The Story of the San Lorenzo Complex in Florence

San Lorenzo - cloister Photo by Victoria DeMaio

The Medici family acquired enormous power and wealth as bankers and financiers influencing the legacy of Florence and Tuscany for centuries. From Cosimo the Elder in the 15th century to the last Medici descendant in the 18th century, they were avid collectors and patrons of the arts.

The San Lorenzo neighborhood in central Florence is where they built Palazzo Medici Riccardi and what is known as the San Lorenzo Complex including: the Medici Chapels, San Lorenzo Basilica, the Laurentian Library, and the San Lorenzo Treasure Museum.

San Lorenzo Basilica Photo by Victoria DeMaio

Laurentian Library Photo by Victoria DeMaio

At the heart of the complex is San Lorenzo Basilica, the official parish church of the Medici family and where they celebrated great ceremonies including marriages, baptisms, and funerals. The unfinished façade belies the spectacular interior including Donatello’s glorious bronze pulpits.

Basilica interior Photo by Victoria DeMaio

Basilica interior Photo by Victoria DeMaio
Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to design the Laurentian Library in order to house the precious collection of family manuscripts. Michelangelo personally directed the work between 1523 and 1534 and it was completed in 1571.

Laurentian Library Interior photo by Victoria DeMaio

Entering, your eye is immediately drawn to the Ammannati’s impressive stone staircase built according to Michelangelo’s model and the perfect entrance to the splendid library.

Staircase Photo By Victoria DeMaio

The elegant reading room with its stunning wood carved ceiling and two parallel rows of wooden benches are based on Michelangelo’s drawings. The intricately designed red and white floor tiles and exquisite stained glass windows by Vasari featuring the Medici coat of arms perfectly complement Michelangelo’s superb design.

Library - reading room Photo by Victproa DeMaio

-Library tile floors Photo by Victoria DeMaio

 Library - stained glass window Photo by Victoria DeMaio

Cosimo the Elder, and Donatello are both entombed in the basement of the basilica. Some of the exquisite religious objects and reliquaries from the basilica are on display in the nearby Treasure Museum.

Donatello tomb Photo by Victoria DeMaio

12 -Cosimo the Elder - tomb Photo by Victoria DeMaio

Thanks to the last Medici descendant, Anna Maria Luisa, the vast Medici collections were bequeathed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the 18th century with the intention that they be enjoyed and admired by everyone. And, there is no doubt that this gift hasenriched us all.

Reliquary 1 Photo by Victoria DeMaio

Reliquary 2 Photo by Victoria DeMaio

–Victoria De Maio
La dolce vita sums up Victoria’s passion and love for all things Italian. An American living in California, her heart is always in Italy. As a travel consultant, blogger, and writer, Victoria loves sharing practical no-nonsense travel tips and insights on her travel blog, and invites you to join her there as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Italian Notebook, and L’Italo-Americano. She now offers three boutique tours to Italy (Puglia, the Italian Riviera, and Tuscany) and has just published her first book (about Italy, of course!). Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style is now available on Amazon.

Concierge tip: Enjoy the luxury of the Relais Santa Croce and taste traditional Tuscan cuisine over a gourmet dinner at the Guelfi e Ghibellini Restaurant

See also

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  • Venice - Baglioni Hotel LunaBook
  • Rome - Baglioni Hotel ReginaBook
  • Florence - Relais Santa Croce Book
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  • London - Baglioni HotelBook
  • Saint-Paul-de-Vence -
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  • Aix-en-Provence - Villa Gallici Book