If you came to this page directly, you might wish to read pages on ancient Arezzo, its Cathedral and its historical centre first. This page covers:
Chiesa di Badia (Abbey) aka SS. Flora e Lucilla
S. Domenico: (left) the church (the street leads to nearby Porta Postierla); (right) portal (XIVth century)
During the late XIXth and until the mid-XXth century some churches and palaces of Arezzo were "restored" in order to emphasize their medieval aspect. S. Domenico was deconsecrated at the end of the XVIIIth century. In 1924-1936 it was given its current aspect and in particular a porch was added to protect the original portal and its fresco.
S. Domenico: Interior
The ch of San Domenico formerly contained numerous frescoes by Spinello, the greater number of which were whitewashed over. Some fine figures have been recently discovered; amongst them St Peter and St Paul partly destroyed by having had architectural decorations painted over them.
John Murray - Handbook for travellers in central Italy - 1853
The restoration led to the removal of the altars and chapels of the XVIth and XVIIth centuries, which explains why the interior looks so empty.
S. Domenico: Crucifixion by Parri Spinelli (see a similar fresco in the Cathedral)
Parri di Spinello Spinelli, painter of Arezzo, having learnt the first
principles of art from his own father, was brought to Florence by the
agency of Messer Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo, and was received by Lorenzo
Ghiberti into his school, where many young men were learning under
his discipline. (..) In S. Domenico, at the entrance of the door, where the bell-ropes are, he painted in fresco the Chapel of S. Niccolo, making therein a large Crucifix with four figures, so well wrought that it seems made only yesterday.
Giorgio Vasari - Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors & architects - transl. by Gaston Du C. De Vere
S. Domenico: (left) Cappella Dragomanni; (right) fresco portraying Jesus among the Doctors by Luca di Tomé
Luca di Tome of Siena painted
many works in Siena and throughout all Tuscany, and in particular the
panel and the chapel that are in S. Domenico at Arezzo, belonging to
the family of the Dragomanni; which chapel, German in architecture,
was very well adorned, by means of the said panel and of the work that
is therein in fresco, by the hand and by the judgment and genius of Luca
of Siena. Vasari
The design of the chapel which Vasari called "German in architecture" is attributed to a Florentine sculptor. Although a number of painters were born and worked at Arezzo, there is not a "School of Arezzo", similar to the "Schools" of Siena and Florence.
The ch of S Francesco contains frescoes by Pietro della Francesca much praised by Vasari; they represent the History of the Cross and the Vision and Victory of Constantine which are supposed to have given Raphael the idea of his great battle in the Stanze of the Vatican. They were much damaged during the last century by an earthquake. There is a very fine Annunciation by Spinello Aretino over one of the altars. Murray
Returning down the Via Cavour, we find, left, the Church of S. Francesco, containing a number of important frescoes. Entrance wall. Last Supper. 14th century. Right wall. Spinello Aretino. The Annunciation. Choir, entirely painted by Piero della Francesca, with the story of the True Cross.
Augustus J.C. Hare - Cities of Northern and Central Italy - 1876
You may wish to read some comments about the Invention of the True Cross which were made by William Turner and Mark Twain when they visited the Holy Sepulchre in the XIXth century.
