Basilica di San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo Church Florence

San Lorenzo church, also known as Basilica di San Lorenzo (Basilica of St. Lawrence) is located at the centre of Florence city’s main square. It is one of the largest and oldest churches in all of Italy, and holds extreme significance due to the fact that most of the high ranking members of the Medici family are buried here.

The church remained Florence’s cathedral for a period of three hundred years after which the Bishop’s official seat was transferred to Santa Reparata. The church was offered to be redesigned and rebuilt by Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, so that the 11th century Romanesque building could be altered. But, the work did not start until the 15th century. Filippo Brunelleschi was allocated the task of designing the building, but the reconstruction and alterations were completed after his death.

Although the task of designing and completing the church was given to Brunelleschi, however, the design that was followed is not purely his work.

The construction began in 1419, but came to a halt due to lack of funds, and several changes were made to the original design. By 1440, only the sacristy had been constructed and much work needed to be accomplished before the church could be completed.  The Medici family took over the financial issues in 1442, however, just four years later Brunelleschi passed away.

After this the responsibility of constructing the church was given to Antonio Manetti or Michelozzo; there is a debate among who was given the task. This spectacular building’s construction was finally completed in 1459, but it was remarkably different from Brunelleschi’s touch. Even so the church has been built magnificently, and is suggestive of the era in which it was built.

It is a wonderful example of the new style of Renaissance architecture. The columns, entablatures, and arches all integrated with one another, show the complex design and structure of the building. The façade has been designed using white Carrara marble, a fine example of the work produced by Michelangelo. Before the actual construction took place, Michelangelo had made a wooden model; however, he was only able to make the internal facade. The doors have been built with oak and laurel, while, the balcony stands on two of the Corinthian columns.

The Sacrestia Vecchia (Old Sacristy) was designed also by Brunelleschi and is an example of the depth he wanted to create in the architecture of the whole church. It contains the tombs of four members of the Medici family, and it was composed of a sphere on top of a cube can be reached through the north transept. Opposite the old Sacristy is the famous Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy), realized by Michelangelo Buonarroti in the years from 1521 to 1534.

This was designed and created by Michelangelo along with the Medici tombs, which are situated within the church.  It consists of three registers, the largest of which is topped with a pendentive dome. The interior walls remind you of the early styles of Renaissance architecture, with sculptural elements which are unique to Michelangelo’s artistry.

Cappelle Medici (Medici Chapels), which is located in the apse, is the most famous part of San Lorenzo. The place holds a sense of grandeur as the prominent members of the Medici family are buried there.

There are up to 50 members of the Medici family, whose burial took place in this crypt. Bernardo Buontalenti finally designed the crypt, after taking inspiration from Alessandro Pieroni and Matteo Nigetti.

Over this crypt is the Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes), which is the resting place of the Grand Dukes. The room is built in an awkward fashion, with an Octagonal domed hall. Though awkward, the style is quite attractive, with its asymmetrical sized windows, decoration with colored marbles, broken cornices and eccentric design.

Numerous works of art are present in the church, by some of the most famous artists, like Filippo Lippi, Bronzino, Donatello, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Verrocchio, Rosso Fiorentino, etc. The church is surrounded by an aura, reminiscent of the medieval times, and is worth visiting while touring the picturesque city of Florence, Tuscany.

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