Medici Chapels


Info

The entrance of the Medici chapels is not via the main entrance of the San Lorenzo church but actually at the back of the church, in Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini.

Opening hours: Summer 8:15am–4:30pm. Winter 8:15am-1.30pm.

Closing days: Christmas Day, January 1 and May 1, second and fourth Sunday and first, third and fifth Monday of each month.

Admission: € 6.00 Concessions available. Higher price when exhibitions are held.


Description

The Medici chapels is reached through the back of the Basilica of San Lorenzo complex, where the entrance first opens onto a crypt that houses the tombs of the members of the older Medici family. The two staircases lead to the Chapel of the Princes on the floor above.

The Chapel of the Princes was designed to show the prestige and power of the Medici Grand Dukes. The grand room is topped by a frescoed dome, and decorated in pietre dure, which is made by exceptionally skillful inlaying of selected tones of coloured marble and stone, using the most precious and long-lasting materials: marble, granite, jasper, alabaster, lapis lazuli, and even coral and mother of pearl to adorn their masoleum. The Opificio delle Pietre Dure, a prestigious workshop of semi-precious stones founded by Ferdinand I, dedicated centuries of work to the decoration of the Chapel of the Princes.

The octagonal chapel has six niches dedicated to the funeral monument of each Grand Duke, identifiable by their name inscribed in letters of semi-precious stones above. The monumental tombs were to be completed by a bronze statue of each Duke, but only two of these were actually carried out. The dukes, full-length and larger than life, have been depicted as youthful and powerful, with the crown and scepter, symbols of the sacredness and power handed down for centuries from one Medici prince to another.

Leaving the Chapel of the Princes through the corridor one reaches the second half of the complex of the Medici Chapels, where to find the tombs of the members of the House of Medici. The New Sacristy is the genius of Michelangelo. It is a unique, monumental masterpiece of the artist in terms of architecture as well as sculpture.

Michelangelo, following the architectural model of Brunelleschi's Old Sacristy, constructed a cube-shaped room topped with a hemispherical dome where the architectural elements are highlighted with the use of pietra serena, grey stone, against white washed walls.

Michelangelo transforms Brunelleschi's model into a dynamic setting, with his use of contrasting tones and “sculptural architecture”, enlivening the space for the dramatic sculpture groups held within it.

The celebrated and elegant funeral monuments are ironically those of the lesser known Medici, who both died young.

There is a great difference in atmosphere and style from the Chapel of the Princes, holding the monuments of the Medici dukes and the New Sacristy by Michelangelo, with the monuments of the earlier, “unofficial” Medici rulers of the Renaissance. The former is ostentatious, grand, over-the-top with intensely decorated details and over life size sarcophagi and statues. The latter is elegant, subdued and understated, with use of the serene grey stones and white marble. These details really personify the figures whose memories they hold, and give a great idea as to how they were seen and known by the public.