Opera’s Museum

The Museum of the Opera of Santa Croce occupies the rooms that were once part of the friary and houses extraordinary works.

The materials preserved inside the stock room of Santa Croce had been moved to the former refectory in 1884 but the museum was opened only on November 2nd 1900.

New arrangements were made in 1959 and in 1962. Few years later, on November 4th 1966, river Arno flooded and water level in Santa Croce reached 5 meters and two centimeters, oil mixed with mud seriously damaged many works of art, ruined with yellowish spots. The Crucifix by Cimabue which lost 60% of the paint on the surface, became the symbol of the flood.

Crocifisso prima dell'alluvione
Crocifisso durante l'alluvione
Crocifisso dopo l'alluvione

The museum was closed for a long time and was opened again in 1975; the following year the big cross was brought back. The present arrangement was inaugurated in 2006, forty years after the flood when the restoration of the paintings finished thanks to the commitment of Opera of Santa Croce, Opificio delle Pietre Dure and Soprintendenza per il Patrimonio Storico Artistico ed Etnoantropologico.

The entrance of the museum is located between the first and the second cloister: the first three rooms house detached frescoes, sinopias, reliefs, sculptures and wooden furniture. In the forth room – once the chapel under the patronage of Cerchi family – whose gothic structure was changed at the beginning of the Fifteenth century, there are works made of glaze terracotta by Della Robbia workshop and fragments of decorations which originally embellished the walls.

In the second-last room, originally used by the friars as a refectory during winter time, there is a lunette frescoed by Jacopo Ligozzi representing Saint Francis, about to die, distributing bread to the Brothers. Moreover, there are detached frescoes, paintings and stained glass windows on display. Here there are also two Virgin Mary with Child made in the fourteenth century brought back to the museum in 2009.

The last big rectangular room covered by a ceiling with wooden beams, built in the first half of the 1300s, was previously used as the refectory as testified by the Last Supper painted by Taddeo Gaddi. Above this, there is the representation of the Tree of Life made by the same artist who took inspiration from Bonaventura of Bagnoregio Lignum vitae.

Because of 1966 flood’s damages it was necessary the detachment of the fresco painting, its restoration and replacement.

Here many interesting works can be found: the Crucifix painted by Cimabue at the end of the 1200s; fragments of the fresco painting made by Andrea Orcagna (Triumph of Death, Hell and Final Judgment) originally inside the church; a tabernacle (the reproduction of the original niche at Orsanmichele church) containing the gilded bronze representing Saint Louis of Toulouse made by Donatello around 1423 (the statue was moved in 1510 from Orsanmichele to the façade of Santa Croce, in 1908 to the museum); restored painting such as the Descent from the Cross or Deposition of Christ by Francesco Salviati (1547-1548) and Christ’s Descent into Limbo, signed by Bronzino and dated 1552, originally and until the 1800s located in the inner façade; the Deposition of Christ by Alessandro Allori and the Trinity by Lodovico Cigoli (1592).