PIAZZA DELLA LI A, A*h REPUBBLICAPIAZZACT I Santa Maria delle Grazie T U S C A NVY AREA BY AREA i San Francesco The 13th-century church of San Francesco contains Piero della Francesca's frescoes, The Legend of the Tme Cross (1452-66), his masterpiece and one of Italy's greatest fresco cycles. The frescoes show how the Cross, made from the tree that bore the forbidden fruit Eve tempted Adam to eat, was found near Jerusalem by the Empress Helena. Her son, the Emperor Constantine, adopted it as his battle emblem. In reality, Constantine granted the Christian faith official recognition through the Edict of Milan, signed in 313.
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He is said to have bequeathed the Empire to the Church in 337, although this was still hotly disputed when Piero painted the frescoes. The Cross returns to Jerusalem. Painted Crucifix The 13th-century Crucifix forms the focal point of the fresco cycle.
The figure at the foot of the Cross represents St Francis, to whom the church is dedicated. The Empress Helena watches the Cross being dug up. The town shown in the background, symbolizing Jerusalem, is an accurate representation of 15th-century Arezzo. Exaggerated Hats Piero often depicted historical figures in Renaissance garb. Judas reveals where the Cross its stately figures and aura of serenity, is typical of Piero's enigmatic style. The Defeat of Chosroes The battle scene shorn the chaos of Renaissance warfare. Piero was influenced by ancient Roman carving, especially the battle scenes that often decorated sarcophagi. R EASTERN TUSCANY 197 4 :S Visitors' Checklist Piazza San Francesco, Arezzo. H (0575) 206 30.