Basilica di Santa Croce

Built in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio, Santa Croce is the principal Franciscan church in Florence.
It is the largest Franciscan church in the world, and it is famous for the artwork and monuments in
the nave and its 16 chapels, decorated with frescoes by Giotto, Taddeo Gaddi, and several other
 prominent pre-Renaissance and Renaissance artists. The church was completed in 1442, but the
 facade was not completed until 1857-1863, when it was designed and built by Nicolo Matas (who
 designed the layout for the cemetery of San Miniato al Monte at the same time). Several additions
 were produced, some designed by Brunelleschi, Michelozzo, and other Renaissance architects.

A tremendous amount of research went into providing descriptions and information regarding
the art shown on this page. Bits and pieces of information were gathered from many sources
over the course of countless hours to make this page useful as well as a display of images.

Many of these images are highly detailed, resulting in large file sizes.
I have included pixel dimensions and file size on all of the images.

Click an image to open a larger version
Use your back button to return to this page

Facade and Dante Alighieri statue

Monuments and Cenotaphs

Ceiling Vaults and Stained Glass

Donatello Annunciation

Giotto and Gaddi Frescoes

Capella Maggiore Altar and Crucifix

Other Polyptych Altars

Portico Pazzi Chapel and Reliquary


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of Santa Croce:

Florentine Churches: Santa Croce

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Santa Croce 4519
809 x 1290 (356 KB)


Santa Croce Upper Facade 4519
960 x 1290 (377 KB)

The Santa Croce facade was created by Nicolo Matas, a
Jewish architect, who managed to work in an enormous
Star of David into the 19th century Neo-Gothic design.
The right side of the facade was under scaffolding.

Basilica di Santa Croce is known for its large number of tombs, frescoes, and works of art.
Near the left portal is a statue of Dante Alighieri, who wrote “The Divine Comedy” and who was
responsible for the development of the modern Italian language. Dante wrote the ”Comedy” while
he was exiled from Florence on falsified charges. He was not treated well by the Florentine Council,
who regretted their treatment of him (many years after his death) and tried to recover his remains from
Ravenna, who refused, even hiding the bones. A cenotaph was built for him in Santa Croce (1829).
His sentences were finally commuted in 2008. Dante died in 1321. Florence does move slowly...


Dante Alighieri Santa Croce 4507
800 x 1290 (383 KB)

The sculpture of Dante (Durante degli Alighieri, 1265-1321) was donated to the city of Florence by the sculptor in 1856. Enrico Pazzi represented Dante deep in thought, holding the  folds of his robes with his left hand and a tome in his right.


Dante Alighieri Santa Croce 4508c
800 x 1290 (342 KB)

Formerly residing in the center of Piazza Santa Croce,
the statue was moved near the steps in 1968, two years
after it witnessed the devastating Arno Flood which had
destroyed so very many artworks and lives in Florence.


Dante Alighieri Santa Croce 4507c
1500 x 1290 (455 KB)

Dante, like most Florentines of his day, was heavily involved in the Guelph vs. Ghibelline battles and the political conflicts that surrounded the strongly opposed factions, Guelphs supporting the Pope and Ghibellines supporting the Holy Roman Emperor. The actual power struggle between the Pope and the HRE had ended in 1122, but the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines lasted in Italy until the the middle of the 1400s. Italians have created a high art out of the act of holding a grudge.

After the defeat of the Ghibellines, the Guelphs split into two factions: Dante’s party of White Guelphs, led by de’ Cerchi (the same family as Humiliana de’ Cerchi, further below), and the Black Guelphs led by the Donati. The Donati and de’ Cerchi families were mortal enemies to start out with, and when idealogical differences sprang up based on how much power the Pope was to have in Florentine affairs, things got dicey. The city council sent a delegation to Rome to determine what the Pope’s intentions were, and Dante was a delegate. The Pope kicked everyone out except Dante, asking him to remain. Meanwhile, the Pope’s military ‘peacemaker’, Charles de Valois, descended on Florence with Black Guelphs, who killed many of their enemies and destroyed much of the city. Dante was fined heavily by the new Black Guelph government, but since he was still in Rome with the Pope, he was considered to have avoided the fine and was condemned to permanent exile (if he returned to Florence, he could be burned at the stake).

Florence finally relented and overturned Dante’s sentence in 2008. Dante, meanwhile, had died in 1321. 700 years earlier.

