WALKS IN FLORENCE: CHURCHES, STREETS AND PALACES
SUSAN AND JOANNA HORNER
Chapter XX: Sta. Croce - Monuments
Sta. Croce has always been a favourite place of interment, but for many past years it has been reserved for the illustrious dead - the Westminster Abbey of Florence. The gates at the western extremity are surrounded by monumental slabs, most of which bear the names of remarkable men, belonging to the present and the last century. Two are dedicated to the Targioni Tozzetti, father and son, the elder of whom published his "Travels in Tuscany," "Viaggi in Toscana," with an account of the physical condition and natural history of his native province: the younger is well known as an eminent botanist and horticulturist. To the left of the entrance is a portrait in relief of the numismatician, Domenico Sestini, born in Florence in 1730, who travelled in the East, and made a collection of coins. He was afterwards appointed Royal Librarian by Princess Elisa Buonaparte, Queen of Etruria; and on the restoration of the Grand-Duke Ferdinand III., he was confirmed in this office. He died in 1835.
A small slab, higher on the wall, has the effigy of
Daniel Manin, the Venetian patriot. By birth a Venetian
Jew, whose family had become Christian, he received at baptism
the name of their patrons, the Manins. Young Daniel
early imbibed a hatred for Napoleon, to whose ambition Venice
had been sacrificed at the peace of Campoformio, when the last
Doge, Manin, had been forced to abdicate. As he had been
educated for the bar, he was well able to appreciate the
evasions of the spirit, as well as of the letter of the law,
and the unjust practices of the Austrian rulers, so
intolerable to the educated classes of Italy. In 1847 he
was arrested for having protested against the illegal acts of
the Government. He was liberated by the people during
the Revolution of February, 1848, and borne in triumph round
the Piazza di San Marco. He then learnt that a
constitutional government had been proclaimed at Vienna, and
that he himself was chosen to lead the revolutionary movement
in Venice. After the expulsion of the Austrians, he was
elected President of the Republic. His courage, honesty,
and zeal, united with moderation, as well as his great
talents, enabled him to retain his influence over his
fellow-citizens during the long siege. When Venice fell,
Manin retired to Paris, where he died at the age of
fifty-three, ten years before the liberation of his country
from a foreign yoke had been accomplished. His remains
were carried to Venice in 1870.
The first chapel to the right of the entrance belongs to the Buonarotti family. Here repose the remains of Michael Angelo, who died in Rome in 1564, in the ninetieth year of his age. Pope Pius IV. endeavoured to retain his body, but the Florentines had it secretly conveyed to his native city. The night after its arrival, it was borne to Sta. Croce by the members of the Florentine Academy, and his catafalque was displayed for several days to crowds of visitors. A funeral service in his honour was performed at San Lorenzo. The monument to Michael Angelo is from a design by Giorgio Vasari, and his bust was considered an excellent likeness. Allegorical figures of architecture, sculpture, and painting are represented, lamenting the loss of the great artist.
On the column facing this monument, above the vase for holy water, is an oval, or mandorla, within which is a marble relief of the Madonna and Child surrounded by cherubim, by Antonio Rossellino, erected to the Neri family. Beneath this spot lie the remains of Françesco Nori, Prior of the Republic, who fell in the Pazzi conspiracy, 1478, a victim to his attachment to the Medici, as he threw himself between Lorenzo and the assassin, and received the blow intended for Lorenzo. Leo X. granted and Indulgence to all who should pray for the soul of Françesco Nori.
The huge pile of marble erected to the memory of Dante Alighieri in 1829, was the work of Stefano Ricci, a tardy act of acknowledgment by Florence of her greatest poet who died in 1321.
