Nowadays, the small Tuscan town of Sansepolcro is an integral part of the Piero della Francesca trail, but this might not have been the case, had it not been for the actions of one man.
During the second world war Tony Clarke was an artillery officer with the British army. In 1944 he was stationed in Italy, where his unit was encamped in the hills above Sansepolcro. As the unit was preparing to bomb the town prior to sending in ground troops, Clarke found himself thinking about an essay he had read by Aldous Huxley. The subject was Piero della Francesca's painting of the Resurrection. In the essay Huxley had written, "It stands there before us in entire and actual splendour, the greatest picture in the world."
Clarke then remembered where the painting was located. It was in Sansepolcro, Piero della Francesca's birthplace!
When his commanding officer gave the orders to fire, Clarke played for time, claiming that he couldn't see any German targets to bomb. The guns stayed silent and the following day Sansepolcro was liberated. The town and the painting had been saved. Tony Clarke was hailed as a local hero and a street (Via A. Clarke) was later named in his honour.
Piero della Francesca painted the fresco of the Resurrection (c. 1463-65) for the Palazzo della Residenza, which now houses the town's art museum.
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