Exploring Churches of Florence

Dylan Miller ’16 – Just steps away from Florence’s famous Duomo, the Palazzo Medici and the Church of San Lorenzo can be found. The Palazzo, or palace, was constructed in 1445 by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo and commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici, a member of the incredibly influential and wealthy Medici family of Florence. Cosimo rejected an original design for the palazzo from Brunelleschi, one of Florence’s most well known artists, because the design was too lavish and magnificent. Cosimo feared that the magnificence would arouse envy among citizens; so rather, Cosimo insisted the palazzo be viewed as a public ornament for the city. The idea of magnificence and envy are foundationally important concepts in Machiavelli’s theories.

The Medici Courtyard

The Medici Courtyard

The original palazzo was shaped like a cube with a combination of traditional styles of sandstone and rustication as well as Renaissance styles. The traditional styles are reminiscent of ancient Roman buildings, which make the important connection between Florence and the famous Roman Empire. This connection to Rome was linked to the idea of Roman virtue, which Florence, as well as many cities in Italy, wanted to emulate.

The palazzo has many elements that project the feel of a public space such as the loggias, the benches, a courtyard, and a garden. However, the private dominance of the Medici family is still architecturally present. The rise of the Medici family led to its fall in 1494 when the family was exiled from the city, the palazzo was confiscated, and their property was sold at the local Orsanmichele. However, it wasn’t long until the Medici family returned to Florence and their palazzo in 1512.

Just diagonal from the palazzo, the Church of San Lorenzo acts as the official church of the Medici family, the Medici family’s crypt, and a library. The Church of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, but the Medici family commission Brunelleschi in 1419 to rebuild it. The Church of San Lorenzo has many important elements to it. It houses the last works of Donatello, Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy, and the Laurentian library. The library was constructed by Michelangelo and contained the Medici family’s private collection. The proximity of these two Medicean buildings is an important spatial message. The neighborhood essentially became a Medici neighborhood, and their dominance is shown architecturally, which has very important political, cultural, religious, and economic implications.