Florence has one of Europe’s most beautiful city centres and one which you can walk across with ease. Boasting many architectural wonders, the centre is said to possess more artistic treasures per square metre than any other city in the world.
Santa Croce is the most beautiful of the city’s main churches. With its stained glass windows, leafy cloisters and the tombs of various Italian notables, it truly is a masterpiece of Gothic art.
Construction began in 1294 on the site of an earlier, much smaller, Franciscan oratory by Arnolfo di Cambio in order to rival the huge Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella across the city.
The church wasn’t completed, and consecrated, until 1442. The marble façade and bell tower were built between 1853 and 1863. Subsequently, it now dominates the entire square.
The church contains 14th-century frescoes by Giotto, plus many tombstones and commemorative monuments. Here lie the tombs of Michelangelo (whose body was allegedly smuggled out of Rome in a packing case), Galileo Galilei, Vittorio Alfieri, Leonardo Bruni, Rossini and Macchiavelli, among others.
The huge rectangular space of Piazza Santa Croce has always been used for important civic and religious events because it is large enough to contain vast crowds of people. This is where Franciscan preachers addressed the population.
This is also where Carnival and May Day festivities were celebrated, where heretics were burned alive, where wild animals fought to provide local entertainment and where a variety of tournaments were hosted, especially during the Renaissance, for the indulgence of the younger members of the Florentine aristocracy.
A spectacular game of football in period costume – Calcio Storico – a tradition dating from the early 15th century, takes place here three times a year.
If you will be seeing David and the band here tonight, have a wonderful time, but please be wary of the little known disease, Stendhal’s Condition. Santa Croce has tended to overwhelm the visitor at times and is held responsible for afflicting up to 12 visitors a year with the disease, where one suffers a fainting fit brought on by witnessing such sheer beauty.
Please note that fans are meeting at The William pub (via A. Magliabechi 7/9/11) from 7PM should you wish to join them.