If Santa Maria Novella was built to accommodate the crowd came to hear the sermons of the Dominican friars, Santa Croce is the Franciscan basilica par excellence, one of the oldest and most magnificent ever built by the order of the friar of Assisi. The construction of the Santa Croce Church began in 1294, probably designed by the great architect Arnolfo di Cambio, and it was finished in 1385 and consecrated in 1443.
Since then it had seven centuries of splendour, becoming the place where were hosted the graves of the important people in Italy, in addition to have an extraordinary collection of works of art that attracts visitors from around the world.
The façade of the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence is the completion in neo-Gothic style of the original structure: the façade and the bell tower are recent (1853-63 and 1847). In the same period it was placed in front of the churchyard the famous monument to Dante Alighieri. The interior has an Egyptian cross shape with three naves, divided by large octagonal columns and collects an impressive number of works of art.
The graves of the great people and exceptional works of art
The basilica is almost a microcosm of the great Florence work of arts. The visit of the masterpieces starts immediately on the right side with Michelangelo’s tomb with over three sculptures representing Painting, Sculpture and Architecture sad for the death of the master. You can then admire the cenotaph of Dante and the monument to Vittorio Alfieri by Antonio Canova. Immediately after there is the pulpit by Benedetto da Majano, the Tomb of Niccolò Machiavelli and then the Annunciation by Donatello. At the end of the right side there are the graves of Gioacchino Rossini and the one of Ugo Foscolo, who celebrated Santa Croce as a place of “Urns of the Strong”. Immediately after you enter into the Baroncelli Chapel and then to the Sacristy of the ‘300. Next to this you can find the Medici Chapel, with a beautiful crucifix in glazed terracotta by Andrea dellaRobbia. Don’t miss the chapels with frescos by Giotto and Stories of the Life of St Francis. In the left aisle there are other tombs, including the one of Michelangelo, and Galileo Galilei.
Sacristy with the Crucifix of Cimabue
The famous crucifix by Cimabue, badly damaged during the flood of 1966, returned into the Sacristy of the Basilica after it has been in the Cappella deiPazzi and the Cenacolo.Extraordinary work of art created by Cimabue in the 1280s, this huge cross 3 meters high represented for the first time not an indifferent and still triumphant Christ, but a suffering man. Badly damaged in 1966, the Christ of Cimabue has also become a symbol of the flood and the need to protect and preserve the works of Italian art.
Cappella dei Pazzi – The Pazzi Chapel
The Cappella deiPazzi is a jewel of Renaissance architecture by Filippo Brunelleschi. The construction began in 1443, on behalf of Andrea Pazzi, father of the famous Jacopo who headed the famous conspiracy against the Medici family. Made of stone and white plaster, the chapel has an elegant portico with six columns, with vaulted ceilings and decorated panelled ceiling. Until few time ago it hosted the famous crucifix by Cimabue, badly damaged during the flood of 1966, now back into the Sacristy of the Basilica.
The Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce
Santa Croce is not only a magnificent basilica, but a complex that also includes two cloisters and a refectory now used as the Museodell’Opera di Santa Croce. The old Cenacolo, built in the first half of the fourteenth century, is a large room with the back wall with frescoes of the Last Supper by Taddeo Gaddi, dominated by the Tree of Life. On the walls you can admire some fragments from Triumph of Death, Hell and the Last Judgment, a huge fresco by Andrea Orcagna, originally on the right wall of the Santa Croce. A tabernacle, which reproduces the original one of the Orsanmichele Church, houses the large gilded bronze statue of San Ludovico da Tolosa, made by Donatello.
Piazza Santa Croce and the historical Calcio Fiorentino
The huge square in front of the Basilica of Santa Croce has always been one of the liveliest places in Florence. Where the faithful people used to listen to sermons of the Franciscans, today is crowded by tourists. Once a year, however, the square regains its medieval charmbecoming the site of the historical game of CalcioFiorentino. At this ball game played two groups of young people. They played with the hands and feet. Today the historic game takes place in June, during the celebrations of the city’s patron. 4 teams play from the historic districts of the Santo Spirito (white), Santa Croce (blue), Santa Maria Novella (red) and San Giovanni (green). Each team consists of 27 players who play in three games, each of 50 minutes. Today, as in the past, the game consist in throwing the ball against the polychrome marble called “battipalla”, visible on the right side of the square, on the walls of the historic building of Antellesi.
Information to visit to the Church of Santa Croce
Address: Old Town
How to get there: by feet
Opening hours: Weekdays: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
Sunday and Catholic holidays: (6 January, August 15th, November 1st, December 8th) 2 – 5 pm
Monday, April 25, May 1, June 2: 9:30 am – 5.30 pm. Last entry at 5 pm
Closed: New Year, Easter, St. Anthony (13 June), St. Francis (October 4), Christmas Day, Boxing Day.
In case of extraordinary events taking place in Piazza Santa Croce (eg: games of the historical Florentine football at the end of June) and for some public policy issues, the closure could be anticipated.
Tickets: Full ticket costs 6,00 €
Combined ticket with Casa Buonarroti € 8
Where to buy tickets: Tickets are on sale only at the ticket office of the Opera, in the loggia on Largo Bargellini (Via S. Giuseppe).