The monument to Vittorio Alfieri was placed here by his widow, the Duchess of Albany. It is a good example of Canova's treatment of monumental sculpture. A graceful figure of a matron leaning on the tomb in a sorrowful attitude, is intended to represent the genius of Florence. Alfieri was born at Asti, in Piedmont, in 1749, of a noble family. He spent his early life in dissipation and in rapid journeys, visiting nearly all the countries of Europe: it was only after he had passed his twenty-fifth year that he attempted to write poetry, applying himself diligently to the study of Italian and Latin; and in the course of fourteen years he produced as many tragedies. After his forty-eighth year he began Greek. He died in Florence, at the age of fifty-four, in 1803. A sincere patriot, and in his youth an ardent liberal, his aristocratic prejudices received too severe a shock by the violent democratic outbreak of the French Revolution, not to recoil in an opposite direction. His poetry constitutes an era in Italian literature, because he was one of the first to give expression to modern patriotic sentiments; but this evaporated in mere abstract denunciations of tyranny, and in aspirations after liberty, such as he supposed existed in ancient Greece and Rome.183 Ugo Foscolo, in his poem, "I Sepolcri," supposes Alfieri meditating in this church: -
E a questi marmiNear the tomb of Alfieri, and in front of the monument to Dante, the bones of the patriot and poet, Ugo Foscolo, brought from Chelsea in 1871, are laid temporarily, until some fitting monument shall be erected in his honour. Foscolo was an Ionian, of Venetian parentage. When a professor at Pavia, in 1808, he offended the Austrian government by his liberal and patriotic sentiments, and had to leave Italy for England, where he occupied himself in the study of Dante until his death in 1827.
Venne spesso Vittorio ad ispirarsi.
Irato a' patrii numi, errava muto
Ove Arno è più deserto, I campi e il cielo
Desïoso mirando; e poi che nullo
Vivente aspetto gli molcea la cura
Qui posava l' austero, e avea sul volto
Il pallor della morte e la speranza
Con questi grandi abita Eterno, e l' ossa
Fremono amor di patria.
Between the fourth and fifth chapels is the tomb of Macchiavelli. The great Florentine historian's last resting-place was without a monument until 1707, when Lord Cowper raised a subscription for this medallion. Nicolò Macchiavelli was born in Florence in 1467. He was appointed Secretary of the Republic, and was sent on embassies to the Courts of France, Germany, and Rome, and to Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI., of whom Macchiavelli gives a lively description in his correspondence with the Florentine Signory. His most important works are his "Istorie Fiorentine," "Discorsi sopra Tito Livio," and the "Principe." In his satire on the ambition of princes, contained in this last work, Macchiavelli maintained that a man who craves for power must not be troubled with conscientious and humane scruples, but must consent to be shamelessly selfish. Ugo Foscolo, in the "Sepolcri," alludes to Macchiavelli in these words: -
Quando il monumentoBeyond the fifth chapel is a portrait of the celebrated writer on Italian art, the Abate Luigi Lanzi, placed here by public subscription. Lanzi was born near Macerata in 1732, and belonged to the Order of Jesuits. He was appointed Conservator of Arts in Florence, and founded the collection of Etruscan antiquities. He died in 1810. The sixth chapel belongs to the old Florentine family of the Cavalcante. The monument is that of Benedetto Cavalcante, a friar of Sta. Croce; and the fresco, by Andrea del Castagno, is the last remnant of the paintings on the lateral walls of the church. Beside it is a group, in macigno - freestone – of the Annunciation, by Donatello, executed in 1411. Over it are four angels, carved in wood, holding back a curtain. Vasari bestows great commendation on this monument, and informs us that it was the first of Donatello’s works which attracted public notice, and was the commencement of his fame. He especially mentions the figure of the Virgin, who, startled by the sudden apparition, bends timidly forward, her countenance bespeaking gratitude and humility: he also alludes to the draperies, and the lines of form in which Donatello endeavoured to emulate the antique.
Vidi ove posa il corpo di quel Grande
Che, temprando lo scettro a' regnatori,
Gli allor ne sfrond, ed alle genti svela
Di che lagrime grondi e di che sangue, &c.184
Just beyond is a handsome monument in memory of Leonardo Bruni, surnamed Aretino from his birthplace in Arezzo. He was an exponent of the Aristotelian philosophy, as well as eminent jurist of the fifteenth century. After having filled the office of Apostolic Secretary to four Popes in succession, he became Chancellor of the Florentine Republic, and at his death, in 1444, his funeral expenses were defrayed by the Commonwealth; his monument by Bernardo Gambarelli, or Il Rossellino, is one of the finest in Sta. Croce. Leonardo is represented in a recumbent posture; angels hold a scroll. The eagle and the canopy are very beautifully composed. A lunette above contains a relief of the Virgin and Child, by Andrea Verocchio.
