The first stones of a small Franciscan chapel in the location of the present Santa Croce church in Florence, not far from the Arno River, were said to have been layed in 1228. The church, dedicated to the Holy Cross, was enlarged and eventually rebuilt beginning around 1295 into the church we can visit today. In the floor, 280 well-preserved tombs are in tact — an unusual treasure as tombs in many other church pavements have been removed during restoration. These floor slabs of marble and other material details are exposed to millions of visitors’ footsteps over the years. In fact, many of the carved bas-relief iconic portraits of the person buried in the tomb have been worn down and some must be protected from continous trampling. However, the tomb placement in the floor was meant to symbolize man’s inevitable return to the earth.
Tombs located closest fo the altar have more important and sacred positions also because that was the first part of the church to be constructed and it was the location closest to where the relic is located. Those buried in the tombs were members of the Franciscan order and the laity, as well as representatives of the most powerful and wealthy families of the neighborhood. It was extreemly expensive to be buried in the church and was considered a valid investment at that time primarily because people would see one’s name and be moved to pray for his soul, thus guaranteeing the salvation. The floor tombs stopped being added since the 19th century when it was more common to be buried in cemeteries outside of the city center, and also due to lack of space and for sanitary reasons.
The tombs that I am interested in are not the ones with figures, but those decorated with ornament, emblems, and family coats of arms or shields. Some of the marble is inlayed with metal, which creates an almost contemporary motif and contrasts with the dark and white marbles from the region. Some of the designs strike me as jewels and as inspiration for new jewelry designs.