Tempietto del Santo Sepolcro by Alberti

A little off the beaten path in Florence is a chapel with a beautiful funerary monument designed by the Renaissance architect, Leon Battista Alberti.

To get there, the first thing you need to do is to find the Piazza di San Pancrazio:



Once in the piazza, you will find the entrance to the Cappella Santo Sepolcro, otherwise called both the Cappella Rucellai or Tempietto del Santo Sepolcro. You enter the chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the only remaining consecrated part of the former church of San Pancrazio.


IMG_7712        IMG_7710


Inside the Capella is this fine funerary monument, designed by Alberti,  which houses the remains of Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai.

Rucellai was a wealthy Florentine merchant who was great friends with Alberti. Alberti, the architect and theorist of the Renaissance, created several important works for Rucellai, including Rucellai’s family palazzo (Palazzo Rucellai, started in 1447), the completion of the facade of Santa Maria Novella (from 1456) and the Loggia Rucellai, completed in 1460.

The monument Alberti designed for Rucellai’s tomb was located in the church closest to the family palace, the church of San Pancrazio. Scholars generally believe that the monument was begun in 1457 and finished in 1467. Ruccellai would live until 1481.


The tomb Alberti designed was inspired by the shape of the temple of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Alberti reinterpreted that ancient structure in strictly Renaissance classical terms. 
IW_LB-Alberti-Tempietto-del-S-Sepolcro_02 (1)
Rectangular in shape, with an apse-like shape extending from one wall, all of the walls are framed with fluted Corinthian pilasters and adorned with square panels with green and white inlaid marble.
An elegant inscription in finely wrought Roman lapidary characters, runs around the monument on the trebeation, with a verse from the New Testament Book of Mark.
A row of stylized Florentine lilies form the top adornment of the tomb, creating a kind of battlement. I’ve read that the lilies may refer to the Annunciation, to which the chapel was reputedly dedicated (the archangel Gabriel carries a white lily when he visits the Virgin Mary to announce the Incarnation (from Luke 1:26-38).
Atop the whole monument is a lantern, in the shape of a small temple on a circular base. Today the lantern is not in its original position: it was moved forward from the center during 19th-century restorations, to improve visibility.
The interior is accessible by a low door, decorated with 2 frescoes by Giovanni da Piamonte, showing the dead Christ supported by 2 angels and another of the Resurrection. Giovanni da Piamonte was a pupil of Piero della Francesca. The actual sarcophagus is covered with a statue of Christ.

The inlaid marble decoration on the panels of the tomb’s exterior are varied and fascination and refer to the activities of Rucellai.  They also draw from the Florentine Romanesque tradition of inlaid marble design, such as those found on the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the church of San Miniato al Monte, and the Badia Fiesolana.

The style of the white and green inlaid marble panels is restrained, geometric, and highly elegant, with no two exactly alike. We recall that according to Alberti, geometry induced a worshipper to meditate on the mysteries of faith.

On each of the four exterior walls, an inlaid panel of a heraldic emblem appears,  referring to the most important contemporary personalities of the time.  For example, in one panel, a stylized sail appears unfurled in the wind, with loose shrouds–presumably those of Giovanni Rucellai.


Another heraldic panel uses the mazzocchio with 3 feathers (a type of male headwear worn in Western Europe during the Renaissance), which makes reference to Cosimo de Medici the Elder.



The 3rd panel design depicts a diamond ring with 2 feathers, apparently this was the symbol of Piero de Medici.


The final heraldic emblem reveals the symbol for Lorenzo il Magnifico, which is 3 intertwined rings.

Thanks to Wikipedia, we have a chart showing each of the inlaid panels. https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempietto_del_Santo_Sepolcro

Tempietto, formelle 01 (registration) .JPG Tempietto, tiles 02.JPG Tempietto, tiles 05.JPG Tempietto, tiles 08.JPG Tempietto, formelle 11.JPG Tempietto, formelle 14.JPG Tempietto, formelle 17.JPG Tempietto, formelle 20.JPG Tempietto, formelle 23.JPG Tempietto, formelle 26.JPG Tempietto, tiles 29.JPG
Tempietto, porta.jpg Tempietto, formelle 03 personal enterprise of piero de 'medici il gottoso.JPG Tempietto, formelle 06.JPG Tempietto, formelle 09 personal business of giovanni rucellai.JPG Tempietto, formelle 12.JPG Tempietto, formelle 15.JPG Tempietto, formelle 18 personal enterprise of lorenzo de 'medici.JPG Tempietto, tiles 21.JPG Tempietto, formelle 24.JPG Tempietto, tiles 27 personal enterprise of cosimo il vecchio.JPG Tempietto, formelle 30.JPG
Tempietto, tiles 04.JPG Tempietto, formelle 07.JPG Tempietto, tiles 10.JPG Tempietto, formelle 13.JPG Tempietto, formelle 16.JPG Tempietto, formelle 19.JPG Tempietto, formelle 22.JPG Tempietto, formelle 25.JPG Tempietto, formelle 28.JPG Tempietto, formelle 31.JPG
West wall South wall Apse east North wall

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