Bardi di Mangona chapel
A small oratory already built in 1228 provides the earliest
evidence of the Franciscans settlement in a marshy area close to the north side of Arno River.
The building was enlarged around the half of the century but its dimensions were not sufficient to
welcome the many worshippers who used to attend it, so that on the 3rd of May 1294 or 1295 (the year
is not certain) the erection of the present church began.
The ceremony, accurately recorded by Giovanni Villani, was solemn: the representatives of the religious
and political powers as well as noble and wealthy Florentine men and women, took part to the event.
At the beginning Santa Croce housed the graves of the families living in the district; then, in the
fifteenth century, became the guardian of the memory of illustrious Florentines by hosting the tombs
of the Chancellors of the Republic Leonardo Bruni
and Carlo Marsuppini.
The monument dedicated to Michelangelo built in 1564 and the one made for
Galileo later on, inspired
Ugo Foscolo who, in the
entitled I Sepolcri written in 1807, calls Santa Croce "the Temple of
the Italian glories", marking its change from Pantheon of the town of Florence to
Pantheon of the Italians.
► The inside
The church has a T plan (Egyptian cross
with chapels which open onto the transept
the central nave
the two aisles are separated by octagonal pilasters where pointed arches
Like other Gothic Italian buildings, the structure doesn’t soar into the sky: the vertical lines are
stopped by the wooden beams of the ceiling
and by the pathway which runs through the arcades of the
central nave: cross vaults were avoided
mainly because the building was too wide.
A rood screen or tramezzo used to divide
the church into two parts for the worshippers and the friars.
In 1565 Giorgio Vasari,
upon request of Cosimo de’ Medici
who wanted to make the necessary changes to
be in accordance with the Council of Trento, pulled it down. This intervention gave the possibility
to the worshippers of coming into direct contact with the altar, while the friars moved the
the apse, originally in the middle of the central nave.
Fourteen new altars were placed along the side walls of the church.
They were embellished by paintings made by the most popular artists of the time who described the
stories of the Passion of Christ, from the Entrance to Jerusalem to the Pentecost.
► The transept
The first part of the Church to be built was the transept and the chapels opened onto it.
These became private chapels of wealthy families who lived in the district: Bardi, Peruzzi,
Benci, Niccolini, Alberti, Castellani, Baroncelli and Spinelli.
The chapels were decorated within a short time period, using the technique of fresco painting:
Santa Croce therefore preserves some of the most impressive
fresco cycles of Fourteenth century Florence.