gherardo Starnina

Gherardo Starnina (c. 1360–1413) was an Italian painter from Florence in the Quattrocento era.

According to the biographer Giorgio Vasari, Starnina initially trained with Antonio Veneziano, then with Agnolo Gaddi. He is claimed to have participated in the painting of the frescos in the Castellani Chapel in Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence. He is also said to have moved to Spain in 1380 to work under Juan I of Castile, and is attributed some painting in the San Blas chapel of the Cathedral of Toledo.

Several paintings formerly attributed to the Master of the Bambino Vispo are now attributed to Gherardo Starnina, and the two artists may have been the same person.

Gioachino Rossini

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (Italian: [dʒoaˈkiːno anˈtɔːnjo rosˈsiːni] (listen); 29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some works of sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his fame.

Born in Pesaro to parents who were both musicians (his father a trumpeter, his mother a singer), Rossini began to compose by the age of 12 and was educated at music school in Bologna. His first opera was performed in Venice in 1810 when he was 18 years old. In 1815 he was engaged to write operas and manage theatres in Naples. In the period 1810–1823 he wrote a total of 34 operas for the Italian stage which were performed in Venice, Milan, Ferrara, Naples and elsewhere; this productivity necessitated an almost formulaic approach for some components (such as overtures) and a certain amount of self-borrowing. During this period he produced his most popular works including the comic operas L'italiana in Algeri, Il barbiere di Siviglia (known in English as The Barber of Seville) and La Cenerentola, which brought to a peak the opera buffa tradition he inherited from masters such as Domenico Cimarosa, as well as opera seria works such as Otello, Tancredi and Semiramide. All of these attracted admiration for their innovation in melody, harmonic and instrumental colour, and dramatic form. In 1824 he was contracted by the Opéra in Paris, for which he produced an opera to celebrate the coronation of Charles X, Il viaggio a Reims (later cannibalised for his first opera in French, Le comte Ory), revisions of two of his Italian operas, Le siège de Corinthe and Moïse, and in 1829 his last opera, Guillaume Tell.

Rossini's withdrawal from opera for the last 40 years of his life has never been fully explained; contributary factors may have been ill-health, the wealth which his success had brought him, and the rise of spectacular Grand Opera under composers such as Giacomo Meyerbeer. From the early 1830s to 1855, when he left Paris and was based in Bologna, he wrote relatively little. On his return to Paris in 1855 he became renowned for his musical salons on Saturdays, regularly attended by musicians and the artistic and fashionable circles of Paris, for which he wrote the entertaining pieces Péchés de vieillesse. Guests included Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Giuseppe Verdi, Meyerbeer and Joseph Joachim. Rossini's last major composition was his Petite messe solennelle (1864). He died in Paris in 1868.

Giovanni Gentile

Giovanni Gentile (Italian: [dʒoˈvanni dʒenˈtiːle]; 30 May 1875 – 15 April 1944) was an Italian neo-Hegelian idealist philosopher, educator, and fascist politician. The self-styled "philosopher of Fascism", he was influential in providing an intellectual foundation for Italian Fascism, and ghostwrote part of The Doctrine of Fascism (1932) with Benito Mussolini. He was involved in the resurgence of Hegelian idealism in Italian philosophy and also devised his own system of thought, which he called "actual idealism" or "actualism", and which has been described as "the subjective extreme of the idealist tradition".

Giovanni da Milano

Giovanni da Milano (Giovanni di Jacopo di Guido da Caversaccio) was an Italian painter, known to be active in Florence and Rome between 1346 and 1369.

His style is, like many Florentine painters of the time, considered to be derivative of Giotto's. Vasari misidentified him as a student of Taddeo Gaddi, a noted Giotto protégé.[1]

Hailing from Lombardy, the earliest documentation shows Giovanni in Florence on October 17, 1346, under the name Johannes Jacobi de Commo, listed amongst the foreign painters living in Tuscany.[2]

Amongst Giovanni's most significant works:

A polyptych with Madonna and Saints (c. 1355), the oldest known signed work by Giovanni da Milano, painted for the Prato Spedale della Misericordia

A polyptych made for the Ognissanti of Florence (c. 1363), now dismembered and scattered, depicting saints and scenes of the biblical creation myth

Man of Sorrows panel (c. 1365, Accademia, Florence), the oldest known signed and dated work

Frescoes decorating both sides of the Rinuccini Chapel in Santa Croce, Florence. Each side consists of five scenes – one side depicting the Life of the Virgin and the other the Life of Mary Magdalene. Giovanni is credited with the upper two registers of each cycle. The bottom register is credited to Matteo di Pacino.[3]The latest extent documentation of Giovanni's career comes in 1369, when he is known to be working in Rome for Pope Urban V with Giottino and the sons of Taddeo Gaddi.