(In 1452-1458) Piero painted for Luigi Bacci, a citizen of Arezzo, the Chapel of the High-altar of S. Francesco, belonging to that family, the vaulting of which had been already begun by Lorenzo di Bicci. In this work there are Stories of the Cross, from that wherein the sons of Adam are burying him and placing under his tongue the seed of the tree from which there came the wood for the said Cross, down to the Exaltation of the Cross itself performed by the Emperor Heraclius, who, walking barefoot and carrying it on his shoulder, is entering with it into Jerusalem. (..) For this work, therefore, he well deserved to be richly rewarded by Luigi Bacci, whom he portrayed there in the scene of the beheading of a King, together with Carlo and others of his brothers and many Aretines who were then distinguished in letters; and to be loved and revered ever afterwards, as he was, in that city, which he had made so illustrious with his works. Vasari
S. Francesco - Cappella Bacci: Story of the True Cross: (left) the Vision of the Cross by Constantine (see a more popular depiction of the event); (right) the Victory of Constantine (a detail of the Battle of Ponte Milvio)
But above every other consideration, whether of imagination or of art, is his painting of Night, with an angel in foreshortening who is flying with his head downwards, bringing the sign of victory to Constantine, who is sleeping in a pavilion, guarded by a chamberlain and some men-at-arms who are seen dimly through the darkness of the night; and with his own light the angel illuminates the pavilion, the men-at-arms, and all the surroundings. This is done with very great thought, for Piero gives us to know in this darkness how important it is to copy things as they are and to ever take them from the true model; which he did so well that he enabled the moderns to attain, by following him, to that supreme perfection wherein art is seen in our own time. (..) He made a group of horses in foreshortening, so marvellously executed that they can be truly called too beautiful and too excellent for those times. Vasari
S. Francesco - Cappella Bacci: Story of the True Cross: (left) the Annunciation; (right) a detail of the Battle between Byzantine Emperor Heraclius and Sassanid / Persian Emperor Chosroes (Khosrau II)
In this same story he represented most successfully in a battle fear, animosity, dexterity, vehemence, and all the other emotions that can be imagined in men who are fighting, and likewise all the incidents of battle, together with an almost incredible carnage, what with the wounded, the fallen, and the dead. In these Piero counterfeited in fresco the glittering of their arms. Vasari
Piero. The pupil of Domenico Veneziano in characterisation, of Paolo Uccello in perspective, himself an eager student of this science, as an artist he was more gifted than either of his teachers. He is hardly inferior to Giotto and Masaccio in feeling for tactile values; in communicating values of force, he is the rival of Donatello; he was perhaps the first to use effects of light for their direct tonic or subduing and soothing qualities; and, finally, judged as an Illustrator, it may be questioned whether another painter has ever presented a world more complete and convincing, has ever had an ideal more majestic, or ever endowed things with more heroic significance. (..) He loved impersonality, the absence of expressed emotion, as a quality in things. Having, for artistic reasons, chosen types the most manly, and, for perhaps similar reasons, a landscape which happens to be of the greatest severity and dignity, he combined and recombined them as each subject required, allowing the grand figures, the grand action, and the severe landscape, these, and these alone, to exercise upon us, as they must when all special emotion is disregarded, their utmost power.
Bernard Berenson - Central Italian Painters - 1897
Here there are many beautiful conceptions and attitudes worthy to be extolled; such as, for example, the garments of the women of the Queen of Sheba, executed in a sweet and novel manner; many most lifelike portraits from nature of ancient persons; a row of Corinthian columns, divinely well proportioned. Vasari
Roberto Longhi, an Italian art historian, published in 1927 a monograph on Piero della Francesca which was translated into English in 1931. He drew attention on Piero's frescoes at Cappella Bacci which had been almost forgotten for centuries. He highlighted the influence of the frescoes on the stylistic and scientific developments of painting that occurred during the Early Renaissance: a love for monumental compositions, the use of perspective, proportions, light, and colour to create realism in both figures and landscape. The expressions of the figures are calm and detached even as they engage in battle.
The mass admiration for Piero della Francesca, which started a quarter of a century ago, took me by surprise. Not that I had not appreciated him. Nobody who has glanced at the pages dedicated to him in my Central Italian Painters, published more than fifty years ago, will accuse me of such insensitiveness. At that time, most of us put Piero in the first rank, higher than he had ever been put before; yet not to the exclusion of almost all other Italian masters. We, moreover, were enjoying every one of his paintings, while the recent rush seemed unaware of his altarpieces and other panels, and confined itself to his frescoes, to the Arezzo series representing the "Story of the True Cross" and to the Borgo San Sepolcro "Resurrected Christ". (..) I suspect that what in these frescoed narratives impresses the seekers for aesthetic salvation is the earnestness, the gravity, the dignity of the participants, as the permanent state, the natural condition of their being, and the fact that they are so convincingly in three dimensions and full-weight.