Florentines do hold their grudges.


Main Portal Santa Croce 4517c
844 x 1290 (514 KB)

Giovanni Dupre’s statue of ”The Mourning Virgin”
stands atop the pediment over the Main Portal. It was
completed by Tito Sarrocchi after Dupre’s death.


Left Portal Santa Croce 4515
719 x 1290 (411 KB)


Main Portal Lunette Santa Croce 4517c
1384 x 1155 (563 KB)

The relief is “Exaltation of the Cross” by Giovanni Dupre.

The figures are intended to represent portraits of
historical personages from all ages of Christianity.


Left Portal Lunette Santa Croce 4515c
1149 x 1155 (554 KB)

Tito Sarrocchi’s “Discovery of the Cross”.


Santa Croce interior 4656
726 x 1290 (327 KB)

The nave, with its timber-trussed ceiling. The wooden beams were painted in the 14th century. The thin walls supported by arches on octagonal columns recall the basilicas of ancient Rome. Arnolfo di Cambio had studied and worked in Rome, and brought that knowledge to the design of Santa Croce, but the greater scale caused engineering challenges, the solving of which led to knowledge which was applied to his design of the larger nave of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

The interior contains the tombs and cenotaphs of illustrious Florentines including Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Ghiberti, Galileo, Fermi, Marconi, and many others. You can see some of these tombs against the walls in the side aisle under the arches above. The size of the people in the image will give you a sense of the tremendous scale of the church.


Machiavelli Santa Croce 4545
790 x 1290 (241 KB)

by Innocenzo Spinazzi (1787)

One of the founders of modern political science, Niccolo Machiavelli was elected as the head of the Florentine Diplomatic Service (Chancery) after the city ousted and executed Savanarola. He was most famous for The Prince and his Discourses on Livy, both published after his death. His name is now synonymous with devious cunning and intelligence and the concept that ‘the ends justify the means’.

The inscription means “So great a name requires no eulogy”.

The Church did not take kindly to Machiavelli’s separation of morality from politics or his critical remarks regarding religion.

The Church placed his works on the Proscribed Index in 1559.


Machiavelli Santa Croce detail 4545 M
1500 x 1290 (339 KB)

A detail crop showing the upper section of the monument to Niccolo Machiavelli.


Dante Alighieri Santa Croce 4612
835 x 1290 (377 KB)

Designed by Luigi Cambray Digny
Created by Stefano Ricci in 1829

The Cenotaph to Dante Alighieri does not contain his remains, which are still buried in Ravenna.

Florence eventually regretted its treatment of Dante (although they did not rescind his death sentence until 2008).
They tried several times to convince Ravenna to return his remains (even sending a military expedition, at which point
the people of Ravenna hid his bones in the walls of the monastery). Michelangelo offered to create a monument
on the eve of one of these attempts, but the Florentine Signoria refused to accept it as they were not yet
ready to rehabilitate his memory (more than 200 years after he died). One can only wonder what the
monument that Michelangelo had planned would have looked like. We likely lost a magnificent
work of art due to the intransigence of the Florentine authorities. The front of the cenotaph
reads “Onorate L’Altissimo Poeta”, roughly: “Honor the Poet of the Highest Regard”.
Of course, the authorities even at the time this cenotaph was created still did not
have enough regard for Dante to expunge his order of exile and death sentence
on trumped-up charges that were created by enemies in the Black Guelph party.
As I mentioned earlier... Florentines are the world champions at holding a grudge.


Dante Alighieri detail Santa Croce 4612c
860 x 1290 (366 KB)


Dante Alighieri Mourner Santa Croce 4614c
880 x 1200 (265 KB)

An allegorical sculpture representing Poetry
mourning the loss of Italy’s Supreme Poet.


Dante Alighieri Mourner Santa Croce 4614c2
1350 x 1080 (354 KB)


Dante Alighieri Santa Croce 4616
799 x 1290 (358 KB)

At left, an allegorical sculpture of Tyche (Fortuna),
presenting the sculpture of Dante atop the cenotaph.


Dante Alighieri detail Santa Croce 4616c
800 x 1290 (363 KB)

Tyche governed the fortune and prosperity of a city.
Here, she seems to be saying: “This was your fortune”.


