The Basilica of Santa Croce, one of the highest expressions of the Gothic style in Italy, was made probably by Arnolfo di Cambio who would have worked from 1294 to 1295. The church was completed about 90 years after, it was consecrated in 1443.
The current facade was built between 1853 and 1863 by the architect Niccolo Matas. The interior of Santa Croce is deceptively simple and highly monumental at the same time, with three naves divided by two rows of large octagonal pillars. The great nave marks a milestone in the artistic and engineering that will lead to the nave of Santa Maria del Fiore. The thin walls, supported by pointed arches on octagonal pillars, reminiscent of the early Christian basilicas of Rome where Arnolfo worked a long time, but the scale is infinitely greater and structural problems constituted a challenge to the technical capabilities of the time. The beamed ceiling, deceptively “Franciscan”, required a complicated device structure given the enormous free span and the weight that threatened to overwhelm the thin walls.
The basilica houses countless graves. Only scattered on the floor are 276 marble slabs with reliefs and carved crests and many tombs are located on the walls between the altars Vasari. Although the church had been used as a burial place of many famous people , like many other churches, it is only in the nineteenth century that it became a true “pantheon” of famous people related to art, music and literature. In 1871 it was buried here with a crowded public ceremony Ugo Foscolo, who died in 1827 in England. After that they began to get other bodies of deceased celebrities even many years before, as Gioacchino Rossini in 1887, Leon Battista Alberti, Vittorio Alfieri. For which the best sculptors of the time they realized the monuments that still line up in the aisle. Even Dante was prepared for a large tomb, but the city of Ravenna strenuously refused to hand over the remains of the poet who died in exile.
The most famous tomb is perhaps that of Michelangelo, between the first and the second altar of the right aisle, designed by Vasari.
Continuing along the same aisle, we find the cenotaph of Dante, the funerary monument to Vittorio Alfieri Antonio Canova, the monument to Niccolò Machiavelli and, shortly after, a kiosk with Cavalcanti Annunciation by Donatello (about 1435), a masterpiece in stone serene with gilding, made with an unusual technique. At the beginning of the left aisle, after the first altar, is buried Galileo Galilei.
Important are, among others, the frescoes in the two chapels to the right of the main altar, the Peruzzi Chapel and the Bardi Chapel, both decorated by Giotto between 1320 and 1325 . Leaving the head of the right transept is passed from the portal designed by Michelozzo, the favorite architect of the Medici family, and you get all’androne the Novitiate, which leads to the Sacristy and the Medici Chapel.
On the right side of the facade of the Basilica is the cloister, which introduces the Pazzi Chapel, a masterpiece of Filippo Brunelleschi and the whole of Renaissance architecture.
The exhibition continues in the premises of the fourteenth-century refectory where places are important examples of sacred art among which the Crucifix by Cimabue, one of the most important works of art of all time, key in the transition from Byzantine to modern painting, unfortunately became infamous as a symbol of the destruction caused by the flood of 1966; despite the restoration of the painted surface has been largely lost.
The west wall of the refectory is dominated by the great series of frescoes (1333) by Taddeo Gaddi, who cover it entirely. The scheme of the decorations become typical for the monastic circles, with a Crucifixion, here represented as a tree of life, surrounded by some of the scenes among which stands out the Last Supper at the bottom, the first prototype of the Florentine circles that will decorate the refectory of the most prestigious convents and monasteries in the city.