The Medici Family

Language Italian
Price 1,00 EUR for excursion
Capacity Group of more than 10 people
Duration 3 hours

On this tour we deal with the rise of the Medici family and the relationship between political power and art. The tour starts with a visit of Palazzo Medici Riccardi, one of the main residences of the first branch of the Medici family; this is where Michelangelo lived for a while, since he was a close friend of Lorenzo Il Magnifico.

The palace exterior, with its heavily rusticated stonework, gives the impression of a quite austere residence, but when you look at the Renaissance courtyard, supported by columns and round arches, you discover a jewel of classical elegance. The palace became a model for many other palaces built in town by rich merchants and bankers.

Then we wander through the colourful street market to the Church of San Lorenzo, to see Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy, the pulpits by Donatello, the Laurenthian Library with Michelangelo’s elegantly sweeping staircase.

The Church of San Lorenzo, was Florence’s cathedral until the 8th century. From the early 15th century, the Medici family had the church entirely rebuilt in the new Renaissance style. It became their private church, where baptisms, weddings and funerals of the family members were celebrated.

The Old Sacristy, planned by Brunelleschi, is a masterpiece of the early Florentine Renaissance in which, for the first time, the artist achieves his ideal of perfectly geometrical architecture. Inspired by Classical Roman buildings, the main hall is shaped like a cube topped by an umbrella shaped dome.

This private burial chapel commissioned by the Medici Family was decorated by works of some of the greatest Renaissance artists: Donatello, who made the painted stucco roundels decorating the vault and the bronze gates, Andrea del Verrocchio who sculpted the impressive porphyry funeral monument to Piero and Giovanni de' Medici. This large sarcophagus, inspired by classical models, was reproduced by Verrocchio’s pupil Leonardo da Vinci in his “Announciation” which we can today admire in the Uffizi Gallery.

After Brunelleschi’s death in 1446, the completion of the Basilica was entrusted to Antonio Manetti Ciaccheri, who made substantial changes in the shape and proportions of the original plan. The Old Sacristy is the only work by Brunelleschi that has remained unchanged and entirely reflects the principles of the new architecture of the Renaissance.

We round off the tour with the Medici Chapels, the private mausoleum of the Medici Grand Dukes, where you can admire Michelangelo’s New Sacristy and his Medici Tombs.

The New Sacristy was commissioned by Pope Leo X and built between 1520 and 1555. Michelangelo took the plan of Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy and converted it into a structure filled with motion and tension, animated by the recesses and projections of the walls, the windows which get narrower towards the top, and the chiaroscuro effect of the coffered dome, inspired by the Pantheon.

Michelangelo was also supposed to make monumental tombs for Lorenzo the Magnificent, his brother Giuliano, Lorenzo Duke of Urbino and Giuliano Duke of Nemours, but by the time he left Florence, in 1534, he had completed only the last two.

The Medici Dukes are represented seated like two classical Roman warriors. On the arched covers of the marble coffins we can admire the powerful personifications of Dusk and Dawn, Day and Night, some of the most significant examples of Michelangelo’s sculpture.

The remains of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother were moved from the Old Sacristy and interred into the New one, but their funeral monuments were never completed.

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