Basilica of San Francesco
The Basilica of San Francesco overlooks the homonymous square, where the director of Via Cavour widens to form an evocative access point to the oldest part of the city. The building dates back to the second mid-thirteenth century , but its current appearance derives from the fourteenth-century reconstruction, conducted in Tuscan Gothic style and clearly inspired by criteria of aesthetic simplicity derived from the Franciscan. The last restorations date back to the beginning of the twentieth century.
The building is built of stones and bricks; of the projected cladding of the carved stone facade, only the base of the late fifteenth century remains. The bell tower dates back to the sixteenth century.
Hardworking restorations have almost returned to the primitive simplicity the grandiose interior with a single nave, flanked on the right by niches with fourteenth and Renaissance ornaments and on the left by sober ogival chapels. But the attention is mainly attracted by the fascinating scenes of the Legend of the True Cross, painted by Piero della Francesca on the walls of the main chapel (apse) between 1453 and 1464. The depictions are inspired by the “< strong> Legend Aurea “by Jacopo da Varagine, a text in the vernacular of 1200, whose stories of saints and martyrs, together with the pages dedicated to the main Christian feasts, have provided a repertoire of stories and iconographic materials that they inspired, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, both the drafting of sermons and poems, and the realization of the decorative apparatuses of many churches. The works in the chapel continued until 1460 and led to the creation of a pictorial cycle divided into twelve frescoes, organized on four superimposed levels.
The story told, starting with “The death of Adam” in the lunette on the right, ends with “ The Annunciation ” in the central wall, following an order that does not coincide with that of the paintings, performed by left to right and top to bottom.
Still inside the basilica, you can admire the stained glass windows of Marcillat, paintings and frescoes by Spinello and other valuable works, including a large Crucifix painted by a contemporary of Cimabue and – in the last side chapel on the left – the funeral monument to the Roselli jurisconsult of the first half of the fifteenth century.
On the lower floor, the lower church extends, divided into three naves, which has been restored over the last few decades and used as an evocative exhibition hall.