If the origins of the first oratory franciscain remain vague, we have on the other hand much documents on the construction of the new Basilica of Santa Croce, which began officially losrque on May 3, 1294 the architect Arnolfo di Cambio posed the first stone by carrying out one of the chiefs of work of the Italian Gothic style.
Built with the expenses of the people and the Republic florentine, it rose on the foundations of a small church built in 1252 by the brothers little time after the death of Francois, Saint out of the walls of the city. The remainders of the old building could be localised only in 1966 when, following the floods which invaded and devastated the city, part of the pavement of the current church broke down. As of its origin, the history of Santa Croce is very closely related to the history even of Florence.
seven centuries which were passed since its foundation, it constantly
was the subject of rehandlings and new projects of modernization,
acquiring thus progressively new connotations symbolic systems:
of its primary nature of church franciscaine until acquiring the role of religious municipe for the great families and the corporations of the Florence médicéenne, of laboratory and artistic workshop - humanistic first of all then Rebirth - until theological center, of the Pantheon of Italian glories until moulting in a place of reference, with the XIXe century, political history of pre and post-unit Italy.
The thin walls, supported by pointed arches on octagonal pillars, point out the basilicas paleochrétienne of Rome where Arnolfo worked a long time and the structural problems constituted a true challenge with the technical capabilities of time. It is about the largest church franciscaine in the world. According to the tradition franciscaine, the ceiling of the principal nave is arranged with simple rafters out of wooden.
Interior of the Basilica.
It was built according to the plan of an Egyptian cross (in form of T), with an interior with three naves (long 114,45 m), a heart and a transept filled with vaults whose patronage was reserved to the most famous families of the district. The walls of this vault and the interior of the church were immediately covered with frescos, all works of Giotto and its pupils, making basilica a museum of painting florentine of XIVème century. These same artists also drew the splendid ones and luminous stained glasses.
From time immemorial, Santa Croce was a symbol prestigious of the town of Florence and a place of meeting for the largest artists, theologists, monk, men of letters, humanistic and politicians. But it was it also for the powerful families which, in happiness as in the adversity, took part in the creation of the identity of the Florence of the end of the Middle Ages and the Rebirth.
It was also a place of rest and reception for several popes, Sixte IV, Eugene IV, Leon X, Clément XIV. With its imposing Gothic architecture, its marvellous frescos, the retables of furnace bridge, the invaluable stained glasses, the many sculptures, this church represents one of the most important pages of the history of art Florentin as of the thirteenth century.
Santa Croce is considered the Pantheon of large Italian. Indeed, Michel-Angel, Galileo, Alfieri, Machiavel, Foscolo, Rossini and other “geniuses” have their tombs there.