Italian Gothic architecture

Gothic architecture appeared in Italy in the 12th century. The bold architectural solutions and technical innovations of the French Gothic cathedrals never appeared: Italian architects preferred to keep the construction tradition established in the previous centuries. Aesthetically, in Italy the vertical development was rarely important.

A possible timeline of Gothic architecture in Italy can comprise:

an initial development of the Cistercian architecture

an "early Gothic" phase (c. 1228-1290)

the "mature Gothic" of 1290-1385

a late Gothic phase from 1385 to the 16th century, with the completion of the great Gothic edifices begun previously, as the Milan Cathedral and San Petronio Basilica in Bologna.

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Lorenzo Ghiberti (Italian: [loˈrɛntso ɡiˈbɛrti]; 1378 – 1 December 1455), born Lorenzo di Bartolo, was a Florentine Italian artist of the Early Renaissance best known as the creator of the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery, called by Michelangelo the Gates of Paradise. Trained as a goldsmith and sculptor, he established an important workshop for sculpture in metal. His book of Commentarii contains important writing on art, as well as what may be the earliest surviving autobiography by any artist.

Maso di Banco

Maso di Banco (working c 1335- 1350) was an Italian painter of the 14th century, who worked in Florence, Italy. He and Taddeo Gaddi were the most prominent Florentine pupils of Giotto di Bondone, exploring the three-dimensional dramatic realism inaugurated by Giotto.Maso's name and work are known to us from Lorenzo Ghiberti's autobiographical I Commentari, which identifies frescoes in the chapel of the Holy Confessors at Santa Croce, Florence as his chief work. The frescoes, not signed or dated but probably c 1340, represent scenes from the Life of St. Sylvester (Pope Sylvester I), the Last Judgment, and The Entombment.

His fresco of a particular judgment is in the Bardi banking family chapel of Santa Croce. It features Gualtiero de' Bardi pleading on behalf of his soul before Jesus Christ.

Nanni di Banco, a sculptor of the early 15th century, is not related to Maso.


Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or more commonly known by his first name Michelangelo (; Italian: [mikeˈlandʒelo di lodoˈviːko ˌbwɔnarˈrɔːti siˈmoːni]; 6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered by many the greatest artist of his lifetime, and by some the greatest artist of all time, his artistic versatility was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival, the fellow Florentine and client of the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci.A number of Michelangelo's works of painting, sculpture and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in these fields was prodigious; given the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches and reminiscences, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. He sculpted two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, before the age of thirty. Despite holding a low opinion of painting, he also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall. His design of the Laurentian Library pioneered Mannerist architecture. At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica. He transformed the plan so that the western end was finished to his design, as was the dome, with some modification, after his death.

Michelangelo was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive. In fact, two biographies were published during his lifetime. One of them, by Giorgio Vasari, proposed that Michelangelo's work transcended that of any artist living or dead, and was "supreme in not one art alone but in all three".In his lifetime, Michelangelo was often called Il Divino ("the divine one"). His contemporaries often admired his terribilità—his ability to instil a sense of awe. Attempts by subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo's impassioned, highly personal style resulted in Mannerism, the next major movement in Western art after the High Renaissance.

Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger

Michelangelo Buonarroti il Giovane (baptized 4 November 1568 – 11 January 1646) was a Florentine poet, librettist and man of letters, known as "the Younger" to distinguish him from his famous granduncle the sculptor.

He studied mathematics at the University of Pisa (1586-1591) where he became friends with Galileo Galilei and Maffeo Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII. Buonarroti was elected to the Accademia Fiorentina in 1585 and the Accademia della Crusca in 1589, and was one of the editors of first Italian dictionary, Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca (1612).

After the wedding of Marie de' Medici and Henry IV of France in 1600, Buonarroti published a Description of the banquet and was soon commissioned to write court entertainments: Il natal d'Ercole (1605), Il giudizio di Paride (for the wedding of Cosimo II and Maria Maddalena,1608, music by Jacopo Peri), La Tancia (1611) and Balletto della Cortesia (1614). In 1612 he began construction of a gallery (now the Casa Buonarroti) on the Via Ghibellino dedicated to his famous relative and commissioned numerous artists to paint murals (WP Commons gallery). During this period his name became linked with Francesca Caccini, who composed the music for La Tancia, the Balletto and La Fiera

Buonarroti's career as a courtier took a turn for the worse when the Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine took offense at salacious language in Fiera (1619). In 1623 he dedicated the publication of verse by the Elder Michelangelo to his friend Maffeo Barberini, newly installed as Pope Urban VIII, and sought patronage from other members of the Barberini family. The last of his theatre pieces was La Siringa, performed at the Palazzo Vecchio in 1634. in 1640 he lost his fortune in a bank failure at a time when the Wars of Castro (in which Rome and Florence took opposite sides) complicated relations with the Barberinis. His final years were spent writing the Satires. He is buried in Santa Croce.