Dante Alighieri Santa Croce 4612 4616 BW
1570 x 1137 (334 KB)

Rendered in Black and White, this
composite opens in a 2nd window or tab.

Available as an XL Composite (3000 x 2325)


Galileo Santa Croce 4602
795 x 1290 (393 KB)


Galileo Santa Croce detail 4605 M
1101 x 1525 (557 KB)

After Galileo’s death, his remains were placed in a small room adjoining a chapel, as the church would not allow a monument to be built to a man they condemned for “vehement suspicion of heresy”. In 1737 they allowed the building of this monument.


Galileo Santa Croce detail L4605 M
1500 x 1550 (688 KB)

To establish the fact that he was not subject to the Ecclesiastical Authorities Council,
Grand Duke Gian Gastone de’ Medici gave Galileo a splendid funeral in 1737 as one of
his final acts before his death, and authorized the creation of this monument in Santa Croce.
Designed by Galileo’s disciple Vincenzo Viviani and executed by Giovanni Battista Foggini,
the monument contains three statues: Galileo with his left hand on an orb representing
celestial objects, and his right holding a telescope, staring off into the Universe;
and two allegorical sculptures representing Geometry and Philosophy.


Galileo Santa Croce detail 4523 M
1500 x 1542 (551 KB)

created by Giovanni Battista Foggini (1737-39)

A similar shot to that of 4605 above, taken before the sun came in the door.
Of course, it was much darker (I underexposed by one stop to get 1/40 at f/1.4),
but the light was consistent so I thought that it was worth showing both images.

Galileo improved the telescope and made important astronomical observations...
he is considered to be the father of modern observational astronomy, as well as the father of
modern physics, science, and modern science. He discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter
(Galilean moons), worked in applied science, improving the compass, and was an amazing fellow.

Unfortunately, his support of Copernicus and the Heliocentric view of the Solar System was very
unpopular with the Catholic Church’s Inquisition, who had condemned Heliocentrism, the notion
that the Earth was not the center of the Universe, as “false and contrary to Scripture”). Galileo
was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant, and spent
the rest of his life under house arrest. For hundreds of years the Catholic Church banned his
 writings, and the Church even stopped Grand Duke Ferdinando II de’ Medici from burying him
 in the main body of Santa Croce and erecting a monument because he had been condemned.

As late as 1990, Cardinal Ratzinger concluded that the verdict against Galileo was rational and just,
but in 1992 Pope John Paul II expressed regret over how the Church had handled the affair, conceding
that the Earth was not stationary, the result of an extensive Church study. The Church does move slowly.


Michelangelo Santa Croce 4607
768 x 1290 (343 KB)

Michelangelo Buonarotti
created by Giorgio Vasari in 1570-79

Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, engineer... the archetypical Renaissance man. The sheer volume and quality of his work is truly astounding. He was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive.

His style was such that the attempts by succeeding artists to emulate him resulted in the next major movement in Western Art: Mannerism. Such artists as Giambologna owed a lot of their style to Michelangelo’s sculpture, and his achievements in architecture were at least their equal. Michelangelo had little respect for painting, but he was responsible for two frescoes that had an extreme effect on his contemporaries and future artists: his work in the Sistine Chapel.


Michelangelo Santa Croce 4692
787 x 1290 (353 KB)

(Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni)

It was after the construction of the tomb of Michelangelo that Santa Croce decided to become the “Pantheon of Italian Glories” and house the tombs of those who were famous for their great achievements.

The Pope wanted to bury Michelangelo in Rome, but as he had promised his body to Florence (even though he had not lived in Florence for 30 years), the Florentines stole his body in the middle of the night and moved it to Florence in a horse cart. Needless to say, this annoyed the Pope somewhat.

The frescoes were executed by Giovanni Battista Naldini. Michelangelo’s bust (by Battista Lorenzi) is surrounded by allegorical sculptures representing Sculpture, Architecture and Painting (the three wreath rings also represent the Arts).


Michelangelo Santa Croce 4531 M detail 2
1500 x 1500 (628 KB)

I created a highly detailed presentation image and split it into two images
at Battista Lorenzi’s bust. The M-sized (1500 x 1500) image above shows
the bust, the three allegorical rings, and a representation of the Coat of Arms.
Above are frescoes created by Giovanni Battista Naldini (who worked for Vasari
executing the ornamental frescoes decorating the salons in the Palazzo Vecchio).

