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Basilica of Santa Croce Altar, Giovanni del Biondo's Virgin and Saints

Basilica of Santa Croce Altar, Giovanni del Biondo's Virgin and Saints

Amit Banerjee

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Basilica of Santa Croce Altar, Giovanni del Biondo's Virgin and Saints

Basilica of Santa Croce Altar, Giovanni del Biondo's Virgin and Saints

The Santa Croce Basilica, or Basilica of the Holy Cross, is a Franciscan church and minor basilica of the Roman Catholics located in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. The site was once marshland outside the city walls that became the burial place for some of the most famous Italians. It is also known as Pantheon of the Italian Glories, because Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini, and Marconi are a few of the famous people buried there.

The Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Its most notable features are its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, and its tombs and cenotaphs. Legend says that Santa Croce was founded by St Francis himself. The construction of the current church, to replace an older building, was begun on 12 May 1294, possibly by Arnolfo di Cambio, and paid for by some of the city's wealthiest families. It was consecrated in 1442 by Pope Eugene IV. The building's design reflects the austere approach of the Franciscans. The floorplan is an Egyptian or Tau cross (a symbol of St Francis), 115 metres in length with a nave and two aisles separated by lines of octagonal columns. To the south of the church was a convent, some of whose buildings remain. In 1294 the foundation stone for a new church designed by Arnolfo di Cambio was laid, and the great new church was completed 90 years later. Although the basic shell of the church has remained the same, there have been many internal (chapel) reorganizations over the years, particularly after a disastrous fire in 1423 and then in the later 1500s as the counter reformation began to bite and in the later 1800s as money became available from the newly unified national government.

The Virgin and Saints Altar-piece is by Giovanni del Biondo, painter of the Gothic and early-Renaissance period, active 1356-1399. Most of the great Florentine Renaissance Artists added to the glory of the church's furnishings, and it became the in place to be buried, including Niccolò Machaivelli 1469 - 1527, Michelangelo Buonarroti 1475 - 1564, Galileo Galilei 1564 - 1642.



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