Rucellai Sepulchre, San Pancrazio, Florence.

    It is very difficult for people of today, believers or not, to understand the mindset of the mid fifteenth century Florentine Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai, and even more difficult to sympathise with it. In 1458 this wealthy wool merchant commissioned Leon Battista Alberti to design a tomb for himself and his family based on the Tomb of Christ in the Holy Sepulchre. A horribly inflated ego, or is there more to it? 

Portrait of  Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai.  Attributed to Francesco Salviati  

Apart from being a wealthy merchant, Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai was a humanist scholar and energetic builder and patron in Florence. The portrait above shows some of his building works: the Palazzo Rucelli, the facade of Santa Maria Novella, and the Holy Sepulchre tomb in which he is buried. A strange thing to include in one's portrait, perhaps. Lets look at that tomb in more detail. 


Looking at the inscriptions may or may not help to understand the motives. The panel above the door translated from Latin, says:
 Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai, in order that his salvation might be prayed for from where, through Christ, the resurrection of all was achieved, had this temple built in the shape of the tomb in Jerusalem, 1467.
The inscription around the top pf the sepulchre reads:
You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified; he rose, he is not here; this is the place where they put him.
Perhaps ironically, Giovanni's hope for eternal fame was somewhat dimmed when, in the early nineteenth century, the church was deconsecrated and became the offices of Florence's lottery, and later, a tobacco factory.

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