The Basilica of Santa Croce is almost a mandatory visit in Florence. It’s 500 meters to the East from Piazza della Signoria, through the narrow alleys of the old town. This is Florence’s second biggest church, right after the cathedral. It is 115 m. long and 38 m. wide.
The basilica is in the square of the same name and its façade is full of amazing red, white and green marble, just like many other religious buildings in this city. The square is full of leather shops, all of them with discount signs on their showcases (although the prices can’t be described as bargains at all).
The Basilica of Santa Croce was founded in 1294 and it’s the biggest Franciscan church in the world. The visit is divided in several parts: the main nave and the Pazzi chapel (this was a rival family to the Medicis), the funeral monuments gallery, the opera de Santa Croce Museum and two enormous cloisters (check out the map of the visit at the end of the post).
Basilica (main nave)
The central nave of the basilica is truly amazing for its dimensions and its clarity. There are only a few banks for the religious services in the nearest area to the pulpit. The rest is empty and that’s how it achieves a greater sense of wideness.
The tombs of famous historical characters (geniuses, inventors, thinkers) are another reason to make this visit. They fill the side walls with sumptuous statues. We can see among others the graves of Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Dante Alighieri and Machiavelli (you’ll see them in the photos at the end of this post).
It’s worth looking at the tombstones in the floor, too. Be careful and don’t stumble upon the deep reliefs. Many of them are very spoiled by the passage of time (and the steps of the people).
We will also mention the paintings that cover the walls and ceilings of some of the halls by the main nave. You can see among them some works from Giotto and Gaddi.
The Galleria dei Monumenti Funebri (Funeral Monuments Gallery) occupies one of the sides of the biggest cloister. In the underground corridor there is a collection of tombstones of all the ages, which form a mosaic in the floor and walls, and some sculptures as well.
But the most shocking part of the visit is upstairs, on the open air corridor of the cloister, where you can see a sequence of mural scenes from the Divine Comedy from Dante.
Museo dell’Opera de Santa Croce
It’s not quite big, but it has some remarkable art works: a Crucifixion from Cimabue (painted about 1280 and restored in 1966 after a flood that spoiled it), a golden bronze statue from Donatello (1424), a terracotta bust of St. Francis with stigmas from Robbia, and some frescos from Taddeo Gaddi, like The Last Supper (1333, check out the photos).
Address: Piazza Santa Croce, 16
Tickets: 6 €
Schedule: Monday to Saturdays from 9.30 to 17. Sunday and holidays from 14 to 17h.
More information: Basilica di Santa Croce
Map of the visit: