In Santa Croce there are three cloisters: the main one, called “Arnolfo’s cloister”,
a second one named “Brunelleschi’s cloister” and a smaller “Ancient cloister”.
The first cloister has been attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, hence the name.
It was planned together with the refectory
when the building of the complex started:
this is testified by the use of thin octagonal pilasters with
preferred to the use of columns.
The cloister was divided into two parts by a building that intersected the church and
joined the refectory (in the Eighteenth century view of Santa Croce on display at Opera
Museum it is indicated with letter D).
As many funeral monuments were placed against the central part of this building the
cloister was called “cloister of the dead”.
In 1869 the central part of the building was pulled down followed by destruction of
the part facing the square in 1870.
This was rebuilt in the shape that recalls the structure of the fourteenth century raised
The cemetery became a garden surrounded by many cypress trees; here is the statue
representing God the Father Blessing carved by the sculptor Baccio Bandinelli in 1556,
originally made for the Cathedral of Florence and moved in Santa Croce in 1843.
An elegant portal adorned by the centrally placed coat of arms of Spinelli family leads
to the second cloister which takes the name from Filippo Brunelleschi although the artist
had died before it was finished in 1453 and the completion of the works probably was by
The work was commissioned by Tommaso Spinelli, rich banker who almost certainly asked
Rossellino to design his house in Santa Croce district (nowadays at civic number 10 of Borgo Santa Croce).
The lowest part of the porch rests on columns made of “pietra serena” (a typical local stone)
and is covered by cross vaults, the upper part is composed of slim columns bearing a
the arches are decorated with rounded coat of arms of Spinelli family.
This cloister witnessed numerous events in long centuries of its existence: in 1933 it became
the venue of the sacred representation Il mistero di Santa Uliva, directed by Jacques Copeau
in occasion of the first festival of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
(music was by Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco);
in 2001 Ridley Scott
filmed in this same cloister some of the scenes of the movie Hannibal.
The ancient cloister
The smallest cloister of Santa Croce is known as the ancient cloister because
it is connected to the second phase of the building of Santa Croce dated post 1250s.
It is the heart of the Franciscan complex, surrounded by the walls of
of the friary and the Novitiate’s corridor.
The bell tower overlooks this hidden space.