Santa Croce Church was built in the 14th century and is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Decorated with centuries of precious art it holds the tombs of great Florentines. Don’t let the 8€ entry fee deter you; it will be the best money you spend that day! Plan to spend a few hours as there is so much to take in. This church has so many treasures, sculptures, paintings, tombs, and frescoes.
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The facade outside is 19th-century Victorian Gothic and faces a huge piazza lined with shops and restaurants. It is a very pretty piazza where you can sit along the perimeter and watch the children play. Dante and his remains are inside the church (below)
A beautiful view of this very large piazza. During the holidays, you can find tents filled with vendors selling their goods here!
Once inside Santa Croce, stop and admire its sheer height and spaciousness. The wood ceiling with its painted detail is just beautiful!
On the left wall (as you face the altar) is the tomb of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the Pisan who lived his last years under house arrest near Florence. Having defied the Church by saying that the earth revolved around the sun, his remains were only allowed in the church long after his death (below)
Directly opposite (on the right wall) is the tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) which is an amazing tribute done by Giorgio Vasari. (below)
The frescoes in this church are amazing. They are everywhere you look and in very good condition. Here is a glimpse of some of the walls and ceiling.
This video is incredible if you’ve never seen the flood!
Flood of 1966
In the hallway near the bookstore, notice the photos of the devastating flood of 1966. Inside the museum, they had a great video about the flood and how so many art pieces were lost. Here is just a little clip of that video.
The Beautiful Paintings
Also in this church are many amazing paintings. Here are just a few:
The Tombs on the Floor
Another eye-catching amazing sight in Santa Croce is all the tombs that are everywhere on the floor. Some are flat and people walk on them. Others that are raised, and probably pose a hazard, are roped off so you need to walk around them. Makes you wonder why they are placed where they are. Are the rich, like relatives of the Medici closer to the altar?
A Little Humor Too…
We don’t usually laugh in church but we just couldn’t help ourselves this time. If you have ever seen the movie “Letters to Juliet” from 2010, you know how they go looking for “Lorenzo Bartalini.” Well, we were walking down this hallway and Gary points to the statue, “Hey look, we found Lorenzo!” We laughed for about ten minutes!
Finally, The Crucifix
This crucifix or “Cimabue” in Santa Croce (1272 – Pisa – 1310) is the symbol of the flood from November 1966. It took ten years to restore the cross and return it to its original home. Having lost about 70% of its painted surface, it still stands as a testimony of those horrible days in 1966. It was hung high up in the Sacristy for added safety in 2013.