Saturday, July 10, 2010


Florence, Italy.  Visited June 2010

This is a brand new grave sighting from my trip to Europe with my daughter Kelsey and her friend Sarah while visiting my brother John in Switzerland. We spent a few days in Florence and stopped in on Michelangelo. Michelangelo is buried along with some other notable Italians (sure to show up here someday) in the Cathedral of Santa Croce.

Not this guy

Michelangelo (1475-1564) lived almost 90 years - a remarkable feat in itself at the time – split between his home city of Florence and Rome, where he died hard at work on his final sculpture. At the time of his death he was renowned as the greatest artist of his era. He considered himself first of all a sculptor (His David is an extraordinary must see in Florence) but his best known work is the massive painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was also a renowned architect (St. Peter’s Basilica is his design) and an accomplished poet. During one of its many wars, the city of Florence drafted him for his creativity to design a defense for the city which included saving the campanile (church tower) of San Miniato by covering it with mattresses.

Michelangelo remained single for his entire life, which wasn’t that unusual for great artists of his time. He seemed to live his life struggling with the weight of his gift, remarking late in his life, "I am a poor man and of little worth, who is laboring in that art that God has given me in order to extend my life as long as possible." By all accounts he was a difficult genius, largely indifferent to relationships and prone to melancholy.

Michaelangelo statue at the Uffizi
Gallery in Florence
This Guy

For you reformatics, there is an interesting thread of Michelangelo’s life that points to a growing awareness of salvation by faith alone. The artist was at work on the Sistine Chapel when Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg door. In the years that followed he seemed to have involved himself in a group of Italians drawn toward the dawning Reformation even though he was in the immediate employment of the Vatican. While Michelangelo never left the world of the Catholic Church, late in his life he appears to have been coming to the conviction that only the atoning sacrifice of Christ was sufficient to cover his sins. This is noted in a short description of his death in Santa Croce, which talks about his wrestling with trust in works or in faith alone. It is also evident in a sonnet written in his eighties.

The thorns and nails of both your palms
with your benign, humble and merciful face,
promise the grace of repenting much
and hope of salvation to my sad soul …
May your blood wash and cleanse my sins,
and the older I grow, the more may it abound
with prompt help and complete pardon.

Michelangelo’s final known words are a verbal last will and testament made to his friends at his deathbed, “My soul I resign to God, my body to the earth, and my worldly possessions to my relations.”

The great artist was initially buried in Rome, but his nephew soon had him dug up and carried to Florence in a wagon covered by bales of hay. There he was buried in Santa Croce in a crypt carved by his friend and fellow sculptor Vasari. In addition to the bust of Michelangelo, three statues were included in the tomb design representing his three artistic disciplines – sculpture, painting and architecture. Don’t ask me to identify which is which.

Kelsey was kind to let me use this pic of her.  My shot ended up being fuzzy.  The scaffolding is from renovations they were doing in the church.
Other blog subjects buried at Santa Croce: