Two Oregon Tourists in Florence: The Basilica of San Croce

On our first day in Florence we set out on our adventure. I wanted to see and learn something about this historic city we had come to visit. 

And I have a confession to make here, I first learned about the Basilica of San Croce from the movie ‘A Room with a View’.  The heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, sets out to explore the city like we did, and finds herself at the Basilica San Croce. The movie doesn’t reveal much, but I knew I wanted to see it for myself. 

San Croce was commissioned to be built in 1294, and is the largest Franciscan church in the world. The nave (worship area) is covered with delicate and intricate artwork telling stories of  faith. Lined with alcoves, some are marked for prayer with candles – each has a separate story. The grand altar at the front if the church commands attention with the colorful frescos painted on the walls. The floors have many intricately decorated tombs. Some are so worn after centuries of worship the words and figures barely recognizable. The room is quite impressive with its size and all there is to see.

Passing through a chamber leading out of the main sactuary we saw these renderings of The Madonna and baby. The simplicity of the images is quite moving. 

The above series of photos was taken in the Medici Chapel of the novices, reserved for the novice monks. The paintings were created on such a grand scale! With life-like detail and rich colors they almost look three dimensional.  Its awe inspiring to think of the materials and processes the artists worked with in the 13th century to create such works. 

The hallmark of early churches and cathedrals is the beautiful stained glass and frescos that adorn the walls and ceilings. This display of these pieces allowed you to see the detail up close.  I was again struck by the rich colors and texture of the artwork, and the materials used to create them. 

This next series of photos tells a different story, not about the art, or the city, but of the men that created it. 

On the opposite side of the altar the massive room holds tributes to several great men. It was this section of the church that moved me the most. 

Galileo’s tomb, and a beautiful tribute to the man and his work. 

Dante’s cenotaph. Philosopher and son of Florence, he was exiled during the Inquisition and buried elsewhere. 

The most impressive of the tombs is Michelangelo’s, as you can see.

I feel awed to have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful place. The stories told here are so familar and told so often, but I don’t tire of the images and all the different mediums the artists use to tell the story. 


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