The basement – the most ancient part of the Monumental complex
The foundations of the church extend through the very long space under the
The building of this part of the complex started in 1294.
This and the other areas underneath have been used to welcome the numerous tombs as well as to
host the 17 confraternities
which met there throughout the centuries.
After the break-up of the religious companies ordered by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Peter
Leopold in 1785 and the flood occurred in 1844, the foundations became the storage area of waste materials.
During the 1930s it was proposed to use these spaces as a war memorial firstly to restore
this part of the complex and secondly to legitimize Italian Fascism with the creation of a national Pantheon.
The interventions to transform the foundations in a shrine were carried out in 1934 by Alfredo Lensi,
director of the Township Arts office.
Somebody wrote: “No other place is more mystic and evocative than this, sacred to the Florentines
who have here the graves of their most ancient and noble families, as testified by the many coat
of arms still adorning these walls”.
In the area located under the transept, corresponding to the church presbytery and main chapel,
37 sepulchers, made of “pietra serena” (a stone usually used in Florence for architectural frameworks),
intended to welcome the spoils of the soldiers who died to support Fascism, were set up.
The word “Presente” (present!) appeared everywhere on the walls to perform a fascist rite
that meant to experience the funerals like a celebration of life rather than of death.
The works proceeded so fast that the solemn transfer of the corpses and the inauguration
of the new burial place could take place on time for the twelfth anniversary of the
March on Rome, on October 27th 1934.
The renewal of the foundations went on and the large space under the
was chosen as the place where to remember the Florentine soldiers who died during the First World War.
The memorial chapel (Famedio) was transformed under the direction of Alfredo Lensi
who followed a project dated December 14th 1934.
The walls were covered with black marble slabs on which the names of 3672 Florentine
soldiers who had fought in the First World War were engraved: they come in alphabetical
order and together with the rank of each soldier.
An inscription as a dedication, written by the reviewer Ugo Ojetti, was put on the wall behind the altar.
On November 4th 1937, in occasion of the nineteenth anniversary of the victory
in the First World War, the memorial chapel was inaugurated by the king of Italy Victor Emmanuel III.
The following year, also in view of the visit of Hitler to Florence, it was decided
to build in the crypt other two shrines: the one dedicated to the soldiers who had died
in the name of the Empire in Africa and the one remembering the Legionaries who had fought in Spain.