Eric: Duomo & Santa Croce

June 10, 2010

Churches are everywhere in Italy. Every city has at least one church, those more significant in size have a duomo (cathedral), and those like Florence are likely to have streets with several churches on them. The Duomo of Florence, otherwise known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence. I walk past it almost everyday to get to class, but I have not been to its ground level until today. To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed, as the interior of it is pretty much white walls, as opposed to frescoes or paintings in other cathedrals.

Walking around the inside of the cathedral, it really wasn’t as peaceful as Pisa’s cathedral, as there were a lot of tourist groups inside, and people talked a lot. The most impressive part was the dome, which I had already seen when our group climbed the dome. But it still looked amazing, just imagining how the painter actually managed to cover such a large above him. Overall, it was a good thing that it’s free to go into the Duomo (one of the very few places in Florence), otherwise I don’t really think people would pay to see blank walls. There is a section below the cathedral the features some archeological sites and Brunelleschi’s tomb that requires a ticket to enter.

The next church I visited was much more interesting. Basilica di Santa Croce is the world’s largest Franciscan church, founded by St. Francis himself according to legend. The church is the burial place of many famous Italians, making it also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories. As suggested by Rick Steve’s book, I didn’t enter from the visitor’s entrance, where there is usually a long line waiting to get into the church. Instead, I entered through the leather school at the back of the church, which practically has no line, got a ticket there, and immediately started to stand on tombs. Literally the floor of the church is full of anonymous people who have been buried underground. There are shapes on the floor that suggest their presence.

Famous Italians that have been buried in the church include Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini, and Marconi. Dante, a Florence-native, was not buried here as he was exiled from his hometown. Someone must have regretted that decision, as there is a huge statute of Dante outside the church, and another one inside in between the tombs of Michaelangelo and Vittorio Alfieri. The church also has an amazing collection of artwork by Giotto, Visari, and other artists.

Machiavelli & Rossini

Michelangelo & Galileo

Visiting tombs may not sound that fun. I mean, it’s not like they are there to talk to you (but they are definitely there!). I think seeing the tombs just made me appreciate more what they have done or contributed to the society. Machiavelli’s Prince, Rossini’s operas, Michaelangelo’s artworks, and Galileo’s discoveries in science are all things we learn about, and seeing where there are buried just confirms that someone was here a few hundred years ago and came up with the knowledge we learn today. It kind of blew my mind, and I think that’s what study abroad allows people to do: you get see things found in textbooks with your own eyes…


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