Pazzi chapel, Santa Croce, Florence


Pazzi chapel, Santa Croce, Florence
(1433-1461)
   Filippo Brunelleschi received the commission to build the Pazzi Chapel from Andrea Pazzi, the Medici's rival. It was to function as the chapter house for the convent attached to the Church of Santa Croce, Florence, as well as a place for the Pazzi to engage in private devotion. In 1433 part of Santa Croce's cloister was removed to make way for the new chapel. Some doubt whether the portico was built according to Brunelleschi's design, its Roman triumphal arch motif suitable for a religious structure as it speaks of the triumph of Christianity over paganism. The chapel's central plan is a more complex version of Brunelleschi's Old Sacristy at San Lorenzo (1421-1428). It consists of a central square capped by a dome and flanked at either side by rectangles that are half its width. A smaller square protrudes from the center to form the apse, a space that is also domed. This plan, completely based on geometric forms and a mathematical system of proportions, reflects Brunelleschi's rational approach to architecture. The domes are supported by pendentives, the largest pierced by a lantern and 12 oculi (rounded openings) that refer to the 12 apostles and the 12 gates of Jerusalem. When light enters the interior through these openings, it grants the illusion of a dome floating in midair as if supported by divine forces rather than actual architectural elements. Brunelleschi stuccoed the walls in white and trimmed them with pietra serena, a local tan-colored stone. As added ornamentation, Luca della Robbia created terracotta reliefs of the Evangelists for the pendentives and of saints for the roundels below the entablature. Brunelleschi purposely picked della Robbia for the execution of the reliefs since he found him better suited to the task than Donatello, who had contributed the reliefs in the Old Sacristy and that, in Brunelleschi's view, were too busy and infringed upon his architectural design. Considered one of the architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance, the Pazzi Chapel rejects the ornamentations of the Gothic style, instead embracing the ancient principles of harmony, balance, and symmetry.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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