As a disclaimer: These photos were taken during a visit in January 2016, so this post may not be representative of this site today.
Basilica di Santa Croce
Built in the fourteenth century and consecrated in 1443, the Basilica of the Holy Cross is the largest Franciscan church in the world. It is located in what was, at the time, marshland outside the city walls, though today its site is only off to the side of the city center and perfectly accessible by foot.
The building is known also as the Tempio dell’Itale Glorie, or Temple of the Italian Glories, for the high number of illustrious Italians that are buried here. The list includes Leon Battista Alberti, Galileo, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Michelangelo.
Do not let this monument fool you — it is actually a cenotaph. Though Dante was a Florentine, by the time he died he had been exiled from his homeland and was living in Ravenna. He died there, of quartan malaria, and his tomb reads parvi Florentia mater amoris, which translates to “Florence, mother of little love.” Florence eventually tried to recover his remains from Ravenna, but the latter refused, and though this tomb was built for him in the 19th century, it has been empty ever since its completion.
The church is also home to various chapels that were “owned” by wealthy Florentine families, their walls brimming with frescos by famous artists of the time, such as Giotto and Taddeo Gaddi.
Located at the end of the right transept in the basilica, the Baroncelli chapel is decorated with frescoes by the hand of Taddeo Gaddi and Sebastiano Mainardi which were executed in the first half of the 14th century.
The fresco cycle shows scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. Gaddi also designed the stained glass windows that allow natural light to flow in and illuminate the painted scenes.
Dating back to arouund 1325, the frescoes on the wall of the Bardi Chapel are dry wall paintings completed by Giotto and dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. The walls show some damage by now, and were even whitewashed in the 18th century, only to be rediscovered in the 19th. They were restored as much as possible in 1958-1959.
Again, neither Raphael nor Leonardo da Vinci are buried here — Raphael is buried in the Pantheon in Rome and Leonardo in the Château d’Amboise, in the Loire Valley in France.
The Pazzi, a wealthy family of bankers, might best be known due to their relation to — you guessed it — the Medici. In the morning of Sunday, April 26th, 1478, Florence (around 10,000 people) gathered to attend Holy Mass in the Duomo. In the middle of the rite, Bernardo Bandini dei Baroncelli and Francesco de’ Pazzi stabbed Giuliano de’ Medici 19 times and wounded him in the head with a sword, killing him. Lorenzo, his brother and head of the family, was also seriously wounded, but was locked safely inside the sacristy by Angelo Poliziano, who served the family as a tutor for the youngest Medici. At the same time, the conspirators had attempted to capture the Gonfaloniere and the Signoria at the Palazzo Vecchio in order to take control over the city government. The attack ultimately failed, and the conspirators, including Jacopo de’ Pazzi, patriarch of the family, were executed.
The Pazzi Chapel was built before the family fell from grace. It was begun in 1442 and completed a year later, and comissioned by Andrea de Pazzi (Jacopo’s father).
Though for a long time its design was credited to Brunelleschi, scholars now believe Michelozzo (architect of the Palazzo de Medici-Riccardi) to be responsible. The room was used as the cathedral chapter house, as well as a classroom for religious teachings.
The tondi (the circular sculptures that dot the entire vault) of the Apostles were completed by Luca della Robbia. He also completed the terracotta decorations in the dome that crowns the porch of the chapel.