The San Francesco Basilica in Arezzo is best known for its 14th and 15th century frescoes. The wall paintings in the Bacci Chapel (or Cappella Maggiore) have even been converted into a museum (the Museo della Basilica San Francesco) and can be viewed only in small groups.
San Francesco Basilica Arezzo
Address, opening times and entrance fee
The address of the Basilica di San Francesco is Piazza San Francesco – 52100 Arezzo (tel. +39 0575352727). Opening Hours: Summer Time: 09:00 to 19:00 (Saturday 09:00 to 18:15 and Sunday 13:00 to 18:15); Winter Time: 09:00 to 19:00 (Saturday 09:00 to 17:45 and Sunday 13:00 to 17:45); Easter Time: 09:00 to 16:00. Entrance fee: 4 Euro. Discount: 2 Euro. There is an additional charge of 2 Euro for the (mandatory) reservation. A combi-ticket for the 4 state museums of Arezzo costs 8 Euro, plus 2 Euro for the reservation. There is a disabled entrance.
Access to the Bacci Chapel is gained through a side door. Groups of no more than 25 people are admitted every 30 minutes.
History and description
The Basilica di San Francesco was built in the 13th century and restored between 1318 and 1377. The architect of this Gothic church was probably Fra Giovanni da Pistoia.
The church has a particularly simple facade, with pointed windows, a ledge running around the edge of the roof, and a rose window and canopy above the entrance door. The lower part of the facade is made of blocks of travertine marble, while brownish brick was used for the rest. The lunette above the door shows the “Madonna and Child” and was repainted by Casucci.
Casucci was also responsible for the 15th century bell tower, which was restored in 1927.
The rose window was provided with stained glass windows by Guillaume de Marcillat. The effigy shows “Saint Francis with Honorius III” and dates back to 1524.
The church consists of a single nave, with a number of chapels along the left wall. The right wall is decorated with frescoes and both Gothic and Renaissance aediculas.
What to see
The Cappella Maggiore was owned by the Bacci family. From 1447 Bicci di Lorenzo worked on the frescoes adorning this chapel. The fresco “The Four Evangelists” ornaments the ceiling of the chapel. The other ones are the two “Doctors of the Church” under the arch and the “Last Judgment” on the front of the triumphal arch.
After Bicci di Lorenzo‘s death, Piero della Francesca was brought in as his replacement. He worked on the 15 scenes of the “Legend of the True Cross” from 1453 to 1466. As a basis for his work, he used a late 13th century collection of saints’ lives compiled by Jacobus de Voragine and known as the “Legenda aurea“.
The large crucifix at the altar was made (probably) in 1289 by Duccio di Boninsegna.
The Sant’Antonio da Padova Chapel (right) was painted with frescoes between 1651 and 1680 by Francesco and Antonio Nasini di Casteldelpiano.
The chapel to the right of the apse features frescoes by Spineto Aretino.
In the chapel to the left of the apse you can admire “The Annunciation of the Lord” (Annunciazione) painted by Luca Signorelli.
The cloister has a central well called the Pozzo della Bufala, which was commissioned by Ferdinando dei Medici in 1590. On the cloister walls one can still see fragments of frescoes and some tombstones with coats of arms.
In the adjoining square there is an ancient well, which was placed here by the Senesi in 1465.