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Medici Chapels Florence
Photo © Richard Mortel / WikiCommons
Photo © Richard Mortel / WikiCommons

Medici Chapels


In the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, the Medici Mausoleum, home to Michelangelo’s spectacular sculptures

In the center of Florence, the Medici Chapels are the magnificent Medici mausoleum, the burial place of the family, symbol of Florentine history and art. The space is part of the basilica of San Lorenzo, widely considered the gamily's "official church", a few steps from their residence Palazzo Medici-Riccardi.

The two parts of the complex open for visits are the New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo, and the 17th century Chapel of the Princes, where the Grand Dukes of Tuscany are buried.

San Lorenzo Basilica and Medici Chapels Florence
San Lorenzo Basilica and Medici Chapels Florence - Credit: Sailko / WikiCommons

The project of planning a grand family funerary monument in San Lorenzo first took flight in 1520, when Michelangelo undertook the construction of the New Sacristy at the behest of Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, the future Pope Clement VII, who wanted to honor some of his family’s most illustrious members.

Michelangelo worked on the funerary monuments dedicated to Giuliano de’ Medici, duke of Nemours, and his nephew Lorenzo de’ Medici, duke of Urbino, sculpting three incredible sculptures for each: the Allegories of Time, spread out above the tombs, and portraits of the Dukes. Sculptures representing Day and Night are found on Giuliano’s tomb, while Dawn and Dusk are on Giuliano’s. In the center of the chapel is an additional Michelangelo sculpture known as the Medici Madonna, depicting the Virgin Mary holding Jesus.

Both Lorenzo il Magnifico and his brother Giuliano de’ Medici are buried under the altar, but Michelangelo did not have enough time to complete tombs for them.

Tomb of Giuliano de' Medici with Day and Night sculptures
Tomb of Giuliano de' Medici with Day and Night sculptures

The sumptuous Chapel of the Princes, built between 1604 and 1640 by the architect Matteo Nigetti, following a plan by Don Giovanni de’ Medici, was intended to highlight the Medici dynasty’s prestige and status on the Tuscan throne, with its grand dome and interior, lavishly decorated with precious marbles. The octagonal room, built to house the grand dukes’ remains, is covered nearly wall to wall in pietre dure (precious stone) and marble, with grand sarcophagi complete with bronze statues within their niches.

Since Autumn 2023, following a complex and extraordinary restoration work, the museum of the Medici Chapels has been enriched with a new exit and new visiting spaces, such as the Lorraine Crypt, closed for decades, and the medieval walls , which emerged during the excavations. And the other news is the opening, from November 2023, of the "Michelangelo's secret room", which can be visited by the public for the first time ever after its discovery in 1975, during a preliminary inspection for restoration work: a small room, accessible from the New Sacristy, in which the master took refuge for a couple of months in 1530, to escape the Medici persecution, and wher the walls are covered by charcoal drawings attributed to Buonarroti.

Secret room of Michelangelo inside the Medici Chapels
Secret room of Michelangelo inside the Medici Chapels

Accessibility information:

Musei del Bargello - Cappelle Medicee
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