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Exaltation of the Cross, the return of the Cross to Gerusalemme, Frescoes of Piero della Francesca, Legend of the True Cross, Basilica of San Francesco, Arezzo

Basilica of San Francesco: the Bacci Chapel

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The frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca

Basilica of San Francesco faces on the square of the same name that is located halfway between the cathedral square and the walls, in the center of the square is the monument to Vittorio Fossombroni. The Basilica of San Francesco is characterized by a bare facade, unfinished, made from sandstone and brick.

The church – and the adjacent convent – was founded by the Franciscans in the late thirteenth century and is in Umbrian – Tuscan Gothic style. Its construction was finished around the fourteenth century. The interior of the church has a single nave in Gothic-Franciscan style. On the left of the nave are a number of chapels, while on the right are some aediculae of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The steeple of the Basilica was added in the sixteenth century.


Between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the rich urban families decorated the interior of the church with frescoed chapels, among them stands the famous Bacci Chapel dating back to 1453 and containing the fresco cycle of the Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca, a absolute masterpiece of Renaissance painting. In the Basilica are other chapels, among them the Tarlati Chapel, located to the left of the Bacci Chapel, with an Annunciation attributed to Luca Signorelli or Bartolomeo della Gatta, and a Crucifixion by Spinello Aretino.

To the right of the Bacci Chapel lies the Chapel Guasconi. On the left wall of the church there are other chapels with remarkable works of art as a crucifix painted by a contemporary of Cimabue, frescoes of the late fifteenth century of Lorentino d’Arezzo and the funerary monument to jurisconsult Francesco Roselli (XV century) in Gothic-Renaissance style work of  Michele da Firenze.

Very nice is also the rose window of the facade of the Basilica with a rose window made in 1524 by Guillaume de Marcillat (1475-1529) representing St. Francis and Pope Honorius III. Downstairs is the lower church, with three naves, that is used as an exhibition hall.


In the choir of the Basilica is one of the masterpieces of Renaissance painting: the Bacci Chapel with the frescoes of the Legend of the True Cross by Piero della Francesca, who painted them between 1453 and 1466. The basis of inspiration for the drafting of the frescoes is comes from the Leggenda Aurea (Golden Legend) by Jacobus de Voragine. Bacci Chapel is located in the choir of the church, the frescoes are located on three levels on three walls of the chapel. The frescoes are divided into twelve tables that represent the following scenes:

Adorazione del Sacro Legno ed incontro della Regina di Saba con Re Salomone, Affresco di Piero della Francesca, Leggenda della Vera Croce, San Francesco, Arezzo. No Copyright

Adoration of the Sacred Wood and encounter of Queen di Saba with King Salomone, Frescoes of Piero della Francesca, Legend of the True Cross, Basilica of San Francesco, Arezzo

1) The Restitution of the Cross; the return of the Cross to Jerusalem

2) Prophet Jeremiah

3) Prophet Ezekiel

4) Adam dying; Seth meeting the Archangel Michael

5) The Discovery and Proof of the True Cross

6) Torture of a Jew named Judah in the pit

7) The burial of the Holy Cross

8) The Adoration of the Holy Wood; the Queen of Sheba kneels in front of the wood from which the cross will be made and meets King Solomon

9) Battle of Heraclius and Khosrau; defeat and decapitation of the latter

10) The Annunciation

11) Constantine’s dream

12) Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the battle of Milvian Bridge


The visit is carried out every 30 minutes and has a maximum duration of 30 minutes, no more than 25 visitors at time are allowed.

Opening time: April-October: from Monday to Friday 9/18.30; Saturday 9-17.30; Sunday 13-17.30; November-March: from Monday to Friday 9/17.30; Saturday 9-17; Sunday 13-17. Closed: 1 January, 13 June; 4 October; 25 December.

Reservation obligatory. Ticket: 6 €


  • AA. VV. “Toscana” Guide Rosse Touring Club Italiano, 2007
  • Aronberg Lavin Marilyn “Piero della Francesca. San Francesco ad Arezzo” SEI, 1996
  • cur. Bertelli C.; Maetzke A. M. “Piero della Francesca. Gli affreschi della leggenda della vera Croce nella chiesa di San Francesco ad Arezzo” Skira, 2001

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