Medici Chapels

The Medici Chapels form part of a monumental complex developed over almost two centuries in close connection with the adjoining church of San Lorenzo, considered the “official” church of the Medici family who lived in the neighbouring palace on Via Larga (it is now known as the Medici-Riccardi Palace.

The decision to build their family mausoleum in this church dates to the 14th century. The project of building a proper family mausoleum was conceived in 1520, when Michelangelo began work on the New Sacristy upon the request of Cardinal Giulio de Medici, the future Pope Clement VII, who expressed a desire to erect the mausoleum for some members of his family.

After completing the architectural works in 1524, Michelangelo worked until 1533 on the sculptures and the sarcophagi that were to be featured on the chapel walls. The only ones actually completed were the statues of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano; the Duke of Urbino; the Duke of Nemours; the statues four statues of the allegories of Day and Night, and Dawn and Dusk; and the group representing the Madonna and Child; they are flanked by statues of Saints Cosma and Damian (protectors of the Medici), executed respectively by Montorsoli and Baccio da Montelupo, both of whom were pupils of Michelangelo.

The articulation of the architecture structure and the strength of Michelangelo’s sculptures reflect a complex symbolism of Human Life, where “active life” and “contemplative life” interact to free the soul after death, a philosophical concept closely linked to Michelangelo’s own spirituality.

Numerous drawings by Michelangelo were found in a small space beneath the apse, and may be related to the statues and architecture of the Sacristy.Museums in Florence