Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Italy – Day 3b – Santa Croce

After the Uffizi, we had a fine taverna lunch and headed to one more Renaissance jewel. If you know me, you understand I HAD to visit the Basilica di Santa Croce, ‘The Westminster of Florence.’ Less than a kilometer from the famous Duomo, it is the final resting place of Italians who have made an impact on the country and the world. There you will find the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli and monuments to many others. Has this been a great day or what? 

Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence (18 February 2018)

Begun in 1294 and completed in 1385, it is considered a minor basilica within the church hierarchy. However, it has been decorated by many of the heralded artists and sculptors of the Renaissance.

Dante at Santa Croce, Florence (18 February 2018)

Not everyone acknowledged in the Basilica actually resides in Santa Croce. Cenotaphs (empty tombs for someone whose remains are elsewhere) are here for Dante (buried in Ravenna, Italy) and nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi (buried in Chicago).

Apart from the main church sanctuary, there are other chapels and galleries with more art and craftwork.

Deposition from the Cross by Francesco Salviati
Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence (18 February 2018)

Painted in 1547, the huge canvas appeared rather bright and fresh. It was then we saw that many artworks were badly damaged or destroyed in the flood of 1966. It was the worst flooding of the Arno River since 1557. There is a marker near the doorway to the gallery where this painting now hangs. It is about four feet above the floor…the second floor of the building. It took years to restore thousands of artworks, books and records.

Another of the notable residents of Santa Croce is Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455), who created the amazing bronze relief panels that adorn the doors to the Baptistery next to the Duomo. He was only 23 when he won the competition to create the gilded bronze doors which were so impressive, Michelangelo called them the ‘Gates of Paradise.’ The sponsors of the work were so impressed, they moved the doors to the most prominent entrance…facing the cathedral. The Kahn Academy has an interesting and illustrative video on the work.

The light was fading when I went to the Baptistery to have one last look at Ghiberti’s masterpiece. I was able to get shots of a couple of the door’s ten panels.

Joshua Panel, Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti,
Baptistery, Florence (18 February 2018)

I couldn’t get close enough to feel any vibes from Galileo Galilei. He’s been interred in Santa Croce since his death in 1642 and the great scientist’s essence might have faded a bit. Actually, he has not been here all that long. Since his discoveries so upset the ruling theocracy that was the Vatican, he was brought before the Inquisition. Of course, he was found guilty because his belief that the earth revolved around the sun was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture."

Galileo’s Tomb, Santa Croce, Florence (18 February 2018)

Four hundred years later, science and the church are still at odds. At least now, for the most part, the law has sided with provable fact and the scientific method over religious dogma. But back in those days, the church was in charge and for suggesting that the earth was NOT the center of the universe, Galileo was shunned and under house arrest for the rest of his life.  When he died, the church said he needed to be interred in a more remote and insignificant part of the church because, after all, he was judged “vehemently suspect of heresy.”

In 1737, the church softened their position since science had in fact proven Galileo correct. He was moved out of the broom closet to his deserved place in the church proper. Interestingly, for reasons I cannot find or fathom, three fingers from his right hand (and a tooth) were removed and saved. You can now see his middle finger in the Galileo Museum in Florence. It is in a fine glass and engraved marble display.

Of all the digits to preserve and display, I find it wonderfully, appropriately ironic that one was chosen.

End of the Day, Florence (18 February 2018)

One of the few bright spots in the day happened at a distance and soon before sundown. Taken from the Ponte Vecchio, there was a part of the area that was actually, briefly, in the sun. Throw in a hint of a rainbow and we finally had some color outside of the museums.

Ciao, Firenze.


At 12:56 PM, Anonymous ~james said...

After I read about Galileo's middle finger displayed in the museum I found myself really laughing out loud. Then I read your next comment and it just wasn't me smiling at the thought!

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Ted Ringger said...

Sorry for the delay. I did not get a notice of this comment like I usually do. Glad you liked it. At 'Images and More', we strive to be informative and entertaining. Do you think they did that on purpose? Does the "half-a-peace-sign" salute go back 300 years?


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