Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana Basilica San Lorenzo Cappella dei Principi
The Medici Chapels form part of a monumental complex developed over almost two centuries in close connection with the adjoining church of S. Lorenzo, considered the "official" church of the Medici
The decision to build their mausoleum in this church dates back to the 14th century (Giovanni di Bicci and his wife Piccarda were for instance buried in the Old Sacristy, built on a project of Brunelleschi). The project of building a proper family mausoleum was conceived in 1520, `when Michelangelo started working at the New Sacristy upon request ot Cardinal Giulio de` Medici, the future Pope Clemens VII
The Medici Chapels (Cappelle medicee) are two structures at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and built as extensions to Brunelleschi's 15th-century church, with the purpose of celebrating the Medici family, patrons of the church and Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The Sagrestia Nuova, ("New Sacristy"), was designed by Michelangelo. The larger Cappella dei Principi, ("Chapel of the Princes"), though proposed in the 16th century, was not begun until the early 17th century, its design being a collaboration between the family and architects.
Cappella dei Principi Chapel of the Princes This Chapel is yet another grandiose and pompous mausoleum erected between 1604 and 1640 by the architect Matteo Nigetti to the designs of Giovanni de` Medici, the natural son of Cosimo I, who practised architecture in a semi- professional manner. The Mausoleum was conceived to celebrate, with its large dome and lavish interior decorated with marbles, the power of the Medici dynasty, which had safely been ruling Florence for several centuries. The dome of the Cappella dei Principi dominates the San Lorenzo architectural complex.
The octagonal Cappella dei Principi surmounted by a tall dome, 59 m. high, that is the distinguishing feature of San Lorenzo when seen from a distance, stands centrally sited with respect to the nave, to which it provides the equivalent of an apsidal chapel. Its entrance is from the exterior, in Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini, and through the low vaulted crypt planned by Bernardo Buontalenti before plans for the chapel above were made.
The crypt is the part where minor members of the dynasty were unceremoniously laid to rest. In the 19th century it was tidied up and now includes numerous tomb slabs. From the Crypt, stairs lead up to the Chapel of Princes, a grand mausoleum for the Medici grand dukes. Along with the sculptural and architectural decorations, the museum displays the Treasure of the San Lorenzo Basilica: reliquaries and liturgical objects, great examples of Renaissance and Baroque goldsmith's art.
Crypt the simple and suggestive Tomb of Cosimo the Elder (by Verrocchio), inserted into the central pillar, and the Tomb of Donatello, whose plaque was placed there during a later period (18th century) Founder of one of the main lines of the Medici family, Cosimo was a patron of scholarship and the arts, including such figures as Donatello and Filippo Brunelleschi
In San Lorenzo Basilica head over to the altar and you will see a roped off square on the marble floor – this is the sign for the tomb of Cosimo d’Medici. He was named “Father of the City” and this was inscribed on his tomb. Symbolically, Cosimo is there before the altar helping bring the peoples’ prayers to God (as the prayers come from the nave up to the altar, they cross over Cosimo’s tomb)
The vast Crypt leads to the Chapel of the Princes, which houses the grandiose funerary monuments of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany. It is an octagonal hall, wholly covered with semi-precious stones and rare marbles inlays, topped by a wide frescoed dome. Works started in 1604 by the architect Matteo Nigetti and went on for over two centuries.
The mausoleum consists of a huge octagonal structure with a diameter of 28 metres, clad in precious dark marbles and pietra dura, inspiring wonder and admiration from the time of its construction onwards. The pietra dura, mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli, and coral inlays at the base reproduce the coats of arms of sixteen Tuscan towns.
The six monumental sarcophagi lining the walls belong to the grand dukes Ferdinando II, Cosimo II, Ferdinando I, Cosimo I, Francis I and Cosimo III. The second and third sarcophagi are surmounted by colossal gilded bronze statues made by Pietro and Ferdinando Tacca between 1626 and 1642.
The rich inlaid decoration was made by the grand ducal workshops, joint together to form the Opificio delle pietre Dure (Semi-precious Stones Workshop).
Being one of the famous artistic workshops of the Italian Renaissance, the Opificio was established in 1588 at the behest of Ferdinando I de' Medici to provide the elaborate, inlaid precious and semi-precious stoneworks
The technique, which originated from Byzantine inlay work, was perfected by the Opificio masters and the artworks they produced became known as "opere di Commessi Mediceo" (commesso is the old name of the technique, similar to ancient mosaics) and later as "Commesso in Pietre Dure" (semi- precious stones mosaic).