Church of Santa Croce archive
Thursday 20 June 2013
We take a close look at the wooden carvings adorning the church of Santa Croce, Florence
Florence's Santa Croce Basilica is truly unique, not only for the purity of its Gothic style, but for the famous works of art within. Just as unique are the church's external decorations, in this instance, the wooden doors to its entrance.
The Basilica of Santa Croce, one of the largest churches in the city, is attributed to the genius of Arnolfo di Cambio who began working on it in 1294. Work continued into the second half of the 14th-century but the church was not consecrated until 1443.
Ferdinand Gregorovius, a German who travelled widely in Italy in the 19th century said of the church, "Santa Croce is a pantheon of the most worthy kind. The church has a serious and gloomy solemnity, indeed it is a huge hall of the dead that no thinking person will enter without reverence."
A relief of St. Andrew looks down upon the wooden doors, which are thought to have been carved by Giuliano da Sangallo from 1470-1478. The doors feature a series of five symmetrical panels on either side, which are joined by very delicate floral carvings, giving an impression of immense depth and detail.
The first panels show two lambs surrounded by greenery, underneath are an urn and a bound book, beneath which the figure of a woman resembling Mary Magdalene and a bishop sporting a miter and crosier reside. Beneath these carvings is another urn and a crucifix surround by foliage. Most surprising, are the many miniature faceless heads that jut out of the door. Their lack of features give them a sinister and intrusive quality.
Not much has been written about the door of Santa Croce's famous church, though there is no doubt that it would take any historian a considerable while to decode the many religious symbols found upon it.
(PHOTOGRAPH BY GMC/MARK BAKER)