Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Two of Florence's Basilicas

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is so huge I can't take the whole thing!
There are so many things to see in Florence like the Uffizi, the Baptistry of St John, and Ponte Vecchio, but we only had time to see a few sights, like David in the Academia, but also the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower, the main church in Florence. It is also known as Il Duomo.

Inside is austere and has plain pews
Construction of the basilica began in 1226 in the Gothic style and completed in 1436 with a very ornate exterior featuring white, red and green marble, that coincidentally are the colours of the Italian flag: green means hope, white is faith, and red is charity.

Inside however is very severe and restrained. Our guide explained that it looks bigger when empty and gives man the feeling he is insignificant and small. Nevertheless the importance of the city is indicated by the size of the church and this is the third-largest one in Florence.

It also has a dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, and the inside of the dome is decorated with frescoes of the last judgement which cover an area of 3,600 square metres, which is larger than a football field. It is considered the largest fresco in the world which took seven years and 15 painters to complete, led by Giorgio Vasari Federico Zuccari.

The front facade of Basilica di Santa Croce
They had to get up to the top of the dome and build a wooden scaffolding so that they could lie on them and paint. Talk about a precarious occupation... Basically at the bottom of the dome are images of hell, and heaven at the top.

After the September 11 attacks, the basilica was considered a target and the original pews were taken away and replaced with plain ones. We were told the original pews were beautiful but they were designed such that one could perhaps easily hide a bomb in them. Now there are some wooden pews and plastic chairs which don't quite match the grandeur of the cathedral...

Another wonderful place to visit is Basilica di Santa Croce, or Basilica of the Holy Cross, about 800 metres southeast of the Duomo.

Michelangelo's tomb with three women...
The basilica is best known for being the final resting place for many famous people, including artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, astronomer, physicist and philosopher Galileo, composer Gioachino Rossini, writer, politician and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, poet Dante Alighieri, as well as Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of long distance radio transmission.

Our guide pointed out to us that Michelangelo's tomb has three female statues, representing architecture, painting and sculpture, while Galileo only has two for astronomy and surveying; the church does not acknowledge him as a philosopher.

Santa Croce is like the Italian equivalent of Westminster Abbey, where many of the great (men) of Italy are laid to rest.

In the end we had a very short (and wet) visit to Florence... but perhaps that gives us a reason to come back again...
... while Galileo only has two...

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