Virtual 360 Tour: Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence

July 10, 2023

First erected by St. Francis of Assisi himself, the original church of Santa Croce was a shining light amidst the poverty stricken streets of medieval Florence. Born as “the church of the Florentine citizens”, this was where the Franciscan order preached the Christian word among the poor Florentines who resided outside of the city walls, where the flea ridden, damp streets from the Arno river were a breeding ground for illness and disease.

Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence

Work began on the existing Basilica of Santa Croce in the 1300’s and was attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, one of the architects who worked on the Florence Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – the beautiful facade dates back to the Gothic Revival during the nineteenth Century.

Most notably, the Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world and is the burial ground for some of the world’s most influential Italians such as, Galileo, Michelangelo and other notable figures including Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern – wife of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Jacobite claimant to the English throne and for whom Scotland’s Battle of Culloden took place.

While the Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore) is a must-see for most tourists travelling to Firenze, this exquisite Basilica is a treat for history and art lovers, and is most definitely worth a visit. Comprised of sixteen chapels, the church is home to immense artistic wealth, including works by San Silvestro, the Pope from 314-335 AD, the Crucifix by Donatello and beautiful frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi and Orcagna. What makes this church even more special is that it managed to withstand severe flooding during the great flood of Florence in 1966, the worst flood the city had seen since the 1500’s – you can still see the tide marks today which show how far the water rose. While many artworks and books were destroyed, a worldwide effort was made to “save Florence”, with chemicals being created for the first time to treat marble and save many precious works – the most famous of which was Vasari’s Last Supper which was immersed in water for 12 hours, and the final restoration only completed 47 years later in 2013.

The Basilica di Santa Croce stands as a testament to the original Franciscan order who brought together the Florentine people – far more than a religious building, it is a symbol of true Florentine pride and tenacity. The church is a reminder of how through devastation, people from all over the world fought to save this precious city, the beating heart of the Renaissance.

Admire the beautiful facade and immerse yourself in Florence’s bustling streets as we take you though this guided 360 virtual tour.

To get a full immersive experience, click the video and drag the mouse around the screen for a full view of one of Florence’s most precious landmarks.

Video Transcription

Here we are in the Piazza of Santa Croce, this is the church of Santa Croce. It’s built by Arnolfo di Cambio, our early architect who built all of early Florence, and this was built in the 1220’s. This is replacing or expanding upon the earlier Franciscan church where St. Francis himself had come to preach.

This was the poorest area of Florence, filled with fleas, near the Arno River which overflowed and flooded this area continually. The city walls are just behind the other end of the piazza, so this is outside of the city walls where the Franciscan’s preached to the poor.

Inside the church today we have a selection of illustrious Italians as they call them – the tomb of Michelangelo, directly across from the tomb of Galileo, and there are many other famous Italians buried there. There’s a statue here by Giovedi which was almost certainly the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty which was built in France and given as a gift to the United States of America.

We also have here a statue of Dante Alighieri, the sommo poeta, the most famous poet of the Italian world, probably next to Shakespeare, the most famous poet in the world – T.S. Eliot said ‘there is Shakespeare, there is Dante, there is no third’.

by Cristina C.

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