Santa Croce, rebuilt for the Franciscan order in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio, is the burial place for the great and good in Florence. Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are Rossini, Machiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was tried by the Inquisition and was not allowed a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death. There is also a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty (he is actually buried in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence).
The church exterior is covered with a polychrome marble façade added in 1863 and paid for by the English benefactor, Sir Francis Sloane. It looks onto the Piazza Santa Croce, which is the site of the annual soccer game in medieval costume, the Calcio Storico Fiorentino.
There is great artistic wealth in Santa Croce; frescoes (1380) by Gaddi in the Cappella Maggiore tell the story of the holy cross, "santa croce", and beautiful frescoes by Giotto in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels show scenes from the life of St. Francis and St. John the Evangelist. An unusual relief, the Annunciation, in gilded limestone by Donatello decorates the south nave's wall. Don't miss the memorial to the 19th century playwright Giovanni Battista Niccolini to the left of the entrance said to be been the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.
The church of Santa Croce was severely hit by the flood of 1966, a tide plate shows how far up on the pillars and walls.