Basilica of San Lorenzo
The Basilica of San Lorenzo is Florence's oldest church and one of its largest. The grand, domed monument ironically started as a simple Romanesque structure, built in 393. But several centuries later, the Medici family lavished its funding on this church in the center of Florence to make it the influential family's parish church. They brought in the best architects and artists of the day to completely restyle and rebuild the church into a Medici legacy.
Brunelleschi was given the commission for the overall design. The huge dome surmounting the structure mimics that of the Duomo, the famed cathedral dome that Brunelleschi constructed, and was his most visible accomplishment. The dome at San Lorenzo caps the Cappella dei Principi (Prince's Chapel), which is the Medici mausoleum behind the high altar. The frescoes and mosaic flooring are opulent. The other Medici chapel, the New Sacristy, was designed by Michelangelo, who also provided the plans for the gorgeous Laurentian Library, built to house the family's extensive collection of manuscripts and books. He also designed the desks and ceiling, as well as the staircase leading to the library. His sculptures bedeck the tombs of in the chapel.
While the extravagant chapels are the main monuments for the Medici family, a simple marker in front of the altar signals the modest grave of Cosimo, the patriarch of the Medici dynasty. The bronze pulpits in the nave across from this marker were done by Donatello in defining detail.
The overall effect of the design is one of symmetry that uses arches and columns to provide order and balance, a hallmark of Brunelleschi's designs as well as the overarching feature of the Renaissance in general. Interestingly, the facade has never been finished. While Michelangelo submitted several plans that would have faced it in Carrara marble, it remains a rough, stone Romanesque entrance, perhaps as a tribute to its simple origins.
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Address in Florence:
Piazza di San Lorenzo, 9.