The central Pieta fresco alludes to the Pieta Michelangelo created as a young man
in St. Peter’s Basilica at the end of the 15th century (click here to see an image).


Michelangelo Santa Croce detail 4531
1479 x 1290 (539 KB)

The allegorical sculptures represent the three artistic disciplines Michelangelo perfected (left to right):
Painting (by Battista Lorenzi);  Sculpture (by Valerio Cioli);  and Architecture (by Battista Lorenzi). Above
the sculptures are the sarcophagus, Battista Lorenzi’s bust, the triple wreath rings and the coats of arms.


La Farina Santa Croce 4729
795 x 1290 (305 KB)

Giuseppe La Farina was heavily involved in the
unification of Italy in the mid-19th century. He was a
writer, a politician, and a minister to Duke Cavour. He
recommended unification under Victor Emmanuel
even before Duke Cavour became involved.
He was a member of the first Parliament
of the Unified Italy from 1860-1863.


Lorenzo Bartolini Santa Croce 4675
728 x 1290 (287 KB)

A Neo-Classical sculptor who drew inspiration from the
Renaissance, Bartolini created exceptional sculptures,
including the Nymph with a Scorpion and several of the
monuments in Santa Croce (e.g. Leon Battista Alberti).


Florence Nightingale Santa Croce 4731
795 x 1290 (255 KB)

The monument to Florence Nightingale in
the cloisters of Basilica di Santa Croce.

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence (she was named after the city), and was responsible for revolutionizing hospital sanitary conditions and the treatment of patients during the Crimean War (mid-1850s). She was called “The Lady with the Lamp” as she did her rounds at night. Her later attention to the design of hospitals and the founding of the nursing profession reduced patient deaths and radically changed medicine.


Florence Nightingale Santa Croce 4733
860 x 1290 (265 KB)

Created in 1913 by Francis William Sargant to honor “The Lady with the Lamp”, the statue represents her as one of the Wise Virgins. Funded by the English Community in Florence, it is made of Carrara marble and pietra serena sandstone.

When Florence Nightingale died in 1910, she was the most famous woman in the Victorian period other than Queen Victoria herself. Her creation of the nursing profession and her tireless work in creating more sanitary conditions for hospitals guaranteed her a lasting legacy.


Peter Bartholomew Santa Croce 4707
1500 x 1248 (578 KB)

Part of the First Crusade, Peter Bartholomew began to have visions of St. Andrew in Dec. 1097.
He claimed that St. Andrew told him where to find the Lance of Longinus in the Church of St. Peter
in Antioch and to give it to Raymond of St. Giles. After taking Antioch, Raymond and Peter began
excavating and in June 1098 found the lance. Many people believed he was a charlatan, and on
April 8, 1099 he went through an ordeal by fire to prove himself. He died two weeks later.


Humiliana de Cerchi 4712
960 x 1290 (358 KB)

Humiliana de’ Cerchi

A daughter of the powerful merchant and banking family of the Cerchi, Humiliana (or Umiliana) married a wealthy weaver when she was fifteen. The man was brutal and greedy, and Humiliana compensated by donating his wealth to the poor. When her husband discovered this, she was beaten. Her husband died around 1239, and she moved back in with her family, devoted herself to asceticism, and continued her charity work.

She was the first woman to join the Franciscan Order at Santa Croce, and after she died her relics were preserved in a chapel in the transept (as well as in a silver reliquary created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, the creator of the Gates of Paradise).

Almost as soon as she had died, a movement arose to start the process of beatification (she was not beatified until 1694). A cult sprung up around her that was popular in the medieval period (partly financed by her relatives, who wanted the positive associations of being related to her). Her popularity with the people of Florence led eventually to her beatification.

The Cerchi were very prominent in the White Guelph party, the ‘moderates’ who opposed th Black Guelphs of the old nobility. Dante Alighieri was part of the White Guelph party allied with the Cerchi. The powerful Cerchi were violently overthrown in the early 14th century. Many were forced into exile, and the rest of the clan had to keep a low profile thereafter.


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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of Santa Croce:

Florentine Churches: Santa Croce

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Bardi Ceiling Santa Croce 4576
795 x 1290 (386 KB)


Giusti Ceiling Santa Croce 4581
795 x 1290 (461 KB)


Ceiling Fresco da Milano Santa Croce 4667
1500 x 1110 (559 KB)

The ceiling in the Rinuccini Chapel, frescoed by Giovanni da Milano in 1365.

