The Church of San Lorenzo (Basilica di San Lorenzo) is the one religious establishment in Florence which calls forth the keen collaboration between Michelangelo and the Medici family, given that the church has long been under the patronage of the Medici – and in fact, next to the adjoining Medici Chapel and the Laurentian Library (Biblioteca Laurenziana), the Church is one fine example of the heritage handed down to Florence by the Medici – and that Michelangelo carried out an extensive creative activity in view of honoring his patrons’ commission. The Church of San Lorenzo used to be the oldest cathedral of Florence (its site being filled by a former religious edifice dating back to the late 4th century), long before this statute pertained to Santa Maria Reparata and, subsequently, to Santa Maria dei Fiori.

San Lorenzo features some architectural discrepancies due to the fact that the design of first architect commissioned to turn the old medieval edifice into a new Renaissance establishment in 1419, that is, Filippo Brunelleschi (the one who has also conceived the structure of the dome of Santa Maria dei Fiori) was not complied with by its successors (either Antonio Manetti or Michelozzo, there is still a debate on this issue). However, the elements of the work carried out by Brunelleschi are in perfect coherence with each other, and they refer to the cloister (which also provides the access to the Laurentian Library), the Old Sacristy (where several members of the Medici family are entombed), the columns with beautiful Corinthian capitals, the pavement made of marble and the overall proportionate dash of Renaissance architectural joints.

Michelangelo’s work is chiefly visible in his design of the Laurentian Library and of the New Sacristy (part of the Medici Chapel), the latter being populated by a plethora of sculptural masterpieces, again owed to Michelangelo. Though the work of Michelangelo to the New Sacristy remained uncompleted, it is a substantiation of Michelangelo’s architectural, sculptural and pictorial ingenuity. The Medici Chapel as such – which is a separate entity, as is were, being, as compared to the Church of San Lorenzo, an autonomous museum in its own right – comprises another chamber, namely, the Chapel of the Princes, deemed by some an array of eclectic elements and techniques failing to achieve the grandness of what was initially intended (that is, the greatest funerary chamber ever to be build by man). The bottom line is the Church of San Lorenzo outrivals its drawbacks by clustering a consistent amount of valuable masterpieces. Thus, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi aside, one should always want to pay attention to Donatello’s bronze pulpits (the last work of this Renaissance artist), friezes and bas-reliefs, Filippo Lippi’s Altarpiece and Verrocchio’s tomb of Giovanni Medici and Piero Medici in the Old Sacristy. As a further curiosity, Donatello is buried in the Church of San Lorenzo.

Basilica di San Lorenzo
Piazza San Lorenzo, Florence
Telephone number:
0039 (0)55 216 634