If suddenly, while in Florence, you want to visit the resting place of the last of the Medici clan, visit St. Lawrence Church (Basilica di san lorenzo) And although this harsh building is not located in the most prestigious place of the city, and, in fact, is unfinished, it certainly deserves your attention. Indeed, in the past, the Basilica of San Lorenzo was a small family church of the great Medici family. And from an architectural point of view it is one of the first Renaissance churches.
Let's go back a bit and try to find out the history of this ambiguous structure. So, back in 393 A.D. Archbishop Ambrogio of Milan ordered the laying of a church dedicated to Saint Lawrence and the first Archbishop of Florence, Saint Zinovius. The relics of the latter were stored in the walls of the church from the 4th to 7th centuries. It was at this time that the Basilica of St. Lawrence was considered the Cathedral. Today, the main cathedral of Florence is Santa Maria del Fiore.
In the 11th century, the first global reconstruction of the building took place, during which the Renaissance style was replaced by the Romanesque one. At the beginning of the 15th century, several influential Florentine citizens joined together to finance the expansion of the church of San Lorenzo. The most significant was the donation made by Giovanni Medici, who wished in this way to enter higher layers of society and strengthen his status.
The main architect for working on the basilica was Filippo Brunelleschi. The first thing that the famous Italian architect embarked on was the extension of the side chapel, which later became known as Old Sacristia.
Since it was planned to arrange a tomb for Medici, Giovanni never spared funds to finance the construction.
The construction of the Old Chapel continued from 1421 to 1428. Its interior revived a dome system covering a square room. The interior space was simple and clear.
After finishing work on the sacristy, Brunelleschi set about general work on the church. However, he did not have time to finish them. In 1429, Giovanni Medici passed away. And with his death, the financial flow is drying up. Further work on the reconstruction of San Lorenzo continued with the filing of Cosimo Medici Old, who invited him to the post of architect Bartolomeo Michelozzo. Cosimo the Elder later became the first buried in an underground crypt, and the Basilica of San Lorenzo became the burial place of all representatives of the famous Florentine family.
In 1520, Pope Leo Medici hired an architect Michelangelo Buonarotti for the construction of the New Sacristy (Sacristy). In it, one of the great Medici planned to bury those from the family who left the world at a young age (Giuliano Medici, Lorenzo di Pietra). This project is one of the most important in the creative life of the master. For example, if earlier it was customary to place tombs and tombstones themselves in the center of the room, then Michelangelo was not afraid to make an architectural revolution by placing tombs and statues along the perimeter along the walls.
Interestingly, the reconstruction of the facade was never completed. According to historical documents, this was due to disagreements between Michelangelo and Pope Leo X Medici. Michelangelo insisted on facing the facade with Carrara marble, and dad preferred to decorate the facade with stone from Pietrasanta.
Actually, the dispute itself arose because the facade was to reflect the skill of Italian artists and at the same time testify to the power of the Medici clan. And for this Leo X considered his choice of stone more acceptable. Persistence of parties and led to an unfinished facade. After the death of the pope, funding decreased, and the project itself went to the "no".
In order for the great artist not to completely turn his back on his family, Cardinal Giulio Medici decided to distract him from the facade and commissioned the creation of a new chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Work on the new building began in 1519. And still, the gravestones created by him attract tourists from all over the world. In addition to tourists, students from art academies can often be seen in the chapel. Here they are trained in mastery by the example of world masterpieces.
What to see
Despite the external ugliness of the basilica, a tourist entering San Lorenzo is unlikely to regret it. After all, he will have the opportunity to see world works of art. For example, it is worth noting the bronze chairs of the great Donatello, which appeared in the second half of the 15th century. The interior is mesmerizing. A number of columns of various diameters, devoid of any decorations, is considered the work of the architect Vasalleto. It is impossible to ignore the magnificent floor drawing resembling a carpet with drawings on church subjects.
The interior of Old Sacristia is filled with beautiful medallions, lunettes and bas-reliefs by Donatello. The tomb of Giovanni and Pietro Medici is also located there. The inner surface of the dome is decorated with a unique fresco. It depicts the sky with day and night luminaries, as well as the stars known at that time.
Within the walls of New Sacristy are the sarcophagi of the two Dukes of Medici. The tombs are decorated with various allegorical sculptures by Michelangelo. In the center is the composition "Madonna and Child".
Chapel of the Princes (Cappella Dei Principi)
The octagonal room of the Princes Chapel has the dome of the second largest in Florence. The dome is decorated with frescoes on which you can see images of the city emblems of the Tuscan Duchy. The crypt, in which the Medici are buried, was painted in 1826 by Pietro Benvenuti.
Laurentian Library (Biblioteca Laurenziana)
Buonarotti also owns the Lavrentiev Library. The master was engaged in its construction from 1524 to 1534, by order of Pope Clement VII of the Medici.
He also designed an amazing staircase, in the form of a flow of molten lava, and the interior of the reading room. The library contains many books and historical manuscripts. The initial meeting belonged to Cosimo the Old, and was later expanded by the remaining members of the Medici large family. The library also owns some priceless items. For example, a Bible dating from the 8th century A.D. or the oldest Roman encyclopedia (Naturalis Historia).
Where is? How does it work? How much is?
- Church of St. Lawrence is located in the square of the same name at: Piazza San Lorenzo.
- Opening hours: daily, except Monday.
- Entrance fee: 3.5 euros. Do not forget that the church is operational, and on Sunday you can attend Mass for free.
Despite the fact that the Church of St. Lawrence is not the most magnificent architectural structure, flows of tourists from all over the world annually seek it. And, of course, the Medici family parish deserves your attention.