Archive for the Cimabue Category


Today we went on a day trip to the Tuscan city of Arezzo. We had booked ahead to see the frescoes by Piero della Francesco in the church of San Francesco. Do not forget to do this if you want to see the frescoes as you have to book a time slot and spaces are limited.

The Church Of San Francesco In Arezzo, Tuscany

Piero Della Francesca, Legend Of The True Cross, Arezzo

These beautiful frescoes show the Story Of The True Cross, a convoluted medieval tale about the crucifix on which Jesus died. Because Piero della Francesca was a mathematician as well as a painter, he has chose to give the paintings symmetry by juxtaposing similar scenes across the apse rather than sticking to a chronological order, for example, the two battle scenes are opposite each other.

A detail from the Proof of The Cross by Piero della Francesca showing the same faces

Proof of the Cross – detail, note the repetition of the faces. Piero della Francesca, Arezzo.

Pieve Di Santa Maria, Arezzo

Once we had admired the paintings we wandered past the impressive church of Pieve di Santa Maria, built in the Tuscan Romanesque style more commonly found in the northern Tuscan towns of Pisa and Lucca. The church is also unusual because the facade faces the street rather than the Piazza Grande.

The Pieve di Santa Maria in Arezzo

The Pieve di Santa Maria in Arezzo

Piazza Grande, Arezzo

The Piazza Grande is one of the sights you should not miss when visiting Arezzo, as its name suggests, this is a large piazza surrounded by beautiful buildings including the Loggia di Vasari which runs along the eastern edge. Giorgio Vasari was born in Arezzo, he was famous as the first art historian, an architect (he designed the Ufizzi in Florence) and as a painter (although in this role he is not so highly regarded). The piazza slopes upwards towards the south eastern corner and is the main area for Arezzo’s monthly antiques market (1st Sunday of every month).

The Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Tuscany

The Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Tuscany

Views From The Palazetto Della Fraternita Dei Laici, Arezzo

While standing in the Piazza Grande, I noticed that people were on top of the Palazetto della Fraternita dei Laici. I enquired at the entrance and found that you could enter the Palazetto for a reasonable €2 fee and, after a short climb, get up to the clock tower. Up here there were great views of the Piazza Grande and across the rest of town.

View down onto the Piazza Grande in Arezzo

View down onto the Piazza Grande in Arezzo

The Duomo, Arezzo

From the Piazza Grande, we wandered on to the Duomo to see another small fresco by Piero della Francesca, Mary Magdelene. You can find this fresco on the wall at the far left of the nave from the entrance.

The Duomo in Arezzo

The Duomo in Arezzo

San Domenico, Arezzo

The next stop on our lightning tour of Arezzo was the church of San Domenico to see Cimabue’s crucifix which hangs above the altar. There are beautiful travertine windows in the apse that are  cut very thinly so that they are translucent and show off the patterns in the stone. The nave of this large church is covered with badly damaged frescoes.

Crucifix by Cimabue in Arezzo

Crucifix by Cimabue in Arezzo

We stopped at little enoteca / delicatessan for a superb light lunch of cheeses meats, olives and artichokes served with bread. You can find this enoteca in Corso Cavour at the south east end of town.

The Primo Enoteca in Arezzo

The Primo Enoteca in Arezzo

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The Basilica Of Saint Francis Of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi

Assisi is probably the best known town in Umbria thanks to the town’s (and the world’s) most famous saint, St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). St. Francis preached a type of Christianity that spoke of humility and compassion for the poor, not a message that wealthy members of the church necessarily wanted to promote. Upsetting orthodox church teachings was a dangerous pastime that could easily result in being burnt at the stake. Luckily for Francis, the power of the huge religious revival that he started was harnessed by the church and he was granted a religious order. The new modern day pope, Francis I, by choosing the name of the saint, has sent a clear signal that he intends to reconnect with the ordinary members of the church.

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

The Basilica of Saint Francis

In 1228 work started on a huge church in Assisi to commemorate the life of Saint Francis, the Basilica of Saint Francis is in reality two churches, an Upper and Lower Basilica.

The huge size of the church showed how important St. Francis had become, but in all likelihood it was not something he would have approved of. However, one of St Francis’ wishes was complied with; the church built to house his body was built at the end of town where previously criminals had been hanged. The Basilica uses elements of the Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles, for example, the Upper Basilica mixes a Romanesque rose window with Gothic (pointed) arches in the interior.

The Upper Basilica

Badly damaged in September 1997 by an earthquake, the Upper Basilica was restored and re-opened within two years.

The Interior Of The Upper Basilica In Assisi

The Nave Of The Upper Basilica In Assisi

Giotto’s Life Of Saint Francis

One of the world’s most famous fresco cycles (attributed to Giotto but disputed by many) is painted on the walls of the nave, it depicts scenes from the life of Saint Francis. Painted around 1300, these paintings are important to art historians because they show a break from traditional style of medieval painting, the faces have emotion, the figures are solid and show movement and the scenes have some perspective. The Renaissance didn’t suddenly appear in the 1420’s, art was developing long before.

Sermon to the birds, Legend of St Francis

Sermon to the birds, Legend of St Francis

Frescoed on the transept of the Upper Basilica are biblical scenes by Giotto’s teacher, Cimabue. The white pigment, based on lead oxide has turned black giving the frescoes a strange negative image effect.

Cimabue's Crucifixion In The Upper Basilica, Assisi

Cimabue’s Crucifixion In The Upper Basilica, Assisi

The Lower Basilica

The Lower Basilica is darker and lower ceilinged than the Upper Basilica, it has works of art by Cimabue, Giotto, Pietro Lorenzetti and Simone Martini.

The Altar & Transept Of The Lower Basiilca of St Francis of Assisi

The Altar & Left Hand Transept Of The Lower Basiilca, Assisi


On the right hand wall of the transept next to the nave is a painting of St. Francis by Cimabue that is often cited as the portrait most likely to resemble the Saint. This is because it was painted five decades after his death and used the description of someone who knew him. Saint Francis is standing on the right

Portrait Of St Francis By Cimabue

Portrait Of St Francis By Cimabue, Assisi


Giotto or his followers are responsible for the chapels of Mary Madelene and Saint Nicholas, these can be found off the nave. In the transept, look for the story of the young Jesus, They show the characters within realistic looking landscapes rather than having them placed in the foreground with the scenery behind

Simone Martini, Chapel of St. Martin

The decoration of the Chapel of Saint Martin was designed and implemented by the Sienese artist Simone Martini, his work includes the floor, the stained glass windows and the frescoes. The paintings are quite hard to view thanks to the bright down lights but are well worth persevering with. If you go in through the entrance to the Lower Basilica the chapel is on the left hand side of the nave.

Medieval musicians frescoed on the walls of the San martino  chapel, Assisi

Musicians by Simone Martini, Assisi, Italy

Pietro Lorenzetti

Pietro Lorenzetti, a Sienese artist and contemporary of Giotto, was a master of composition, look at the Deposition and you can see how the figures and the body of Christ form a triangle.

Medieval musicians frescoed on the walls of the San martino  chapel, Assisi

Medieval musicians frescoed on the walls of the San martino chapel, Assisi

As with Giotto’s painting, Pietro Lorenzetti showed emotion on the faces of his subjects and he was beginning to master perspective seventy years before the start of the Renaissance. Pietro’s brother, Ambrogio, painted the Allegories Of Good And Bad Government in Siena.

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