The Medicea Laurenziana Library

Commissioned by Pope Clement VII, a Medici, to house the family’s precious collection of manuscripts, the Medicea Laurenziana Library (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana) was designed by Michelangelo, who personally directed the works from 1523 to 1534, the year in which he moved to Rome. The library was completed in 1571 by Giorgio Vasari and Bartolomeo Ammannati, whom Cosimo I de’ Medici had entrusted with finishing the work following Michelangelo’s design. It was opened to the public the same year.

The entrance hall, called a vestibule, is dominated by the great pietra serena stone stairway built by Ammannati in 1559, following the plans of Michelangelo who had, however, imagined it constructed in walnut.

At the top of the staircase, a large gate leads into the vast reading hall, one of the few 16th century areas that is almost perfectly preserved: here everything is original, from the lime wood ceiling carved by Giovan Battista del Tasso following Michelangelo’s design, to the magnificent windows with the Medici insignia designed by Giorgio Vasari, and finally the beautiful terracotta red and white floor designed by Niccolò Tribolo, Buonarroti’s pupil. The wooden benches, called plutei, that run in parallel lines along the two sides of the hall were created following Michelangelo’s design. They had the double function of bookstands and cupboards: the codexes were stored horizontally on the lower shelves, fastened to the bench with chains, and could be consulted freely.

Preserved to this day in the library, the original nucleus of codexes reflects the cultured humanistic atmosphere of the courts of Cosimo il Vecchio and Lorenzo il Magnifico. The precious manuscripts by Greek and Latin scholars are proof of the interest in classical authors that thrived at the Medici court thanks to the influence of Neoplatonic philosophy.

In the first decades of the 19th century, the Tribuna dell’Elci was added to the original spaces. The circular room was designed by Pasquale Poccianti to house the collection of manuscripts and antique volumes Florentine scholar and bibliophile Angelo Maria d’Elci had donated to the library.

The Basilica

Giovanni di Bicci, forefather of the Medici family, entrusted Filippo Brunelleschi with the reconstruction of the San Lorenzo basilica. He managed the huge construction site until his death in 1446. In 1461 the project was completed by Brunelleschi’s biographer and heir, Antonio Manetti. Despite some interventions in the 18th...

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The Medici Chapels

The Medici Chapels (Cappelle Medicee) complex, which may be reached through the apse area of the San Lorenzo Basilica, includes the lavish Mausoleum of the Princes (Mausoleo dei Principi) and Michelangelo’s New Sacristy (Sagrestia Nuova), designed as the Medici family funeral chapel.   The New Sacristy Conceived by Pope...

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The Medicea Laurenziana Library

Commissioned by Pope Clement VII, a Medici, to house the family’s precious collection of manuscripts, the Medicea Laurenziana Library (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana) was designed by Michelangelo, who personally directed the works from 1523 to 1534, the year in which he moved to Rome. The library was completed in 1571...

Read

Download the Opera Medicea Laurenziana app

Fifteen video clips, more than 50 high-resolution photographs, three-dimensional reconstructions of the basilica, the monumental outbuildings and 3 projects of the facade of Giuliano da Sangallo, Raphael and Michelangelo. You can have it for free by asking our staff inside the Basilica or or by downloading it from the store.

Available for smartphones and tablets

Online Tickets

You can buy your ticket online, you will be entitled to skip any queues at the ticket office.

Closed on:

Friday 12th May all day
Thursday 25th May mornign
Monday 29th May all day