Basilica of the Holy Cross

Published date: 09/07/2024
  • Location: Basilica Of Santa Croce, Florence,, Sant'Antonio, Basilicate, Italy
In 13th-century Florence the Dominican and Franciscan religious orders grew increasingly powerful and became major rivals. The Franciscans advocated a mystical, personal faith, while the Dominicans were more rational and philosophical. Each order’s churches reflected their rivalry.

The Franciscans built the Basilica of the Holy Cross (Basilica di Santa Croce) on the site of an earlier church—one that had supposedly been founded by St. Francis of Assisi himself. It is a massive building, laid out in a series of simple large rectangular shapes. Originally, the church was quite restrained in its internal and external decoration, but it now contains art by a number of famous painters and sculptors, including Giotto and Donatello.

The church also houses many famous graves, including that of Michelangelo, who, according to legend, wanted his tomb (designed by Giorgio Vasari) placed directly to the right of the church entrance so that the first thing he would see on Judgment Day was the dome of the Duomo through Santa Croce’s doors. Opposite Michelangelo is Galileo, buried there in 1737, 100 years after his death. Niccolò Machiavelli and Lorenzo Ghiberti lie inside the church, as does a tomb built for Dante, whom the Florentines had exiled from the city in 1301. The town of Ravenna, where Dante actually lies, refused to give back his body, so, consequently, the tomb in Santa Croce remains an empty monument to the great poet. (Robin Elam Musumeci)

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