San Francesco Basilica is one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Arezzo. A thirteenth-century Gothic building reworked in the 1300s and whose simplicity is inspired by Franciscan aesthetics, the basilica’s only ornamentation is the cornice that runs all around the edge of the roof, the lancet windows and a rose window above the main entrance. With the exception of the lower part of the facade in travertine blocks, the entire basilica was constructed in bricks that have become burnished over time.
The main chapel exists thanks to the patronage of the wealthy Bacci family. The frescoes were started by Bicci di Lorenzo in 1447, who painted the four evangelists on the ceiling, the two doctors of the church and the Universal Judgment on the outside of the triumphal arch.
Piero della Francesca was probably called on to replace Bicci di Lorenzo after his death. His frescoes depict the fifteen scenes of the Legend of the True Cross and were finished in 1466. Once the famous pictorial cycle had been finished, the Bacci Chapel was turned into museum, granting access to small groups of visitors through a side door into the church.
The large crucifix on the altar, attributed to Duccio di Boninsegna probably dating to 1289, the year when the church reopened. The vibrancy of the facial features convey resigned pain. The right-hand chapel, which is not architecturally part of the church, is named for Sant’Antonio da Padova, while the recently restored cloister contains at its center a well, known as “La Bufala”, commissioned by Ferdinando dei Medici in 1590.