chapter  3
16 Pages

From ‘sacred images’ to ‘tourist images’?

The fourteenth-century frescoes of Santa Croce, Florence
ByRussell Staiff

This chapter explores an entangled conundrum common to so many cultural heritage sites: the 'radical disjunction' between historiography and tourism in relation to the fourteenth-century chapels clustered around the high altar of Santa Croce, a Franciscan church in the southern part of the medieval core of Florence. It focuses on the famous fourteenth-century ce murals that adorn the walls of the choir, chapels and sacristy. The chapter is concerned with the current interpretations of the frescoes as understood by historians and art historians. It examines the contemporary transformation of the murals into aesthetic objects of 'Art' under the aegis of both museology and tourism. The argument is essentially thus: what was once an integral part of family and city-wide identity at the time of execution, and what was significantly sacred in nature has given way to murals now regarded, via the agency of city and national identity formation, and magnified by tourism, as symbolically synonymous with the Italian Renaissance.