medici chapels, florence (michelangelo)

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  The Medici Chapels  

Address: Piazza Madonna

The Medici Chapels form part of the monumental complex of San Lorenzo, whose building history lasts from the first years of the fifteenth century until the early seventeenth. The church of San Lorenzo was the official church of the Medici from their period as private residents in their palace in Via Larga (now via Cavour), becoming their mausoleum up to the time of the extinction of the line. Giovanni de' Bicci de' Medici (died 1429) was the first who wished to be buried there with his wife Piccarda in the small Sacristy of Brunelleschi.

Later, his son Cosimo the Elder, was buried in the crossing of the church. The project for a family tomb was conceived in 1520 when Michelangelo began work on the New Sacristy, corresponding to the Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi on the other side of the church. It was above all Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, future Pope Clement VII who wished to erect a mausoleum for certain members of his family, Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano, and Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino and Giuliano, Duke of Nemours.

The architecture was complete by 1524, its white walls and pietra serena interior based on Brunelleschi. Michelangelo continued to work on the sculptures of the sarcophagi until 1533, but the only ones actually completed were the statues of the Dukes Lorenzo and Giuliano, the allegories of Dawn and Dusk, Night and Day and the group of Madonna and Child placed above the sarcophagus of the two "magnifici" and flanked by Saints Cosmas and Damian. The latter were executed by Montorsoli and Baccio di Montelupo, pupils of Michelangelo. As a result of the complex history of the chapel and its elaborate symbolism, many interpretations have been made of its sculptures. The poses of the two principal figures represent the Active and Contemplative lives while the famous statues on the sarcophagi probably refer to the conditions and phases of human life. The tombs also refer to the liberation of the soul after death, a philosophical concept closely linked with Michelangelo's own spirituality. In 1976, numerous drawings and sketches by Michelangelo executed as was often the case on walls, were discovered in a small space beneath the apse and sacristies of the church. These drawings, fifty-six in all, show legs, feet, heads and masks, and may be related to the statues and architecture of the Sacristy.

Medici Chapels Reservation

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