The Legend of the True Cross, 2.
Agnolo Gaddi, Santa Croce, Florence

Let's now take the train to Florence, an hour's journey from Arezzo.
Santa Croce, another Franciscan church, has many wonderful early paintings. Sadly, on our visit in September 2012, most of them were hidden by scaffolding. Isn't it always the way? Still, it make a good excuse to go back to Florence, if one is needed.
  The Gaddi sequence of the Legend of the True Cross is a more literal rendering than Piero's, but it has a wonderful sense of movement that contrasts with the stillness of the Arezzo version.
   The first image below shows the chapel 'unfolded', showing the left and right hand walls head on. The narrative starts at the lunette at the top of the right-hand wall. In this case, to make matters a little less complicated than with the Piero, I've swapped them over so that the narrative reads down the left hand column below, then moves to the top of the right-hand column.

1. The death of Adam. In the background we see the long road to Paradise. Seth has returned, carrying a small twig to place in the mouth of Adam. All around are the children and grandchildren, looking suitably dismayed - this is, after all, the first natural death. 5. St Helena carries the cross into Jerusalem in triumph.

2. The tree grows, and is eventually cut down at the time of King Solomon. It ends up being used as a bridge. On the left, the Queen of Sheba has her moment of revelation. When he hears about it, Solomon has the wood buried. (Right.) 6. Chosroes, king of the Persians, steals the cross from Jerusalem. Actually, he didn't; the raid was conducted by his general, Shahrbarāz, but Chosroes took the credit.

3. The Passion is under way. On the left, the wood is rediscovered; on the right, it is made into the cross. 7. On the left, Chosroes is being worshipped in his grandiose temple. In the centre, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius dreams of the Archangel Michael, who tells him what has happened and encourages him to go to war. This is very reminiscent of the scene of Constantine's dream in Piero's sequence.
  On the right, Heraclius defeats Chosroes's son in battle - once again, Chosroes leaves the fighting to someone else.


4. St. Helena rediscovers the three crosses - but which is the one on which Christ is crucified? The crosses are held over a corpse (left): at the third attempt, the corpse is revived. 8.Chosroes can't avoid the action this time.  On the left, the victorious Heraclius executes him outside his temple. In the centre, Heraclius attempts to return the cross to Jerusalem, but the doorway is walled up to prevent him entering. Archangel Michael demands a little more humility; on the right, barefoot and without his grand cloak, he is permitted to enter.

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