The Rinuccini Chapel is interesting as it has been very well preserved
 in nearly the same condition that it was in during the 14th century, with the same
 furnishings. The frescoes are also in superb condition, and allow the viewer to visualize
what the Basilica must have looked like in the 14th century, when it was covered with paintings.

The frescoes are Stories of the Magdalen and the Virgin by Giovanni da Milano.


Stained Glass Santa Croce 4585 M
900 x 1525 (611 KB)


Stained Glass Santa Croce 4580
936 x 1290 (543 KB)

Two 14th century stained glass windows by School
 of Giotto artists. On the left, the Baroncelli Chapel window
by Taddeo Gaddi, and above the Capella Giusti (Chapel
of the Righteous) by unknown School of Giotto artists.


Stained Glass Santa Croce 4585 4580
1500 x 1373 (746 KB)

Composite will open in a second window or tab.

Available as an XL Composite (2690 x 2462)


Donatello Annunciation 4624
799 x 1290 (428 KB)

Near the altar of the Cavalcanti Chapel is the Annunciation by Donatello (1435). This was one of his first works after his return from several years spent in Rome. Based on 14th century iconography, it was also influenced by Classical designs. Made in gilded Pietra Serena (grey sandstone), it was originally intended for the Cavalcanti chapel altar. (It is now mounted in a recess on the south wall).


Donatello Annunciation 4549 M
1027 x 1650 (553 KB)

These images were taken from two different angles
(the image above was shot from below and to the right).
The two images give different perspectives on each
character in the relief, so both were included.
To facilitate the examination of detail,
this image is provided in M-size.
Below are large detail crops.


Donatello Annunciation 4549 detail
1346 x 1235 (446 KB)

Donatello has focused on the dramatic interaction of
the two participants rather than using the usual doves, etc.
Mary is caught in motion, having just arisen from her chair,
a book open in her hand, her right foot is off the ground.


Donatello Annunciation Putto detail 4549
1350 x 990 (413 KB)

During this period he concentrated on recovering the
beautiful style of ancient sculptures. Notice the positions
 of Mary’s leg and foot, how her hips and shoulders are
 turned in opposite directions, and how the drapery
hints at the leg shape. Note also how she seems
to be startled by the appearance of the angel.
This is not at all like your typical Annunciation.


Bardi St. Francis Santa Croce 4564
960 x 1290 (531 KB)

This panel is called the Bardi St. Francis, as it resides in the Bardi Chapel alongside Giotto’s fresco of St. Clare. The initial research to find out what this was took quite a while, as there was little written on it in many normally accessible sources. There has since been more written about this panel, but they still are not certain who painted it. The panel was painted between 1250-1260 for the original church of Santa Croce (not the current basilica, which was founded in 1294).

The unknown artist is called “Master of the Bardi St. Francis”.


Bardi St. Francis Santa Croce 4562 M clip
734 x 1425 (392 KB)

The Master of the Bardi St. Francis is named for this panel, as his name is otherwise unknown,
although some scholars are now saying that he may have been Coppo di Marcovaldo (c. 1225-1276), who
 created the cartoons for the Baptistry mosaics. The Master of the Bardi St. Francis is also credited with creating
St. Francis Receives the Stigmata, now residing in the Uffizi Gallery, and a crucifix with eight Stories of the Passion.


St. Clare Bardi Chapel 4562
606 x 1365 (216 KB)

Giotto painted the Bardi Chapel in 1320-25. Many people
consider Giotto to be the Father of Renaissance painting.
He was among the first to reject the Byzantine methods.

One of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi,
St. Clare founded the Order of Poor Ladies in 1212,
and wrote their rule of life (the first monastic rule ever
written by a woman). After she died, the order was
renamed in her honor as the Order of St. Clare.
St. Clare was canonized only two years after
her death by Pope Alexander IV in 1255.

She has been named the patron saint of television, as she
could see the Mass on her wall when she was too ill to go.


Bardi St. Francis Santa Croce 4562 M
1000 x 1600 (651 KB)

I am sure there are at least a few of you who are wondering why the color of the stained glass windows looks so natural. When shooting indoors the color temperature of the indoor light is totally incompatible with the color temperature of the light entering a stained glass window (or other windows). If you color balance for the interior light, the windows shift to blue. I processed these images twice, once for daylight and once for the interior light, and overlaid the windows from the daylight processing into these images.

