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The Basilica of St. Francis

This building, characterized by its unfinished facade, hides a treasure trove of priceless works of art inside, including the famous cycle "The Story of the True Cross" by Piero della Francesca. Despite the historical vicissitudes that have left marks over time, the basilica has gone through periods of neglect and rebirth, testifying to Arezzo's resilience and cultural value.
San Francesco - St. Frances

The Basilica of St. Francis is a place where the history, art and sacredness of the city meet.

A visit to Arezzo cannot ignore a visit to this iconic place not far from the historic Petrarch Theater.

The church from the outside immediately makes us notice the unfinishedness of the architectural structure. In fact, the facade remains without the finishes planned since the 14th century. This lack should not mislead us, since nevertheless we are faced with the casket of priceless works of art.

Basilica of St. Francis houses a real artistic-painting heritage inside. The world-famous cycle “The Story of the True Cross” stands out among the many works . The work was started by Bicci di Lorenzo but painted mainly by Master Piero Della Francesca between the year 1452 and 1466 . All the frescoes decorate the main chapel, the “Bacci Chapel”-named after the wealthy family of Aretine merchants who were patrons of the basilica and its works of art-and develop behind the high altar.

Some frescoes, now only partly visible, can be glimpsed alongside the famous Cycle. These works were executed by great painters of Arezzo in the 14th and 15th centuries : among the various names the work of Spinello Aretino stands out. Spinello’s works can be admired,as well as in other places in our city (first and foremost the fresco in the right chapel of the Basilica of San Domenico), in the more famous Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

The construction and exterior of the church

Disciples of Francis of Assisi were the initiators, in 1290, of the start of work on the building of the church of St. Francis in Arezzo, starting from a pre-existing place of worship. It was designed according to the architectural canons of the time as a single-nave church and this is how it still appears to us today, with its magnificent Romanesque style that stands apart from and in contrast to the Gothic style of the Cathedral of Arezzo located on the highest hill of the City.

The exterior facade, however, was not completed due to lack of funds, allocated in the 14th century. The story goes that in the year 1346 tal Monna Tessa financed the work with 300 liras, a sum that was not enough to proceed beyond the plinth. A further intervention took place bel 1870 , with unhappy outcomes, since it undermined the structure almost two meters above the ground. The church would have to wait until 1990, 45 years after its official proclamation as a Basilica, to see its entrance modernized. An entrance with a complicated history whose shape today reflects its past and welcomes us to the beautiful Square named after the Basilica itself.

The Basilica of St. Francis: the period of abandonment and rebirth

The Basilica fell victim to neglect, events and time itself. Many frescoes have fallen victim to this troubled history, dating back to the years between the 14th and 16th centuries. This building was in fact abandoned in 1556, after an inauspicious fire severely damaged its structure. The church also found itself being redeveloped , in the Napoleonic era and then throughout the 19th century, losing its religious significance and becoming a simple warehouse.

The structure could only come back to life in the 1900s following restoration work aimed at partially recovering the frescoes that had been lost. Umberto Tarlati ,director of the restoration work , despite all efforts failed to recover many of the damaged masterpieces. However, Tarlati completed a reevaluation of the interiors that remain to this day the place of collection of very important works of art. The latest restoration is very recent and we arrive at the year 2020. The polychrome windows have been fixed and the replacement of the small columns of the Guasconi Chapel, damaged by structural failure, has taken place..

This Basilica is thus today a reborn monument as a result of the careful care given to it after a centuries-long history of difficulties. The church is jewel that deserves a respectful visit and will leave you open-mouthed once you cross the only apparently austere threshold.

Comfort Contemporaneo, avvolto nel fascino della storia

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