Architecture Around the World

Basilica of San Lorenzo
Florence, Italy
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2005 photo in the public domain on Wikipedia

1960's postcard

East façade, front Romanesque entrance

East façade, front Romanesque entrance at right

Across the street from the previous photo

Covered stalls in the San Lorenzo outdoor Market

North elevation features blind arches

Renaissance dome and bell gable

Baroque lantern and Renaissance cupola of the Medici Chapel


San Lorenzo was also the parish church of the Medici family. Note the 5 balls, symbol of the family









Spiral columns

Baroque spiral Composite gilded capita

Twisted column shaft


Nave ceiling: coffered...... Side aisle ceilings: vaulted

Nave ceiling: coffered rosettes

Side aisle ceilings: vaulted barrel roof

Nave and side aisles are separated by arcades supported by columns

Balustraded balcony




Canons' Cloister

Canons' Cloister

Canons' Cloister

Canons' Cloister

Canons' Cloister, added to San Lorenzo in the 15th century and designed by Filippo Brunelleschi


Loggia supported by Roman Ionic columns

Baluster on Ionic capital

Corbel decorated with volutes and palmettes


The Basilica of San Lorenzo is the church and the hub of a monumental religious complex in Florence. The religious complex includes as well the Cappelle Medicee (Medici Chapels) and the Biblioteca Mediceo- Laurenziana (Medicean-Laurentian Library). It is one of the largest churches of Florence, situated at the center of the city's main market district. It is one of several churches that claim to be the oldest in Florence. It is widely regarded as one of the city's purest Renaissance churches and was the very first church in this style to be built in the city

The original church was consecrated by St. Ambrose of Milan and dedicated to San Lorenzo Martire (St. Lawrence) in 393.

It was then rebuilt along Romanesque lines in 1060. For three hundred years it was the city's cathedral before eventually losing the status to Santa Reparata.

In 1419, Giovanni de Bicci de'Medici, the first patron of the arts in the Medici family and father of Cosimo the Elder, offered to finance a new church to replace the Romanesque building. Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), the leading
Renaissance architect of the first half of the fifteenth century, was commissioned to design it. By 1421, Brunelleschi had finished most of it, except for the facade, which was left uncompleted, After Brunelleschi's death, the church was finished in 1460 probably by his student Antonio Manetti (1447-1460) who modified some aspects of the original plans.

At the request of Pope Leo X, a member of the Medici family, Michelangelo supplied designs in white Carrara marble in 1518 for the unfinished Romanesque facade, but the plans were never implemented, so the bare bricks are still visible and to this day nobody has financed a fitting facade.

Until the extinction of the Medici dynasty, the Basilica was the parish church of the family.


The Renaissance interior is huge, cool and airy and is lined with chapels. Brunelleschi produced an innovative project, dramatically different from the classical style of churches with their almost mystical lighting, creating a church where the light is allowed to penetrate and illuminate all of the building's architectural features.

The very long rectangular nave is divided from the side aisles by arched colonnades with Corinthian capitals in soft dark stone. The correct use of the Corinthian order for the capitals was also new and a testament to Brunelleschiís studies of ancient Roman architecture.

The ceilings of the side aisles are vaulted, while the ceiling of the central nave is carved wood with a profusion of coffered rosettes

Old Sacristy

Between 1422 and 1428, Brunelleschi worked on the Medici burial ground, thereafter called the Old Sacristy, which was the first accomplished cultural and artistic message of the early Renaissance. This is the burial place of most members of the Medici family, including Cosimo "the Elder" and Lorenzo "the Magnificent" (whose tombstone sculptures were carved by Michelangelo).

Opening off the north transept is the domed Sagresta Vecchia (Old Sacristy), the oldest part of the present church, which contains the tombs of several members of the Medici family. It was the only part of the church completed in Brunelleschi's lifetime.

Canons' Cloister

Attached to San Lorenzo is the Canons' Cloister. Work on the cloister began around 1420 by Brunelleschi. The cloister has an open-air garden with lemon trees and other plants. On the walls, one finds plaques commemorating various events.

Photos and their arrangement © 2006 Chuck LaChiusa
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