In the Basilica of Santa Croce there is another overlooked masterpiece by Donatello, his Annunciation (1435). Elegantly carved, this exquisite gilded limestone ( pietra serena) high relief expresses a quiet intimacy of emotions. Gold leaf accents, or gilding, accent the richly decorated patterns of the figures’ clothes. This work conveys the spiritual bond between Mary and the Angel Gabriel. Also, seek out Cimabue’s 1000-pound rucifix (1272), which was irreparably damaged by flood water, as 70 percent of its colour was lost. It is the 1966 flood’s iconic symbol. After a 10-year restoration process, it now hangs in the church’s Sacristy, too high for any flood to ever reach again Also, stop in Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel (1443), a perfect space with harmonious proportions, whose crowd-funded restoration of the loggia was recently begun. A guide book can lead you through Santa Croce, for there are so many art treasures, including 270 tomb slabs that pave its floor, but I suggest you just take a moment and sit in a pew in this majestic church and “drink in” its magical and mystical beauty that is so profoundly rich in history and spirituality. In this revered space, many great Italian men are buried, including Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo and Rossini. It’s an interesting, little-known fact that 15 monuments were also designed by or for prominent women, including Florence Nightingale and Galileo’s daughter. Princesses, art patrons and artists grace the complex, though their identities and stories have slipped into oblivion. The Church offers a tour called “Santa Croce in Pink: Untold Stories of Women and their Monuments” that explores the church’s “feminine essence”, amidst the shadows of some of Italy’s most celebrated male figures.
A city of sacred lights