This is a laborious method which allows you to see the stained glass in the photo the way it looks to the eye. Some consider this to be cheating, as is extending the dynamic range of the camera by the use of HDR techniques. By the way, when I processed for the windows, I set the exposure for them too, so I am also guilty of HDR cheating. In for a penny...

You’ll see plenty of blue windows further down the page.


Giotto Death and Ascension of St. Francis Santa Croce 4569
1631 x 900 (446 KB)

The Bardi Chapel was commissioned by the most wealthy merchant and banking family in Florence
(until 1343-45, when the combination of the Anti-Magnate Revolt of 1343, and King Edward III of England,
who defaulted on his debt of 400,000 Florins borrowed for the Hundred Years War bankrupted the Bardi).
—  400,000 Florins is equivalent to about $100 Million US at a value of about $250 per Florin. —

In 1325, when Giotto was commissioned to paint the chapel, they were at the height of their glory, and
their company was one of the richest in Europe (the Bardi and the Peruzzi families essentially controlled the
 Papal finances). Giotto was brought in to recreate his masterwork at the Church of St. Francis in Assisi.

He created six scenes from the Life of St. Francis.

The damage you see is because the Bardi chapel was whitewashed in the 17th century when the entire
church was renovated to fit in with the Baroque tastes of the period, and some wall tombs were attached
over the frescoes. In the mid-19th century, the plaster and lime was removed from the walls and a feeble
attempt was made to restore the frescoes. The tracings and contours were as originally done by Giotto,
but the 19th c. artists could not follow Giotto’s methods of expression. These frescoes in the Bardi Chapel
suffered badly from the poor restoration. The expressions are somewhat wooden and there is little detail in
 the features, plus the facial lines and other outlines are essentially traced in. They rescued the compositions
(that is something), but all the subtlety of Giotto’s art has been destroyed. They are still famous scenes...

Below are two large detail presentations of this scene.


Giotto Death and Ascension of St. Francis Santa Croce 4567 detail
1500 x 1290 (578 KB)

This detail crop and the previous shot were very difficult, this shot requiring 1/10s @ f/1.4 handheld,
the previous shot requiring forced underexposure by one stop to get 1/20s. The fresco was worth it.

Giotto di Bondone is generally considered to be the first of the artists who contributed to
the Renaissance. He created a natural style that radically diverged from the Byzantine style
of the painters in his day, and introduced the concept of accurate proportion and shape. The
intention was to draw from the natural world, and artists from his time on created work that
looks “modern” in comparison to the oddly shaped heads and flattened perspectives
of Byzantine artists. His work is usually used as the dividing line. You can tell by the
style whether an artist came from before or after Giotto... he was that influential.
He also reintroduced the Classical concepts of space, known to the ancient
Greek and Roman artists but forgotten throughout the Middle Ages.


Giotto Death and Ascension of St. Francis Santa Croce 4569 M
1600 x 800 (411 KB)


Gaddi Last Supper Tree of Life 4723
1500 x 1225 (673 KB)

Considered Gaddi’s best work, this fresco in the refectory was painted in 1335.

Taddeo Gaddi was Giotto’s primary pupil and assistant, working with him for 24 years.
By 1347 he was considered the best living painter. He was also an accomplished architect,
and is credited with creating the Ponte Vecchio and the Ponte Santa Trinita (a five-arch bridge
destroyed by a flood in the 16th c. and replaced by Bartolomeo Ammanati’s three-arch bridge).
Few of his works survive. Two paintings are known along with the frescoes here at Santa Croce,
but the bulk of his fresco work done at San Spirito and the Serviti have all disappeared. Taddeo
Gaddi was one of the few artists whose name was remembered 200 years after he died, and
he was one of the best of the pre-Renaissance artists. It’s too bad that many of his frescoes
were either painted over or destroyed during renovations over the years... a great loss.

His sons Agnolo and Giovanni were also well-known artists, the greater being Agnolo.


Gaddi Tree of Life 4723c
831 x 1290 (517 KB)

The central panel called “Allegory of the Cross”.
This is a detail crop from the image above.


