A tour of the Complex of San Lorenzo for the 500th anniversary of Cosimo I de’ Medici

mercoledì 3 Luglio 2019

Join us on our tour of the Cloister, the Chapter Archive, the Laurentian Library, the Old Sacristy and the New Sacristy. Get an overview of the masterpieces of Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Vasari and many more, following the footsteps of the Medici family.

The programme of initiatives to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Cosimo I and Caterina de’ Medici is ongoing, promoted and coordinated by the Organizing Committee. It is believed that Cosimo I was born on 12 June 1519. Exactly 500 years later, on the evening of the 12 June this year, 400 people in groups of 30, had the opportunity to visit the Cloister, the Chapter Archive and the Laurentian Library wandering through the passage of the Basilica to the Old and New Sacristies. Guided by experts and art historians, the tour offered a unique overview of the complex in its entirety, for the first time.

Let’s follow the steps of this fascinating journey into the history of a family, the Medici, that shaped Renaissance Florence.

The Archive of the Chapter of San Lorenzo houses over 1300 years of precious manuscripts and documents of great historical and documentary value.
Inestimable pieces collected here, include the correspondence between the Medici family and the priors of San Lorenzo, numerous original compositions of sacred music written by musicians who worked in the Basilica, and many other historical treasures such as the death certificate of Lisa Antonmaria Gherardini, who is known by her married name of Lisa del Giocondo, and is renowned all over the world as the Mona Lisa or Gioconda.

The Laurentian Library reflects some of the most important moments in the history of the Florentine Renaissance, from the early stages to its peak. Designed and partially realized by Michelangelo with contributions of Vasari, the library is a testament to Humanism, represented here by Coluccio Salutati, Poggio Bracciolini, Niccolò Niccoli, Marsilio Ficino e Pico della Mirandola as authors, copyists and owners of codices.

Among Filippo Brunelleschi’s great masterpieces, The Old Sacristy, is also one of the most important monuments of the early Renaissance architecture.
As the only building entirely planned and actually constructed by the great architect, the Old Sacristy is seen as the paradigm of the geometric precision and linear elegance, which Brunelleschi later developed in his work, like for instance in the plan of the Pazzi Chapel or the tribunes of the Dome of the Florence Cathedral.

We are in the famous New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1519 and commissioned by Pope Leo X (leo the tenth ) upon request of Cardinal Giulio de Medici.
Located inside the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the room mirrors the plan and dimensions of Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy, although the two spaces are arranged differently. Michelangelo conceived the New Sacristy’s architecture to enable natural lighting to underline its entire structure.
The construction of the New Sacristy was left unfinished in 1534 and was then undertaken by Giorgio Vasari in 1556 when Michalangelo had permanently moved to Rome. Vasari completed the project arranging the tombs of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano de ‘ Medici in a sarcophagus, topped with statues of Michelangelo’s Madonna and child, saints Cosmas and Damian. The other tombs of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino and Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, respectively nephew and the brother of Leo X, had been placed by Michelangelo.

This is an overview of some of the elements of the monumental complex of San Lorenzo, yet one of the many historical treasures to be found in the Tuscan capital. The tour highlights the extraordinary influence, the Medici family exerted at the time over the cultural development of Tuscany and far beyond its borders.