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Kickstarter Campaign Launched to Save Section of Florence’s Pazzi Chapel

The Pazzi Chapel in Florence

From November 17 to December 19, 2014, Opera di Santa Croce will be running an international crowdfunding campaign to restore the loggia of the Pazzi Chapel. This is the first ever Kickstarter campaign by a cultural institution in Florence, Italy.

From today, November 17, 2014, Opera di Santa Croce, a non-profit institution responsible for the administration of the basilica of Santa Croce, is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds needed to restore the loggia of the Pazzi Chapel. The campaign will run for just over one month, ending on December 19.

The target is to raise 95,000 USD in 33 days using the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter.

Crumbling Sandstone

The loggia of the Pazzi Chapel was created almost entirely in pietra serena, a grey sandstone that tends to crumble over time. A close look at the façade, columns and sculpted decorations reveals extensive damage where the stone has disintegrated both on the surface and from within, causing pieces to fall off. In recent years, Opera di Santa Croce has intervened on two separate occasions to ensure safety. Restorers removed decorative elements that were in danger of falling, carefully numbering and diagramming them and putting them into storage. Despite every effort to preserve the loggia, a complete restoration is now urgently required, which will involve careful cleaning, re-integration of the removed parts, and final protection.

Dome and Facade
Dome and Facade

Opera di Santa Croce has raised 50% of the funds required to carry out this restoration, slated to begin in early 2015. The institution is calling for public support in order to raise the remainder. In so doing, donors will become part of the 720-year-long history of Santa Croce, as their names will be inscribed in the historical archive of this great “temple of memory”. Campaign backers will receive a variety of rewards depending on the level of the donation, such as modern lithographs and commemorative medals; private restoration tours; family tickets to Santa Croce; and subscriptions to The Florentine, Florence’s English-language news magazine.

The Pazzi Chapel

The Pazzi Chapel in Florence
The Pazzi Chapel in Florence

The cloister, or courtyard, located to the right of the façade of Santa Croce, provides access to the communal spaces once used by friars that are now part of the Museum of Santa Croce. In 1429, Andrea de’ Pazzi commissioned Filippo Brunelleschi to build a chapel here as the chapter house, a meeting room for the friars. Brunelleschi died in 1446 and it is unclear how much of the chapel was complete at that time. A number of artists are cited as having contributed to finishing the building, including Michelozzo, Rossellino, Giuliano da Maiano and Antonio Manetti Ciaccheri.

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The Pazzi Chapel reflects other works by Brunelleschi, in particular the Old Sacristy commissioned by the Medici family at the church of San Lorenzo, also in Florence. San Lorenzo was where Brunelleschi first developed a floor plan based on squares and circles to create a harmonious centrally planned chapel. In the Pazzi Chapel, he expanded on this, using a rectangular base and a more complex division of space. It proved an essential step in the development of later Renaissance architecture that was finally perfected by Giuliano da Sangallo and Leonardo da Vinci.

For Brunelleschi, architecture itself was the main decorative element. The Pazzi Chapel, however, is punctuated by colourful tin-glazed ceramic representations of the twelve apostles by Luca della Robbia that add touches of colour to the interior. A stained-glass window above the altar depicts Sant’Andrea (the patron’s namesake) by the artist Alessio Baldovinetti, and the cupola above the altar is painted in fresco. But the most decorative part of this chapel is actually its loggia.

The Loggia Restoration Project

The loggia is the arched structure in front of the chapel, open on three sides. The structure has six columns that create a large central opening and two side openings to the left and right, reflecting the interior floor plan. The columns support a frieze of cherubim (winged angel heads). Above, the façade is divided up by delicately carved pilasters. Under the loggia, there are finely decorated vaults. Two barrel vaults are covered in high-relief sculpted rosettes in pietra serena, and the central dome’s underside hosts a floral maiolica pattern attributed to Luca della Robbia, with the Pazzi coat of arms at the centre.

Each of the decorations, in pietra serena, terracotta or maiolica, present different kinds of damage in line with their material, and require expert restoration. The authorship of the loggia is still a subject of debate by art historians, and its decoration is a major key to this mystery, making its preservation even more essential.

Santa Croce

Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world. It dates to the end of the 13th century, and contains numerous 14th-century frescoes by Giotto and his followers, as well as works by Cimabue, Donatello, Bronzino and Vasari. Starting in the 15th century, the church became a burial place for illustrious individuals. Santa Croce is the final resting place of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei and Gioachino Rossini, amongst others.

Apparently, the chapel is managed by the non profit Opera di Santa Croce organisation though the premises themselves are owned by Italy’s government which allows the chapel to be used by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

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