Taddeo Gaddi Crucifixion Santa Croce 4659
1500 x 1150 (756 KB)

The four frescoes in the Sacristy:

top:   Ascension (Niccolo di Pietro Gerini)         left:    Ascent to Calvary (Spinello Aretino)

center:   Crucifixion (Taddeo Gaddi, c. 1330)         right:   Resurrection (Niccolo di Pietro Gerini)


Taddeo Gaddi Crucifixion Santa Croce lower 4663
1692 x 775 (695 KB)

The lower three sections of the frescoes in the Sacristy.


Frescoes Cappella Baroncelli 4650
726 x 1200 (337 KB)

A section from the Baroncelli Chapel by Taddeo Gaddi,
created in 1332-38, depicting scenes from the life of Mary.
This section contains the first night scene in Italian fresco.
At right is a detail crop of the lower left section.


(detail crop only — no linked image)


Giotto Baroncelli Polyptych 4719
1500 x 975 (654 KB)

The Baroncelli family commissioned this altar in 1327. The five panels are composed as a
single space. The central scene is the Virgin Mary being crowned the Queen of Heaven. The
wings show a crowd of angels and saints watching. Every face in the crowd shows individuality.
Kneeling in front are music-making angels. Giotto had significant experience in the creation of
polyptychs... the friars actively promoted them, and Giotto had created what was probably one
  of the first polyptychs for Badia Fiorentina. Giotto painted four altars for Santa Croce, and this is
the only one left in its original position, on the original altar, surrounded by the original artwork.

Not long after completing this piece, Giotto was appointed Master Builder
of the Cathedral by the city of Florence and began work on the Campanile.


Giotto Baroncelli Polyptych detail 4716
1332 x 1250 (707 KB)

A large detail crop allowing examination of the faces and other fine details of Giotto’s work.

Giorgio Vasari said of Giotto:
“... he brought to life the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of
drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years."

He was a pupil of Cimabue, and was the first post-Classical artist
whose fame extended beyond his own lifetime and native city.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of Santa Croce:

Florentine Churches: Santa Croce

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Santa Croce Nave Apse 4688
827 x 1290 (467 KB)

View of the nave towards the Capella Maggiore (chancel).
 Capella Spinelli is left and Capella Bardi is on the right.


Santa Croce Cappella Maggiore 4688c
764 x 1290 (511 KB)


Santa Croce Cappella Maggiore 4556 M
772 x 1725 (553 KB)


Altar with Crucifix Santa Croce 4627
897 x 1290 (542 KB)

The frescoes in the Capella Maggiore depict the
 Legend of the True Cross, by Agnolo Gaddi (1380).

The Polyptych with Madonna and Saints is by
Niccolo di Pietro Gerini (c. 1380), and the Crucifix
is by the School of Giotto (c. 1325). The stained glass
windows represent a Deposition from the Cross, created
from cartoons drawn by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the 14th c.

The flood of the Arno River in 1966 damaged many of
the artworks in the church. Recently, a restoration of
the frescoes in the Capella Maggiore was begun.

There are a number of images below which
detail the Altarpiece, Crucifix and Frescoes.


Crucifix High Altar Santa Croce 4588c
960 x 1290 (603 KB)


Altar with Crucifix Santa Croce 4588
706 x 1290 (507 KB)


Altar with Crucifix Santa Croce 4596
772 x 1290 (567 KB)

The Capella Maggiore was roped off, so the only way to
get shots of the frescoes was as you will see below...


Crucifix High Altar Santa Croce 4631
1352 x 1290 (712 KB)

This image is focused on the frescoes and stained glass behind the Crucifix.
As it was pretty dark inside, I had to shoot these images wide open or nearly so
(this shot was 1/40 second, handheld, at f/1.4), so the Crucifix is defocused.


Crucifix High Altar Santa Croce 4595
1500 x 1290 (646 KB)


Crucifix High Altar Santa Croce 4636
1500 x 1092 (650 KB)

These images are both focused on the frescoes.


Gerini Altar Santa Croce 4588
1314 x 1155 (713 KB)

A detail crop of Niccolo di Pietro Gerini’s Polyptych with Madonna and Saints (c. 1380).


Polyptych Cappella Velluti Santa Croce 4682
1500 x 1125 (591 KB)

The Polyptych with Madonna and Saints in the Capella Velluti, by Giovanni del Biondo (c. 1379).

