Sometimes our trains of thought can take us in unexpected directions. Recently, I was contemplating what I would do at Christmas, now only a few weeks away. From there, with my gift list already made out in my head, I began thinking about the traditional symbols surrounding the birth of Christ. This brought me to focus on the star of Bethlehem, said to have guided the three wise men to the manger where Jesus was born. My mind then wandered off to think about stars in Florence and, naturally, I began wondering about the beautiful star adorning the façade of the Basilica of Santa Croce. That question, unexpectedly, led me to Francis Joseph Sloane, a little-known Englishman to whom this city is deeply indebted.