Next the monument of Leonardo Aretino, is the bust
of the eminent botanist, Pietro Antonio Micheli, who was born
in Florence in 1679. He travelled throughout Italy for
scientific objects, and published several works, the most
important of which relates to “Cryptogamic Plants and
Fungi.” He died in 1737.
The last monument on this side of the Church is that of the natural philosopher, Leopoldo Nobili, born in 1784, and died in 1833. Nobili served as a soldier in Napoleon’s Russian campaign, where he was taken prisoner by the Cossacks after the burning of Moscow. On his release and return to Italy, he devoted himself to scientific pursuits. He directed his principal attention to the study of magnetism, and he threw fresh light on the discoveries of Volta, Oersted, and Ampère. Nobili was banished for political reasons in 1831, and found a refuge in France, from whence he returned to Florence in 1832.
The large monument in the south transept, lately erected to the memory of Don Neri Corsini, Marchese Laiatico, is by Fantacchiotti. The Marchese Laiatico took an active and honourable part during the political difficulties of 1848. Though an ardent liberal, he was personally attached to the late grand-duke, and desired to retain him on the throne of Tuscany; but Leopold II. Relied more on Austrian soldiers than on the wise counsels of his best Italian friends. Don Neri Corsini was at one time Governor of leghorn, where he made himself universally beloved; but when sent on a mission to the Court of St. James’s, he was seized with smallpox, and died prematurely in 1859. A female, representing Florence, is pointing to a tablet on which Fame as a winged genius is inscribing the good deeds of the deceased.
On a bronze plate in the wall, near this monument, is an inscription by Boccaccio in memory of Françesco Barberini, an eminent jurist and poet, who died in the year 1300. He is chiefly known as the author of "A Discourse on Love."
In front of the last central columns of the nave, are modern monuments to two of the Alberti family, who had their burial vaults beneath this part of the church, the site of the ancient choir. That on the southern side, by the sculptor Santarelli, is to the senator Giovanni Vincenzio Alberti, who left a son, Leon Battista, the last of the family, by whom the Alberti became extinct, in 1836. The monument opposite, by Bartolini, is to commemorate the most distinguished man in the family, another Leon Battista, called the modern Vitruvius, who was born in 1398; he was eminent as a mathematician, natural philosopher, elegant writer, and orator. He published works on mechanics, painting, perspective, architecture, hydraulics, &c.
In the northern transept is a monument, by Fantacchiotti, to the celebrated musical composer Cherubini, born in Florence, 1760, where a mass composed by him at the age of thirteen was first performed. He spent most of his life in Paris, where he was appointed head of the Conservatoire de Musique, and where he died in 1842. He composed forty-two operas, and twenty-nine pieces of church music. In a recess is the monument to the Polish Countess Zamoyska, of the family Czartoryska, by the celebrated modern Tuscan sculptor Bartolini - one of his best works. She is seated almost upright on her bed, painfully emaciated, and with all the appearance of approaching death. The execution is admirable, but the representation of disease and dissolution is as unpleasing as it is inappropriate in a record of the life and immortality of the soul.
Returning to the nave, the first monument in the north aisle was erected to the celebrated engraver Raffaelle Morghen, by his pupils and friends, in 1854. Morghen was a Neapolitan, born in 1761, and he learned his art from his father, when engaged in taking engravings of the paintings discovered in Herculaneum. He studied under Volpato at Rome, and was afterwards appointed professor of Engraving at Florence, by the Grand-Duke Ferdinand III. He died in 1833.
Near the monument to Morghen is that to Antonio Cocchi, who was remarkable as a physician, philologist, and antiquary. He was also a Neapolitan, born in 1695, but educated at Pisa. He visited England, and became acquainted with Newton, Clarke, and other remarkable men. He died in Florence in 1758.
