Refectory, Santa Croce, Florence

   The refectory of the Monastery of Santa Croce was frescoed by Taddeo Gaddi in c. 1340 with a complex genealogical theme of special interest to the Franciscans who lived there. The central scene is composed of a Tree of Life with a Crucifixion as its trunk, an appropriate choice since Santa Croce translates to Holy Cross. At the foot of the cross are Sts. Anthony, Dominic, Louis of Toulouse, and Francis, all significant to the Franciscans, as well as grieving figures and a kneeling donor. The donor's dress of a tertiary Franciscan (a Franciscan lay order) and the Manfredi coast of arms included in the fresco suggest that she may be Mona Vaggia Manfredi who died in c. 1345 and was buried at Santa Croce. From the Crucifixion emanate a series of scrolls to form the branches that weave around medallions containing the bust portraits of the four Evangelists and 12 prophets. The Latin text on the scrolls admonishes the monks to meditate on the mystery of Christ's sacrifice. Below this scene is the Last Supper, also appropriate since the refectory is where the monks took their meals. The crucified Christ above ties in with this scene, which represents the institution of the Eucharist (Christ's body and blood) as a sacrament. This is the earliest example of a refectory fresco presenting a monumental rendition of the Last Supper. Earlier, these scenes were mainly confined to narrations of the life of Christ and his Passion. Four smaller scenes at either side of the Tree of Life are the Stigmatization of St. Francis, St. Louis of Toulouse Feeding the Poor and the Sick at Santa Croce, A Priest at Easter Meal Receiving Word of St. Benedict's Hunger, and Christ in the House of Levi. All but the Stigmatization also appropriately relate to meal-taking.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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