Buonarroti's lyrics are found among many 17-century composers' musiche as well as in Luigi Dallapiccola's Sei Cori di Michelangelo Buonarroti il Giovane (1933).

Monument to Dante

The Statue of Dante Alighieri (Monumento a Dante Alighieri) is a monument of Dante Alighieri. It is located in Piazza Santa Croce, next to Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy. It was built in 1865 by Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi.

Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (, Italian: [nikkoˈlɔ mmakjaˈvɛlli]; 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was an Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright and poet of the Renaissance period. He has often been called the father of modern political science. For many years he was a senior official in the Florentine Republic, with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned by Italian scholars. He was secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his best-known work The Prince (Il Principe) in 1513, having been exiled from city affairs.

Machiavellianism is widely used as a negative term to characterize unscrupulous politicians of the sort Machiavelli described most famously in The Prince. Machiavelli described immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and the killing of innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. He even encouraged it in some situations. The book gained notoriety due to claims that it teaches "evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power".The term Machiavellian is often associated with political deceit, deviousness, and realpolitik. On the other hand, many commentators, such as Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot, have argued that Machiavelli was actually a republican, even when writing The Prince, and his writings were an inspiration to Enlightenment proponents of modern democratic political philosophy. In one place, for example, he noted his admiration for the selfless Roman dictator Cincinnatus.

Palazzo Cocchi-Serristori

Palazzo Cocchi-Serristori is a Renaissance-style palace in Piazza Santa Croce, Florence, Italy. It presently houses offices of a regional council of Florence.

Palazzo dell'Antella

Palazzo dell'Antella (also Palazzo Atellesi) is a palace with a frescoed façade located on Piazza Santa Croce, Florence, region of Tuscany, Italy.

Santa Croce

Santa Croce is Italian for "Holy Cross" and may refer to:

Santa Croce (Venice), one of the six sestieri (districts) of Venice, Italy.

The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Italian: Pontificia Università della Santa Croce) in Rome, Italy.

Many churches, including:

Santa Croce, Florence

Santa Croce della Foce, Gubbio

Santa Croce, Lecce

Santa Croce, Parma

Santa Croce, Padua

Santa Croce in Fossabanda, Pisa

Santa Croce e San Bonaventura alla Pilotta, Rome

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome, 325

Santa Croce alla Lungara, Rome, 1619

Santa Croce degli Armeni, Venice, 1688

Santa Croce in Via Flaminia, Rome, 1914

Stefano Ricci (sculptor)

Stefano Ricci (1765 – 1837) was an Italian sculptor, active in a Neoclassical style in Florence.

Ricci trained under Francesco Carradori (1747-1824) at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1802 he gained a teaching position at the Academy. Among his works are the cenotaph of Dante in the church of Santa Croce, Florence and the Purity in the chapel of Poggio Imperiale. Among his pupils was Lorenzo Nencini.

Tomb effigy

A tomb effigy, usually a recumbent effigy or in French gisant (French, “recumbent”) is a sculpted figure on a tomb monument depicting in effigy the deceased. Such compositions, developed in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, continuing into Renaissance, and early modern times, and still sometimes used. They typically represent the deceased in a state of "eternal repose", lying with hands folded in prayer and awaiting resurrection. A husband and wife may be depicted lying side by side. An important official or leader may be shown holding his attributes of office or dressed in the formal attire of his official status or social class.

The life-size recumbent effigy was first found in the tombs of royalty and senior clerics, and then spread to the nobility. A particular type of late medieval effigy was the transi, or cadaver tomb, in which the effigy is in the macabre form of a decomposing corpse, or such a figure lies on a lower level, beneath a more conventional effigy. In the same period small figures of mourners called weepers or pleurants were added below the effigy to important tombs. In the Early Modern period European effigies are often shown as alive, and either kneeling or in a more active pose, especially for military figures. During the Renaissance, other non-recumbent types of effigy became more popular. Variations showed the deceased lying on their side as if reading, kneeling in prayer and even standing. The recumbent effigy had something of a vogue during the Gothic revival period of the 19th century, especially for bishops and other clerics. Many graves at Monument Cemetery in Milan have recumbent figures.

Some of the best-known examples of the form are in Westminster Abbey in London, Saint Peter's in Rome, Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice (twenty-five Doges), and the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence.

A celebrated poem describing and reflecting on a stone effigy is An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin.

Ugo Foscolo

Ugo Foscolo (Italian: [ˈuːɡo ˈfoskolo]; 6 February 1778 in Zakynthos – 10 September 1827 in Turnham Green), born Niccolò Foscolo, was an Italian writer, revolutionary and poet.He is remembered especially for his 1807 long poem Dei Sepolcri.

Vincenzo Viviani

Vincenzo Viviani (April 5, 1622 – September 22, 1703) was an Italian mathematician and scientist. He was a pupil of Torricelli and a disciple of Galileo.

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