The monument to Vicenzio Filicaia follows. Filicaia was one of the best Italian lyric poets, and was born in Florence in 1642. He is best known to the English reader by his celebrated sonnet to his country: -
Italia, Italia! O tu, cui feo la SorteThe next monument is to Carlo Marzuppini, also known as Carlo Aretino from his birth-place. On the pavement below is the monumental slab to Carlo’s father, who was secretary to Charles VI of France. Marzuppini was born in 1399, and was educated by learned Greeks. He was appointed secretary to Pope Eugenius IV, and afterwards Secretary to the Florentine Republic; he died in 1455, when he was honoured by a public funeral. This monument is the best example of the delicate and captivating style of work of Desiderio da Settignano, and is considered one of the three finest tombs of Tuscany. Marzuppini is represented lying on a sarcophagus with a book upon his breast. Genii at either end hold shields, and it is adorned with sphynxes, festoons, and various ornamental devices. The recess is crowned by a vase with a flame, and two graceful angels support garlands which hang down the sides of the arch. The lunette contains a representation of the Madonna and Child adored by Angels, in high relief. Although the whole surface is covered with elaborate ornament, yet, owing to the exquisite delicacy of the sculpture, the effect is extremely rich, without being overloaded.186
Dono infelice di bellezza ond' hai
Funesta dote d' infiniti guai,
Che in fronte scritti per gran doglia porte;
"Deh! Fossi tu men bella o almen più forte,
Onde assai più ti paventasse, o assai
T' amasse men chi del tuo bello ai rai
Par che si strugga, e pur ti sfida a morte!
"Che or giù dall' Alpi non vedrei torrenti
Scender d' armati, nè di sangue tinta
Bever l' onda del Po gallici armenti;
"Ne te vedrei del non tuo ferro cinta
Pugnar col braccio di straniere genti
Per servir sempre, o vincitrice o vinta.185
Count Vittorio Fossombroni, whose monument adjoins that to Marzuppini, was minister to the Grand-Dukes Pietro Leopoldo and Ferdinand III., and was distinguished for his efforts to improve the agriculture of Tuscany by drainage and irrigation. He died at the age of ninety, in 1844.
The antiquary and historian Giovanni Lami’s monument
follows. He was born in 1697, near Florence, and became
Professor of Ecclesiastical History; he was a man of vast
learning, conversant with Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German,
Spanish, and French, and he published several works against
The last monument deserving notice is that of Galileo Galilei: born in 1564, immediately after the death of Michael Angelo, he died in 1642. He studied medicine when a boy, at Pisa, where the oscillations of a lamp in the cathedral awoke those reflections which led to his discovery of the pendulum; and at twenty-four years of age he was already far advanced in physical science, of which he became professor at Pisa in 1589. In 1592 he removed to Padua, where he held the chair of physics for many years, and invented the thermometer and telescope, for which the Venetian Republic granted him public honours. In 1612 he invented the microscope. But he had aroused the fears of the Jesuits and Roman inquisitors, and therefore was summoned to appear before their tribunal, who obliged him to abjure his so-called errors contained in his “Dialogo sui Due Grandi Sistemi del Mondo,” and to take an oath never again to speak nor write on the movement of the earth. As he rose from his knees, he whispered to those near him, “E pur si muove,” – “nevertheless it move.” He was condemned to the prisons of the Inquisition, but his sentence was commuted by the Pope to a residence within the gardens of SS. Trinità di Monte; he was at length allowed to return to Tuscany, and took up his abode in the neighbourhood of Florence. His latter days were saddened by domestic afflictions, and by the loss of sight. He died in 1642, at Arcetri, where our poet Milton visited him. It was many years later that his body was removed to Sta. Croce. The forefinger and thumb were then cut off by a certain Giovanni Vincenzio, Marchese Capponi, who expressed a desire to possess the instruments with which Galileo had written his great works; on which Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti observed, touching the forehead of the corpse, “he would rather possess that contained within the head.” Another finger was removed by the antiquarian Gori, which is now preserved in the Tribune, dedicated to Galileo, in the Museum of Natural History.
The pavement of Sta. Croce has many monumental slabs. The first disciples of St. Francis were buried near the center, and their bronze effigies may still be traced, though worn by time and the footsteps of successive generations. One, richly ornamented with decorations by Ghiberti, was placed here in honour of Françesco Sansoni, of a Siennese family, though he himself was from Brescia; he was General of the Order of Minor Friars, and much esteemed by Pope Sixtus IV., to whom he offered fifty thousand of the brethren to fight in a crusade to the Holy Land. In the centre of the nave the English traveller may be interested to find the burial-place of John Ketterick, Bishop of Exeter, who died in Florence in 1419, when on a mission from Henry V. of England to Pope Martin V., then on his return to Rome from the Council of Constance. One of the oldest monumental slabs is in remembrance of Biordi degli Ubertini, 1358, a valiant defender of the Florentine Republic against the attacks of Fra Moreali, Count of Lando, and his Free Companies; another bears the name of Giovanni d’ Aste, a follower of Sir John Hawkwood, who fought against Gian Galeazzo Visconti, 1392.
