We all took the rare opportunity to sleep in this morning before we set out on our adventures of exploring the religious history of Florence. We first visited Santa Croce, a Florentine gothic style church laid out as an Egyptian cross with an open timber roof. Santa Croce is also known as the Pantheon of Florence because so many great Italians (270 to be exact) such as Michelangelo Buonarroti (sculpture), Galileo Galilei (astronomer), Dante Alighieri (poet), Niccoló Machiavelli (philosopher), and Gioachino Rossini (composer) are buried there. In the cloister, there is a museum which contains stained glass windows originally from the church and Bronzino’s Christ Descending into Limbo (pictured below).
After Santa Croce, we strolled over to Tempio Maggiore, The Great Synagogue of Florence. We had two excellent tour guides who shared information about the Jewish culture in Florence. For 300 years, the Florentine Jews were confined to the Jewish ghetto near the center of the city. At the time, Jews did not have the same rights as the other Florentines. It was not until the unification of Italy in 1861 that the emancipation of the Jews and the abolition of the ghetto occurred. With this emancipation, the Jewish community signified their presence by building Tempio Maggiore. Despite synagogues being near to the ground to signify being lower than the Lord, Tempio Maggiore is the second tallest domed building in Florence with the influence of Catholic and Moorish architecture (eclecticism). The kippah, better known as the yarmulke, which means dome, represents being under the hand of the Lord. Additionally, unlike the Christian traditions of writing, speaking, and drawing God, Jews do not refer to Him directly to show respect.
The last church we visited was the Santa Maria Novella. There were four main works of art in the church, in addition to amazing stained glass windows. Of the four, here are two of my favorites: Masaccio’s “Holy Trinity” and Botticelli’s nativity scene. Masaccio’s work is considered one of the very bests examples of early “perspective” in evolution of painting, and if you look closely you can see the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Also, Botticelli’s nativity scene uses the complimentary colors of orange and blue to keep your attention drawn to the Madonna and Son.
Something interesting that I did not know before arriving in Italy……
In all the cities we have visited has graffiti on buildings. Some of the graffiti is vandalism while other graffiti can be considered works of art. The amount and style of the graffiti varies from city to city. For example, in Rome most of the graffiti is considered vandalism and has very little significance, to the average person while in Naples graffiti ranged from things like “marry me” to murals of Donald Duck. Cities such as Naples have the most graffiti where cities like Sorrento and Florence have little graffiti. Judge for yourself, here are some pictures we took while walking through the various cities.
- Hilary Kerchner