Agnolo Gaddi, Legend of the True Cross, 1380-90. Basilica of Santa Croce, nave, chancel chapel

Agnolo Gaddi's frescoes in the Chancel Chapel

The fresco cycle depicting the Legend of the True Cross that Agnolo Gaddi and his assistants painted in the Chancel Chapel between 1380 and 1390 was restored between 2005 and 2011.

To restore the vast cycle, which covers some 850 m2 over the entire surface of the chapel, an innovative form of scaffolding was designed, divided into nine floors and fitted with a lift for people and goods, on which a team of 10 to 15 restorers were able to work at once.

Restoration site, Chancel Chapel

The cycle had never been whitewashed (a fate that had befallen other 14th century work in the basilica) but it had been restored on several previous occasions, latterly by the Benini firm under the supervision of Ugo Procacci in the second half of the 1940s. The frescoes illustrate the story of the wood used for the Cross of Christ as told by Jacobus de Varagine in his Golden Legend

Based on an extensive and targeted photographic campaign and on the collection of the data that emerged during the various phases of the restoration, a three-dimensional navigable model of the chapel was produced allowing visitors to click on the individual scenes in the cycle.

While restoration was under way, Opera di Santa Croce staff organised guided tours that proved to be a valuable tool for familiarising visitors both with the cycle in the context of the basilica's history and with the broader issues involved in such meticulous restoration work.

Restoring the Chancel Chapel