Giovan Françesco Megalotti, one of the Otto della
Balia, or Government of Florence, who died in 1377, has
“Libertas” inscribed on his slab: he distinguished
himself by his gallant defence of his native city against the
Papal troops. Another slab is to Lodovico degli Obizzi,
who died fighting against Milan, 1424.
Lorenzo Ghiberti is said to have been laid in Sta. Croce, though the exact spot is unknown. The historians Villani are likewise buried here. Beyond the lateral door of the northern aisle, beneath the outer porch, are two old monuments – one to Françesco Pazzi, attributed to Nino, son of Andrea Pisano; the other to Alamanni dei Caraccioli, who died 1337. In the cloister beyond the southern aisle is a monument which was brought here from the interior of the church, when the central choir was destroyed. It was erected to Gastone della Torre da Milano, Bishop of Aquileia, and is a fine monument in the old Tuscan style, attributed to Agostino da Sienna. Gastone was the son of Corrado della Torre, Lord of Milan, and in 1308 he was created archbishop of that city by Pope Clement V. His family was unfortunate; he himself suffered imprisonment, and was then sent into exile. In 1316 he was appointed Patriarch of Aquileia by John XXII., and came to Florence, where he died the following year from a fall from his horse. His monument was erected by the Torreani and Bareucci families, with whom he resided, and who had their arms sculptured upon it in commemoration of their good deeds. The reliefs represent the Resurrection of our Lord, and his Appearance to the Disciples at Emmaus. The eagle above denotes the archbishop’s Guelphic sympathies.
Alberti, Leon Battista d. 1472
Alberti, Leon Battista, last of the family d. 1836
Alighieri, Dante d. 1321
Andrea Castagno d. 1457
Barberini, Françesco d. 1300
Buonarotti, Michael Angelo d. 1564
Bruni, Leonardo d. 1444
Cherubini d. 1842
Cocchi, Antonio d. 1758
Corsini, Don Neri d. 1859
Filicaia, Vincenzio d. 1701
Fossombroni, Vittorio d. 1844
Foscolo, Ugo d. 1827
Galilei, Galileo d. 1642
Lami, Giovanni d. 1770
Lanzi, Luigi d. 1810
Machiavelli, Nicolò d. 1467
Manin, Daniel d. 1851
Marzuppini, Carlo d. 1435
Micheli, Pietro Antonio d. 1787
Nori, Françesco, murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy 1478
Nobili, Leopoldo d. 1833
Rossellino, Il, Gambarelli 1427-1478?
Sestini, Domenico d. 1135
Targioni Tozzetti d. 1783
"And to these marbles184
Vittorio often came to be inspired;
Irate with all his country's gods, he wandered mute
Where most deserted in the Arno,
With longing eyes beholding land and sky;
And when no living sight could soothe his care,
Here the austere man rested, and on his face was seen
The palour of death and hope.
With these great spirits he immortal dwells'
The patriot's ardour vibrates in his bones."
When I beheld
Where rests the body of that great man
Who, humbling the pride of rulers,
Strips of their leaves their laurels, and reveals
The tears and blood which drop from them," &c.
185 "Italy, Italy! thou on whom Fate
The hapless gift of beauty has bestowed
A fatal dowry of unceasing woes!
Thou bearest suffering written on thy brow.
"Ah! hadst thou been less lovely or more strong,
Or had they feared thee more or loved thee less
Who, basking in thy beauty's rays, seem
To dissolve, yet to a mortal combat challenge thee,
"Thou wouldst not then see pouring from the Alps
Torrents of armed men, nor Gallic hordes
Drink of the blood-stained waters of the Po;
"Nor wouldst thou see thy sons girt with a sword
And use their arm to help a stranger's cause -
Conquering or conquered - ever still to serve."
185 Ellen Orton, the original owner of the copy of Walks in Florence from which this electronic edition was prepared, made the following note in 1880 apropos of this quotation:
"Italia, o Italia, thou who hast186 See “Tuscan Sculptors,” Perkins.
The fatal gift of beauty…"
Chapter XXI: Sta. Croce (continuation) – The Pazzi Chapel. – Inquisition
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