|Detail of one of the Agnolo Gaddi frescoes recently restored above the high altar of Santa Croce. Previous filling of the cracks has been removed and will not be replaced as it damages the fresco further by altering the colours.|
|Scaffolding for the conservation project of the high altar frescoes|
The cleaning and conservation project of the high altar frescoes, covering 900,000 square feet, in the main Franciscan church called Santa Croce in Florence, started in 2005, and scaffolding has blocked entry and viewing since then. This huge undertaking was financed by a private Japanese businessman, Mr. Kamazawa, who donated two million euros. The restoration was carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, a centuries-old Florentine workshop of international repute, devoted to restoration since the nineteenth century. The major part of the work on the frescoes has finished, however the scaffolding will remain until next June whilst the restorers monitor their work. They are also now cleaning and restoring the fourteenth century wooden crucifixion by the Master of Figline which usually hangs above the same high altar. The crucifixion is laid horizontally on a table on one of the many ‘floors’ made from the scaffolding.
|Scaffolding surrounding the fourteenth century wooden crucifixion|
The Opera di Santa Croce, the administrative body of the Santa Croce church complex, offers guided tours on the scaffolding, in both Italian and English, twice daily to see the frescoes and explain the story that they depict. Silvia, my guide, talked us brilliantly through the frescoed scenes and answered my endless questions about the recent works. The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes to one hour and, at a cost of 10 euros a person, it is worth every penny. Tours will definitely run until Spring this year and possibly until June, the estimated time when the high altar is planned to be revealed and returned once again to the church.
|Restorers' work station high up in the gods|
|Discovery of the True cross (detail)|
|The construction of the True Cross|
Another elaborate cycle of the cross in Tuscany, frescoed in the following century, is in another Franciscan church, San Francisco, in Arezzo, by the great fifteenth century artist, Piero della Francesca.
|Discovery and proof of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca in San Francisco, Arezzo. Note the beautiful depiction of Jerusalem beyond the hills which is, in fact, Arezzo with its many coloured buildings enclosed by its walls.|