Historic Tomb of Michelangelo and altarpiece in dire need of repairs

By Matthew Fowler

ROME (CNS) — The historic tomb of Michelangelo and the Buonarroti family altarpiece in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence are in dire need of cleaning and restoration due to sustained damage over the past 50 years.

“In the Name of Michelangelo” is an international fundraising campaign being launched by the Opera di Santa Croce foundation to raise €100.000 ($118,105) by Oct. 30 to fund these repairs.



Tomb and altar together

The altarpiece (left) combines with the tomb (right) to honor Michelangelo and the Buonarroti family, while attracting the eyes of tourists. Photo credit: Opera di Santa Croce.

Michelangelo, who is well known for his work in the Sistine Chapel, became very ill and died in 1564. Although Pope Pius IV ordered for his body to be buried in Rome in St. Peter’s, Michelangelo’s body was ‘stolen’ and returned to Florence where he was then buried in Santa Croce.


Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel frescoes is well known around the world. Photo credit: Catholic News Service.

Both the Buonarroti family altarpiece and tomb of Michelangelo were built in the late 16th century following the design of Giorgio Vasari. The monumental tomb is composed of a wall painting and three marble muses, reflecting the three artistic genres Michelangelo was famous for: sculpting, painting and architecture.


Church of Santa Croce in Florence with Michelangelo’s tomb on the right, showing two muses mourning his death. Photo credit: Opera di Santa Croce.

The often overlooked altarpiece is hiding a portrait of Michelangelo underneath the dust and grime accumulated through the years. He depicted himself looking over his own tomb, uniting the two in commemoration of the Buonarroti family.


Cracked altarpiece showing the damaged sustained from the 1966 flood on the lower left side of the painting. Photo credit: Opera di Santa Croce.

Repairs are scheduled to begin Nov. 1 and conclude by March 2018, just in time for the anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth. The repairs include cleaning and investigating the tomb, while also restoring the altarpiece damaged by the devastating flood in 1966, which caused cracking and bubbles in the art work.


Marble bust of Michelangelo overlooking the tomb and Church of Santa Croce. Photo credit: Opera di Santa Croce.

The Opera di Santa Croce has been responsible for the upkeep of the church and all the artwork inside since the 14th century. Since it does not receive any government funding, it relies entirely on private donations for all restoration work.

To donate, visit http://www.santacroceopera.it/Michelangelo/.

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