For 300 years it has been Florence’s Cathedral and then the favourite church by the Medici family
For a long time San Lorenzo Basilica was the most important church in Florence, until it was replaced by the Church of Santa Reparata, later become the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It is located close to San Lorenzo Market, just a few steps from the Duomo and the Baptistery. It was consecrated in 393, and it was the cathedral for 300 years when it was replaced by Santa Reparata. In 1059 there was the first expansion, and in 1419 the Medici decided to enlarge it thanks to Filippo Brunelleschi. The result is the first masterpiece of the Renaissance that would have become a reference point for all religious architecture.
The rough façade hides some wonders
You’ll be astonished by the contrast between the rough stone of the outer façade and the interior harmony. It is divided into three naves with Corinthian columns and arches of grey stone, contrasting with the white plaster of the walls. The inner side of the façade is by Michelangelo.
The interior will remind you the art of Brunelleschi, the genius who could build the various parts of a building and connect them all on a straight mathematical relationships creating a great sense of beauty and harmony of the place. The most astonishing work is The Marriage of the Virgin of Rosso Fiorentino, the great work of the Florentine Mannerism in which around Mary and Joseph there is a joyous celebration.
Always on the right side, there are The Pala del Sacramento of Desiderio da Settignano and a bronze pulpit by Donatello on which are beautifully sculpted scenes from the Old Testament. A similar pulpit is also in the left aisle.
The Martelli Chapel and the Annunciation by Filippo Lippo
In the left transept there is the Martelli Chapel, with a sarcophagus of the Martelli family by Donatello and Martelli Annunciation by Filippo Lippi (1450). After a 2-year restoration, the painting is back to shine in its original colours.
The Old Sacristy
From the left transept you can go to the Old Sacristy in which the genius of Brunelleschi joined to the one of Donatello. The Sacristy has the shape of a cube, surmounted by a dome. The chapel, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, is divided into 12 segments.
The frescoed ceiling reproduces the position of the stars and planets on Florence during the
night of July 4th 1442. Donatello made the decoration with cherubims and seraphims , the
Evangelists on the walls and the Stories of San Giovanni Evangelista in Stories on the dome.
Donatello realized also the shutters of the doors. On the left wall there is the tomb of Giovanni and Piero de’Medici, the sons of CosimoilVecchio, commissioned to Verrocchio in 1472 by the sons of Piero, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giuliano de’ Medici.
The New Sacristy and the Medici Chapels
This sacristy is on the opposite side of the old one but you can access to it from the Medici Chapels, whose entrance is independent and is located on the backside of San Lorenzo. For information on the New Sacristy and the Medici Chapels, visit our page Medici Chapels.
Cloisters and Laurentian Library
Close to the Basilica there are the Cloisters and the Laurentian Library which is a major research centre at national and international level as well as a destination for tourists attracted by the beauty of the structures. The “Reading Room and the Library entrance” were designed by Michelangelo between 1524 and 1534. Before entering into the library you can enjoy a little bit of peace in the two cloisters closed to the Basilica. The most beautiful one is the cloister called “the Canons”, with a beautiful loggia with two floors and a beautiful garden. The buildings around the cloisters were used for canons residence, but today are used mainly for residence and offices of the Laurentian Library, stores and warehouses. From the first floor of the main cloister there is the Vestibule of the Library, which then leads to the monumental hall
Information to visit to the Basilica of San Lorenzo
Address: Old Town.
How to get there: by feet
Opening hours: every weekday from 10am to 5 pm
Sunday from 1:30 to 5:30 pm from March to October
Tickets: full price € 4.50.