The electric candles placed in front of this altar caused all sorts of problems.
As you can see, there is some daylight entering via the window, but you can’t
base color adjustments on either that light or the light from the electric candles
as the overall character of the light is mixed due to the radically different color
temperatures of the two sources. The really big problems were caused by
the fact that the electric candles are so close to the altar. Processing
this image for reasonably accurate color was a total nightmare.


del Biondo Polyptych Santa Croce 4673
1052 x 1290 (694 KB)


Giovanni del Biondo also created this altarpiece of the
Madonna with Saints in 1379 for the Capella Rinuccini.

This three-story altarpiece retains the original elaborate frame and altarblock, and it is held upright by two very substantial octagonal buttresses which are anchored to the chapel floor. This buttressed altarpiece seems to be a unique example of its type to survive intact. From my research, I could not find any other buttressed examples. Note the buttressing pillar at the far left of the detail crop shown to the left.

As far as I can determine, Giovanni del Biondo did not invent this type of altarpiece support structure, but he did incorporate the structural support into the design of the frame itself. This is very likely why it is the only example of its type to survive, as my research found that scholars have been able to determine that other altarpieces of its type were originally buttressed, but as attachments to the frame which were removed and lost over the years.

—  There is no linked image to the detail crop at left.  —

This was a truly difficult shot to take due to the strong
back-lighting, and the processing to recover the color
and contrast was very involved. A very difficult image,
and in an entirely different way from the previous one.


Portico Pazzi Chapel Santa Croce 4703
960 x 1290 (460 KB)

The portico leading to the Pazzi Chapel.

The Pazzi Chapel and the cloisters were designed by
Filippo Brunelleschi (the designer of the Dome of the
Cathedral as well as many other important Renaissance
architectural innovations), the Pazzi Chapel is based on
simple geometric shapes (squares and circles). The
addition of this portico blocked some of his work.


Portico Dome Pazzi Chapel Santa Croce 4694
921 x 1290 (696 KB)

The terra-cotta decorations were done by Luca della Robbia.
He invented tin-glazed terracotta, which took and held paint
far better than anything previously and survived weather.
The della Robbia workshop became very popular.

The Pazzi Chapel was built 1441-60, and is considered
to be a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.

The Pazzi name may be known to you, if you’ve read some Italian history (or seen the movie “Hannibal”, with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lechter). The Pazzi were an ancient Tuscan noble family who had given up their titles to allow members to serve in public office. They were a powerful banking family, rivals of the Medici but with less power and influence. The Pazzi and Salviati (Papal Bankers in Florence) entered into a conspiracy to assassinate the Medici brothers, Giuliano and Lorenzo de’ Medici, at High Mass in the Duomo, then kidnap the Gonfaloniere and Signoria (the Magistrate and the nine Priori, the city government).

They succeeded in fatally stabbing Giuliano 19 times, but Lorenzo got away wounded and the kidnapping was not successful. The townspeople were enraged, chasing down and murdering the conspirators. The young Leonardo da Vinci made a famous drawing of a Pazzi conspirator hanging from the Bargello (Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, banker for the Pazzi, who, with Salviati, stabbed Giuliano to death). The Pazzi were thrown out of Florence, all of their Florentine assets were confiscated, and they were generally reviled throughout Italy.

The exile didn’t last forever, but it it was nearly twenty years before the Pazzi were allowed back into Florence.


Reliquary Santa Croce 4709 4710
1494 x 1297 (783 KB)

Composite will open in a second window.

This magnificent reliquary was designed by Etienne Delaune, the celebrated French goldsmith
who became the King’s Medallist in 1552. Delaune designed the spectacular parade armor for
Henry II of France, and also jewelry and pieces like the one shown here. He took up engraving
and printmaking in 1557, and soon was working for the King as an engraver at the Royal Mint.

The Reliquary was made in the mid-16th c. by Eliseus Libaerts, another celebrated 16th c.
goldsmith (from Antwerp). Libaerts also made parade armor as well as armored miniatures,
jewelry, small sculptures, etc. Libaerts often worked with Delaune or executed his designs.

Return to the top of this page


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of Santa Croce:

Florentine Churches: Santa Croce

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection


Return to the Churches Index page


Return to the Master Index on the Florence Select page


Click the display composite above to return to the Master Index on the Florence Select page