The history of Medici Family, the Masters of Florence
The history of Florence could not be told without recalling the events of the Medici, the Masters of Florence. This family, that has in fact managed the destiny of the ‘lily town’ from the fifteenth century until the beginning of the eighteenth century, left such an immense heritage of palaces, sculptures and paintings that in this day forms the main reason for which Florence is visited and admired by the whole world.
From the core of the town, not far from the religious centre consisting in the Duomo and the Baptistery, we begin the Medici Family Masters of Florence tour; our first place to visit is Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the first example of a Renaissance palace in Florence that dates back to the middle of the fifteenth century. Entering the beautiful Chapel of the Trinity, better known as the Chapel of the Magi, we will admire the elegant procession of courtiers and knights – exotically fashioned – that were painted by Benozzo Gozzoli within a cycle of frescos that is among the most fascinating of that time both for beauty and for the symbolic complexity of the figures represented.
The mausoleum church of San Lorenzo
Leaving the Palace, we move on towards the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the mausoleum church of the Medici family. It’s inside this building where we are able to see the ‘Sagrestia Vecchia’ (the old Sacristy), the first sepulchral nucleus of the Medici family, built by the renowned architect Filippo Brunelleschi – the same one who was the author of the Cathedral’s dome. The interior of this chapel is truly suggestive since it embodies the architectonic ‘purity’ conceived by Brunelleschi; here is preserved – among others – the Piero the gouty’s tomb, a magnificent work by Andrea del Verrocchio. This environment also attests to the refined culture of the Medici family as evidenced by the suggestive starry sky painted in the dome above the chapel altar, a work where even some signs of the Zodiac are recognisable.
The burial of Cosimo ‘il Vecchio’
Also in the San Lorenzo church, we will see the tomb of the first important member of the Medici family: Cosimo ‘il vecchio’ (the elder); the burial of this enterprising merchant – Pater Patriæ – retains some great
From the church of San Lorenzo we go outside to see how the history of the Medici is also intertwined with the artistic story of Michelangelo Buonarroti. The great genius was in fact a protege of Lorenzo the Magnificent who is said to have wanted to carry out some of his first works for him.
However, the great relationship did not last long: after the death of the Magnificent something went wrong and with Lorenzo’s successors it can be said that the relationship was authentically one of love-hate.
A demonstration of this is offered by the facade of the church of San Lorenzo which, in its current gaunt appearance, still bears the signs of mishaps that arose between a member of the family and Buonarroti. We will find out together what happened.
Michelangelo and the Medici: a complex relationship
If the façade of San Lorenzo was one of the first incidents between the Medici and Michelangelo, we continue our tour by going to see what other vicissitudes linked the clients with the sculptor, almost forced to create works in marble that today in reality, as we will see , are among the great masterpieces of Michelangelo in Florence together with David.
The Medici Chapels
We conclude our Medici family Florence tour by visiting two emblematic places for the history of the family. Part of an independent museum itinerary from the church of San Lorenzo, the chapels are two environments that can be visited in a single itinerary which, due to the wealth of works of art, represent a unicum in the Florentine artistic context. The first of the two, called the ‘Cappella dei Principi‘ (Princes Chapel), houses the monumental tombs of the members of the family who assumed the office of dukes.
Within this majestic environment we will have the opportunity to see one of the most typical Florentine craftsmanship up close: the semi-precious stone clerk, one of the most prestigious manufactories of all time, inaugurated by Duke Ferdinando I who, at the end of the sixteenth century, established the ‘Opificio delle Pietre dure, still today a reality of excellence in the restoration of stone materials and at the time one of the most complex handicrafts in Europe.
The last room we will visit with the Medici family Florence tour is the ‘Sagrestia Nuova’ (New Sacristy). Space designed by Michelangelo to preserve the remains of Giuliano Duke of Nemours and Lorenzo Duke of Urbino, today this environment is the casket that collects the masterpieces of the great genius: the allegories of Day and Night, Dawn and Twilight, between the most emblematic and fascinating works of the master.