The Medici family acquired enormous power and wealth as bankers and financiers influencing the legacy of Florence and Tuscany for centuries. From Cosimo the Elder in the 15th century to the last Medici descendant in the 18th century, they were avid collectors and patrons of the arts.
The San Lorenzo neighborhood in central Florence is where they built Palazzo Medici Riccardi and what is known as the San Lorenzo Complex including: the Medici Chapels, San Lorenzo Basilica, the Laurentian Library, and the San Lorenzo Treasure Museum.
At the heart of the complex is the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the official parish church of the Medici family and where they celebrated great ceremonies including marriages, baptisms, and funerals. The unfinished façade belies the spectacular interior including Donatello’s glorious bronze pulpits.
Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to design the Laurentian Library in order to house the precious collection of family manuscripts. Michelangelo personally directed the work between 1523 and 1534 and it was completed in 1571.
Entering, your eye is immediately drawn to the Ammannati’s impressive stone staircase built according to Michelangelo’s model and the perfect entrance to the splendid library.
The elegant reading room with its stunning wood carved ceiling and two parallel rows of wooden benches are based on Michelangelo’s drawings.The intricately designed red and white floor tiles and exquisite stained glass windows by Vasari featuring the Medici coat of arms perfectly complement Michelangelo’s superb design.
Cosimo the Elder, and Donatello are both entombed in the basement of the basilica. Some of the exquisite religious objects and reliquaries from the basilica are on display in the nearby Treasure Museum.
Thanks to the last Medici descendant, Anna Maria Luisa, the vast Medici collections were bequeathed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the 18th century with the intention that they be enjoyed and admired by everyone.
And, there is no doubt that this gift has enriched us all!