Bernard Berenson - Piero della Francesca: or, The ineloquent in art - 1954
S. Francesco - Cappella Guasconi: Pope Gregory the Great sees St. Michael the Archangel at the top of Castel Sant'Angelo by Spinello Aretino
so much inclined by nature to be a painter, that almost without a master,
while still a boy, he knew what many exercised under the discipline of
the best masters do not know; and what is more, having had friendship
with Jacopo di Casentino while he worked in Arezzo, and having learnt
something from him, before he was twenty years of age he was by a long
way a much better master, young as he was, than was Jacopo himself,
already an old painter. (..) After the many pictures made in the Duomo, Spinello painted in
S. Francesco, in the Chapel of the Marsuppini, Pope Honorius confirming and approving the Order of that Saint. (..) He painted also in the same church, in the Chapel of S. Michelagnolo (St. Michael the Archangel), many stories of him; (..) and in the Chapel of Messer Giuliano Baccio, an Annunciation; all which works made in this church were wrought in fresco, with very resolute handling, from 1334
up to 1338. Vasari
The fresco is accurate in portraying the Pope and his retinue, less so in depicting some of the churches of Rome, a characteristic which can be noticed in other paintings of approximately the same period e.g. at Sacro Speco of Subiaco.
S. Francesco: (left) Terracotta monument to Francesco Roselli by Michele da Firenze; (right) Roman cinerary urn used as a holy water basin
The Monument to Francesco Roselli was made in terracotta rather than marble, perhaps as a sign of humility. In origin it was painted. The dead is portrayed in the typically medieval gisant posture, but the design of the niche has already many Renaissance features. The medallions portray other members of the family. The Roselli were a family of jurists, the best known being Antonio (1381-1466), an adviser to Pope Eugenius IV. You may wish to see the fine 1427 gisant statue of Bartolomeo Aragazzi, another member of the Papal court by Michelozzo at Montepulciano.
The church was built in the XIIIth century and largely redesigned in the XVIth century, also with the intervention of Giorgio Vasari. In the following centuries other changes were made and a bell tower was added to the back of the building. In 1914 it was decided to unearth the medieval walls of the façade which had been whitewashed.
Flora and Lucilla were two Christian sisters of the IIIrd century who were killed because of their faith. In 2001 their names were deleted from the list of saints, because the account of their lives was considered a legendary one.
(left) Chiesa di Badia: cupboard for the Chrism, the Holy Oil; (right) portal of the monastery: glazed terracotta (school of the Della Robbia)
Badia retains some interesting works of art of the early Renaissance; the cupboard for the Holy Oil is attributed to Benedetto da Maiano (1442-1497).
Benedetto da Maiano, a sculptor of Florence, who was in his earliest years a wood-carver, was held the most able master of all who were then handling the tools of that profession; and he was particularly excellent as a craftsman in the inlaying of pieces of wood tinted with various colours, in order to make views in perspective, foliage, and many other diverse things of fancy. Vasari
You may wish to see a similar cupboard in S. Maria in Trastevere by Mino del Reame.
Chiesa di Badia: fake dome seen from the nave (left) and from near the main altar (right)
The ch of the Badia di Sta Fiora is remarkable for the architectural painting on its flat ceiling by the famous master of perspective Padre Pozzi. Murray
In 1685 Father Andrea Pozzo painted a fake dome in the Jesuit Church of St. Ignazio in Rome. The fake dome was meant as a temporary measure, but it was so well executed, that Father Pozzo was asked to paint fake domes in other churches, including that of the Jesuits in Vienna (1703).
