San Lorenzo, Florence
San Lorenzo counts as one of the major sites of art in the Western world. The church of St Laurence, the Old Sacristy, the New Sacristy, the Princes' Chapel and the Laurenziana Library are works of the highest architectural importance in their own right and contain priceless art treasures. It was here, in their parish church, that the Medici, unrivaled as patrons, spurred on the artists of their city - Brunelleschi, Donatello and Michelangelo - to even greater achievements.
San Lorenzo Map
Address: Piazza San Lorenzo, I-50100 Florence, Italy
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Closed: Sun
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €2.50
Useful tips: Photography prohibited.
Transit: Bus: 1, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 31, 32, 36, 37.
San Lorenzo Highlights
Piazza San Lorenzo
Among the stalls selling souvenirs, clothing, etc., to the right of the facade in the Piazza San Lorenzo, can be found the monument to Giovanni delle Bande Nere (1360-1429), father of Cosimo I and founder of the ducal Medici dynasty (by Baccio Bandinelli, 1540).
Brunelleschi's light, harmonious interior of the church displays the clear-cut articulation of Renaissance architecture: a beautiful marble pavement, columns with Corinthian capitals supporting the broad arches, an intricate coffered ceiling with delicate rosettes. The harmonious proportions of the church's side chapels, aisles and nave denote architecture of the highest order.
At the end of the nave are two bronze pulpits by Donatello, the artist's final masterpiece (ca. 1460), completed by his pupils Bartolomeo Bellano and Bertoldo di Giovanni, vividly depicting scenes from the life of Christ and the saints.
Above the door to the cloister is a marble balcony thought to have been designed by Donatello. Opposite Donatello's bronze pulpit is a fresco by Agnolo Bronzini, "Martyrdom of St Laurence" (1569).
Left Arm of the Transept
In the Cappella Martelli (left) are a diptych by Filippo Lippi, "Annunciation" (1440; on the altar), one of his major works, and a monument to Donatello (1896) by Dario Guidotti and Raffaello Romanelli.
From the left aisle a door leads to the cloister, built in the style of Brunelleschi (1475).A door on the first floor leads to the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana.
The left arm of the transept leads into the Sagrestia Vecchia (old sacristy). Intended by its founder, Giovanni Bicci de'Medici, to be a burial chapel but linked with the public function of a sacristy, it was Brunelleschi's first complete architectural work (1420-1428), and in its construction, articulation and proportions was to have a profound influence on European architecture.Here, too, the impact of the building is heightened by works of art. Four medallions under the dome show scenes from the life of St John the Evangelist and four stucco reliefs in the arches depict the seated Evangelists. Recently cleaned and restored the reliefs now shine forth again in the luminous colors of the Early Renaissance. These are all by Donatello as are the bronze doors in the apse representing martyrs and apostles in animated discourse. On the left-hand wall is the magnificent tomb of Piero and Giovanni de'Medici (sons of Cosimo the Elder) by Andrea Verrocchio (1472). Beneath the marble table in the center is the sarcophagus of Giovanni Bicci de'Medici and his wife Piccarda Bueri (the parents of Cosimo the Elder).
On the high altar is a "Crucifixion" by Baccio da Montelupe.
Opposite Donatello's bronze pulpit (in the side chapel) is a tabernacle by Desiderio da Settignano (1461). In the last chapel but one (going towards the exit) can be seen a painting by Rosso Fiorentino, "The Marriage of the Virgin" (1523).
The Biblioteca Laurenziana, built on to the church of San Lorenzo and its cloister (access to the Library is via the first floor of the cloister), owes its artistic importance, its architecture and its contents to the Medici family. The library was founded by Cosimo the Elder as a collection of documents and books and enlarged by Lorenzo the Magnificent. It was transferred to Rome but part of it was returned to Florence under Pope Clement VII (also a Medici), who gave orders for a building which gave the public access to the collection. Work started in 1524 to Michelangelo's designs.Despite the difficult external conditions - it had to be built on the weak foundations of a 13th century monastery - the library was consecrated in 1571. It shows that Michelangelo, who, after he left Florence in 1534, continued to take part in the building work by means of letters and models, was at the height of his powers as an architect. The importance of the Biblioteca Laurenziana as a work of art is due to the three-dimensional articulation of the facade, the vestibule and the reading room, the staircases, and the confident use of all the decorative elements of Renaissance architecture.The collection of manuscripts includes important papers from Ancient Egypt and valuable manuscripts by Napoleon.
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