According to popular tradition, San Lorenzo was built thanks to a gift by Giuliana, a Jewish matron. Consecrated cathedral in 393 by Sant'Ambrosio, it was dedicated to San Lorenzo Martire. Virtually nothing of the original construction has survived.
The church was rebuilt by Bishop Gherardo of Burgundy and consecrated anew in 1050. In 1418 the Medici Family decided to adopt it as their church. They assigned the task of renovating the building to Brunelleschi, who finished most of it in 1421, and completed the Sagrestia Vecchia before 1429. Following his death, Antonio Manetti, who modified some aspects of the original plans, in 1461, finished the church.
The facade remained naked stone despite plans drawn up by Michelangelo at the request of Pope Leo X. The wooden model for it is in Casa Buonarroti. The interior of the church is divided into three aisles by arched colonnades that are matched by side chapels. The ceilings of the side aisles are vaulted, while the ceiling of the central nave is carved wood. Despite some 18th century modifications the church still displays an astonishing sense of unity.
The Sagrestia Vecchia is one of Brunelleschi's first architectural creations. Commissioned by Giovanni di Bicci de'Medici as his private chapel, it is dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist. The chapel is square, and is capped by a hemispherical dome with ribs in grey stone. Following the restoration carried out between 1985 and 1989, one can admire the stuccos and reliefs in their original colours.
To the right of the basilica is the entrance to the cloisters, which were expanded and restructured by Michelangelo. The entrance to the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Italy's most important library, is on the second floor. Ammannati, who followed Michelangelo’s plans, in 1559, built the renowned stairs of the entrance. The library is open to the public from 9 to 1, except Sundays.
For any information:
Basilica di San Lorenzo
Piazza S. Lorenzo (055 216634).
Open 7am-noon, 3.30-6.30pm.