Chiesa di Badia: (left) main altar previously in the Vasari Chapel at S. Maria della Pieve; (right) side view showing the door which gives access to the tombs of the Vasari family and an inscription by Giorgio Vasari indicating that he designed the altar
At that time I obtained the gracious leave of his Holiness (Pope Pius IV), who with infinite lovingness and condescension sent me the Bulls expedited free of charge, to erect in the Pieve of Arezzo a chapel and decanate, which is the principal chapel of that Pieve, under the patronage of myself and of my house, endowed by me and painted by my hand, and offered to the Divine Goodness as an acknowledgment (although but a trifle) of the great obligation that I feel to the Divine Majesty for the innumerable graces and benefits that He has deigned to bestow upon me. The altar-picture of that chapel is very similar to an immense structure almost in the manner of a triumphal arch, with two large panels, one in front and the other behind, and in smaller pictures scenes filled with many figures. Vasari
For Giulio de' Medici (future Pope Clement VII), Cardinal and Vice-Chancellor, Raphael painted a panel-picture of the Transfiguration of Christ, at which he laboured without ceasing, and brought it to the highest perfection with his own hand. In this scene he represented Christ Transfigured on Mount Tabor, at the foot of which are the eleven Disciples awaiting Him. (..) And, indeed, he made
therein figures and heads so fine in their novelty and variety, to say
nothing of their extraordinary beauty, that it is the common opinion of
all craftsmen that this work, among the vast number that he painted, is
the most glorious, the most lovely, and the most divine. (..) For Filippo Salviati I finished not long since an altar-picture that is going to the Sisters of S.Vincenzio at Prato, wherein on high is Our Lady arrived in Heaven and crowned, and at the foot the Apostles around the Sepulchre. Vasari
Raphael's painting eventually ended at S. Pietro in Montorio where Vasari had the opportunity to study it in detail when he was working at Cappella del Monte. The Assumption of Mary was bought by the Albergotti for their chapel at S. Maria della Pieve from where it was relocated to Badia in 1865. The lower part of Vasari's painting was influenced by Raphael's work.
I first married my third sister and bought a house already begun in Arezzo, with a site for making most beautiful gardens, in the Borgo di S. Vito, in the best air of that city. (..) on the 16th of August in the year 1542. Vasari
In the Strada San Vito is the house of Vasari still preserved nearly in its original state and containing several works by that celebrated artist and biographer. Murray
Giorgio Vasari was peculiarly fitted for his self-appointed task of writing the history of Italian art from its "rebirth" through its period of greatest glory. Born at Arezzo in 1511 and educated in Florence, his youth coincided with the age of the great masters. He was himself a distinguished architect and a very popular painter, who served popes in Rome and Medici princes in Florence. He also traveled to many parts of Italy to fulfill commissions, meanwhile observing everywhere the work of earlier artists with the critical eye of a fellow craftsman. He was personally acquainted with most of the contemporary Italian masters and was a lifelong friend of Michelangelo. His own taste had been shaped by a humanist education and by classical standards in art, so that he was in perfect harmony with the prevailing taste of his age. When in middle life he published the first edition of his Lives of the Great Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550), the art of the High Renaissance had still the vividness of present reality. (..) The Lives presented a new, rationally organized history of the development of Renaissance art. Their influence upon the criticism and historiography of art was immediate and overwhelming. After nearly four centuries it is still with us.
Wallace K. Ferguson - The Renaissance In Historical Thought - 1948
Casa Vasari: personification of Architecture between Luca Signorelli (left) and Spinello Aretino (right)
There, before consenting to put my hand to any other thing, I painted on the vaulting of a chamber that had been built by my orders in my house which I have already mentioned, all the arts that are subordinate to or depend upon design. In the centre is a Fame who is seated upon the globe of the world and sounds a golden trumpet, and about her, in due order, are all those arts with their instruments in their hands; and since I had not time to do the whole, I left eight ovals, in order to paint in them eight portraits from life of the first men in our arts. (..) Meanwhile the building of my house at Arezzo had been finished, and I returned home, where I made designs for painting the hall, three chambers, and the facade, as it were for my own diversion during that summer. Vasari
Casa Vasari: Main Hall: (left) ceiling; (right) a detail of one of its walls (see another trompe l'oeil at Villa d'Este which was decorated approximately at the same time as Casa Vasari)
