Santa Croce was designed in the “T” shape of an Egyptian cross, in the Florentine gothic style with a vaulted timber roof. The wide nave has pointed arches supported by massive piers. The Church's black and White marble facade was added between 1857 and 1863 by Niccolo Matas, a Jewish architect, who is interred in the porch of the Church.
The basilica houses many fine examples of sculptures from the Renaissance period, with one of the most famous being the Crucifix by Donatello. Santa Croce became the burial place of choice for many of Florence's most illustrious citizens, with some 276 tombstones set into the floor, plus many superbly carved monuments.
One of the main attractions at The Basilica of Santa Croce is the tomb of Michelangelo by Giorgio Vasary. The three figures sitting on the tomb are said to represent painting, sculpture and architecture, above these sits a bust of the great man himself. The nearby tomb of Galileo by Giovanni Battista Foggini was designed in a similar style. Other tombs can be found in the first cloister, beneath the loggia attached to the church, there is also a corridor that contains a range of Neoclassical and Romantic sculptures. The Museum can also be accessed from the Cloister.
The Basilica of Santa Croce, located in the Piazza Santa Croce, was built on the site of an earlier, small Franciscan church. Construction of the basilica commenced in 1294 from plans created by the architect Arnolfo di Cambio. Completed in 1442, it was then consecrated by Pope Eugene IV. At this stage the now elegant facade was left undecorated, with this work being completed in the mid 1800’s, at just about the same time as the Bell tower was rebuilt to replace the original which had been badly damaged after being struck by lightning.