For the time being, however, I did nothing but the ceiling of the hall, which is passing rich in woodwork, with thirteen large pictures wherein are the Celestial Gods, and in four angles the four Seasons of the year nude, who are gazing at a great picture that is in the centre, in which, with figures the size of life, is Excellence, who has Envy under her feet and has seized Fortune by the hair, and is beating both the one and the other; and a thing that was much commended at the time was that as you go round the hall, Fortune being in the middle, from one side Envy seems to be over Fortune and Excellence, and from another side Excellence is over Envy and Fortune, as is seen often to happen in real life. Vasari
Casa Vasari: Main Hall: Ephesian Diana between two Virtues and small landscapes
Around the walls are Abundance, Liberality, Wisdom, Prudence, Labour, Honour, and other similar things, and below, all around, are stories of ancient painters, Apelles, Zeuxis, Parrhasius, Protogenes, and others, with various compartments and details that I omit for the sake of brevity. In those designs I depicted, among other things, all the places and provinces where I had laboured, as if they were bringing tributes (similar to what the noble families did in their palaces), to represent the gains that I had made by their means, to that house of mine. Vasari
Casa Vasari: Hall of Abraham: God blessing Abraham and his seed; the image used as background for this page shows an original tile of the floor
In a chamber, also, in a great medallion in the ceiling of carved woodwork, I painted Abraham, with God blessing his seed and promising to multiply it infinitely; and in four squares that are around that medallion, I painted Peace, Concord, Virtue, and Modesty. And since I always adored the memory and the works of the ancients, and perceived that the method of painting in distemper-colours was being abandoned, there came to me a desire to revive that mode of painting, and I executed the whole work in distemper; which method certainly does not deserve to be wholly despised or abandoned. Vasari
Casa Vasari: Hall of Apollo and the Muses: (left) ceiling; (right) Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy
I went in the same year to see Cardinal Di Monte, at Bologna, where he was Legate, and, dwelling with him for some days, besides many other conversations, he contrived to speak so well and to persuade me with such good reasons, that, being constrained by him to do a thing which up to that time I had refused to do, I resolved to take a wife, and so, by his desire, married a daughter of Francesco Bacci, a noble citizen of Arezzo. Vasari
The house belonged to the Vasari until the extinction of the family in 1687. In 1911 it was bought by the Italian State and it was turned into a museum.
SS. Annunziata, aka Madonna delle Lacrime (Tears, because in 1490 an image of the Virgin Mary in a small oratory wept when a pilgrim returning from Loreto kneeled to pray): (left) detail of the façade; (right) dome
The Abbot (Bartolomeo della Gatta, best known as a painter) died at the age of eighty-three in 1502, leaving unfinished the Temple of the Madonna delle Lacrime, for which he had made a model; it was afterwards completed by various masters. Vasari
The church was almost completed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder who at that time was working at the fortifications of Arezzo. Later on he designed Madonna di S. Biagio at nearby Montepulciano, another shrine housing a miraculous image and a very fine example of Renaissance architecture.
And since those who then ruled that Fraternity had been very well served in this work by Parri, they caused him to make on a panel, in distemper, a Madonna with the Child in her arms, with some angels who are opening her mantle, beneath which is the said people; with S. Laurentino and S. Pergentino, the martyrs, below. This panel is brought out every year on the second day of June, and, after it has been borne in solemn procession by the men of the said Company as far as the church of the said Saints, there is placed over it a coffer of silver, within which are the bodies of the said SS. Laurentino and Pergentino; it is brought out, I say, and the said altar is made under covering of a tent in the Canto alla Croce, where the said church stands, because, being a small church, it would not hold all the people. Vasari
Pergentino and Lorentino were two young Christian brothers of the IIIrd century AD who were beheaded because of their faith. A small church was built in 1363 on the assumed site of their death. The church was redesigned in 1702, but it retains the lintel of the original portal with reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the two martyrs. Similar to Flora and Lucilla they are no longer regarded as saints. The oratory is deconsecrated and it is used for temporary exhibitions or conferences by Confraternita della Misericordia.
Move to Ancient Arezzo or to Piazza Grande or to the Cathedral or go to:
Orvieto - Medieval Monuments
Orvieto - Cathedral and Papal Palaces
Orvieto - Renaissance Monuments
Orvieto - Museums
Città della Pieve
An Excursion to Chiusi
Castiglione del Lago
An Excursion to Cortona
An Excursion to Montepulciano
An Excursion to Castiglion Fiorentino