Basilica of San Lorenzo Complex  - Table of Contents   ..................   Florence - Table of Contents     ....................   Architecture Around the World

Laurentian Library - Basilica of San Lorenzo Complex
Florence, Italy

Name origin:
Named in honor of Lorenzo de’ Medici (aka Il Magnifico) who was a great collector of ancient and modern texts and who greatly expanded Medici library at end of 15th century.
Built:
Commissioned in 1523 and construction began in 1525; however, when Michelangelo left Florence in 1534, only the walls of the reading room were complete.
It was then continued by Tribolo, Vasari, and Ammannati based on plans and verbal instructions from Michelangelo. The library opened by 1571.
Architect:
Michelangelo.
"This was to be another very important project for Michelangelo, because he made preparatory drawings for it and concerned himself with its construction for ten years before his definitive departure for Rome in 1534. However, he did not relinquish control of the project, monitoring the phases of building as the work was continued by his followers Giorgio Vasari and Bartolommeo Ammannati." - The Museums of Florence online May 2020) 
The library was not opened until 1571, seven years after Michelangelo’s death.
Style:
Mannerism
Patron:  Medici pope Clement VII
Contents:
Private library of the Medici family: 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 early printed books.
Distinction:
The Library is today considered one of the most valuable collections of ancient manuscripts in the world.

In the vestibule, some columns are engaged; in other places in library they appear to rest atop corbels. The inventive break with tradition is considered the beginning of Mannerism.

Vestibule staircase is one of the most original in the world

On this page, below:

History

Canons' Cloister

Vestibule

Reading Room

Tribune of Elci

Book display

February 2020 Photos

Medicean-Laurentian Library, Italian Biblioteca Mediceo-laurenziana, collection of books and manuscripts gathered during the 15th century in Florence by Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent, both members of the Medici family. Part of the collection was open to the public before 1494, but in that year the Medici were overthrown and their palace was sacked. What remained of the library was taken to Rome, where it was kept by Lorenzo’s son Giovanni, who was elected pope (Leo X) in 1513.

When Lorenzo’s nephew Giulio was elected pope (Clement VII) in 1523, he returned the library to Florence and commissioned Michelangelo to construct a suitable building. The first drawings for the building were made in 1523. The carved ceiling was designed in the same year but finished 10 years later by two indifferent craftsmen. The mosaic floor, which repeats the design of the ceiling, and the carved benches were made by various assistants from sketches of the master. Michelangelo’s designs for the staircase of the library were finished by Bartolomeo Ammanati and Giorgio Vasari in 1559.

Though it was unfinished, the library was opened in 1571. Its principal importance lies in its 10,500 manuscripts, more than 700 of which date from before the 11th century. Some are among the most valuable codices in the world - a famous Virgil of the 4th or 5th century, the Justinian Pandects of the 6th, a Horace of the 10th, many other very early classical and biblical texts, approximately 100 codices of Dante, a Decameron copied by a contemporary from Giovanni Boccaccio’s own manuscript, and Benvenuto Cellini’s manuscript of his autobiography.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica  (online May 2020)



The Laurentian is one of four public libraries in Florence. Its extraordinary pietra serena [limestone] staircase is one of the most original in the world. Filled with 11,000 manuscripts, the construction of the library began in 1524 and was finished in 1568.

When Duke Cosimo I opened it to the public in 1571, the manuscripts belonging to the Medici private library were stripped of their original covers and rebound in red leather with the Medici arms. The volumes were then chained to benches (plutei) for fear they would be stolen. Chain marks can still be seen on the covers.
- The Florentine (online May 2020)



Canons' Cloister
The Laurentian Library is built into a cloister of the Basilica of San Lorenzo.


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.



  In the corner, at the far end of the side of the cloister are stairs to the Library.   ...   The two-story Quattrocento [15th cen tury] cloister remained unchanged by the addition of the Library. Because of this, certain features of Michelangelo’s plan, such as length and width, were already determined. Therefore, new walls were built on pre-existing walls and cloisters.







Vestibule




Vestibule
 Michelangelo created a vestibule with a vertical, strongly emotional emphasis to contrast with the horizontality and calm of the reading room.   ...   Pietra serena is a gray sandstone used extensively in Renaissance Florence; used in the church

  

Vestibule
 
Clearstory windows and  blind windows.



Vestibule
Blind windows added in the 20th century



Vestibule
Blank  windows framed in pietra serena gray sandstone and  surmounted by either triangular or segmental pediments, and separated by paired engaged   Tuscan columns



Vestibule
Pietra serena gray sandstone engaged  Tuscan columns   ...   Brunelleschi used Corinthian columns in the interior of the church



Vestibule
Decorative S scrolls



Vestibule
 Three flights of steps; the outer ones are quadrangular shaped, the central ones convex, and the bottom three steps are completely elliptical.   ...   Mannerist style    ...      Staircase built by Ammannati in 1559, following a clay model prepared by Michelangelo who never saw the completed work.   ...   During the construction of the Laurentian Library, the Medicis came into conflict with Rome. Michelangelo had helped fortify Rome and thus found himself no longer in favor with the Medici family.



Vestibule
Pietra serena gray sandstone   ... Balustrade -  a 14th century Florence Renaissance invention, and used extensively by Michelangelo  (The Romans used lattice motifs.)    ...   Gadroons in the lower section of each  bulbous vase baluster   ...   Convex-shaped middle section stairs



Vestibule
Looking into the Reading Room from the top of the staircase









Reading Room
The long room features two aisles with rows of desks and benches -  an original Michelangelo design    ...     The benches served a double purpose: space to sit and study as well as home to the core collection of over 3,000 manuscripts gathered by the Medici family. The benches, acting as a storage area, had panels on the end of each row detailing the contents within.   ...   The desks are lit by the evenly spaced windows
on both sides,  along the wall. The windows are framed by Tuscan  pilasters, forming a system of bays.



Reading Room




Reading Room
Four Roman  bucrane animal skulls   ...    S scrolls in spandrels  ...   C scrolls in border


Reading Room
Windows date from 1558-1568   ...   The desks are lit by the evenly spaced windows on both sides,  along the wall. The windows are framed by Tuscan pilasters, forming a system of bays.   ...   Ancones are prominent in the lower window surrounds   ...   In this photograph, stained glass windows are washed out by bright sunlight.



Reading Room

Mannerist style stained glass   ...
Gothic style stained glass windows used pot metal glass where metallic oxides were added to a molten glass batch in a kiln to produce single-color sained glass   ...   Renaissance style (and Mannerist style) stained glass was produced by painting on clear glass with enamel paint   ...   Arabesque design   ...   Two details below:


Reading Room
Mannerist style stained glass
Detail #1 - 6 balls: the Medici coat-of-arms   ...   Capricorn symbols for Cosimo I de Medici   ..   Two pairs of putti   ...   Semper: Medici motto



Reading Room
Mannerist style stained glass
Detail #2 - Broken pediment, including a grotesque, surmounts the Medici coat-of-arms   ...   Termini flank the Medici coat-of-arms



Reading Room
Mannerist style stained glass
Arabesque design   ...   Papal tiara and St. Peter's keys to heaven surmount the Medici coat-of-arms   ...   Bottom of photo:  The Medici pope,  Clement VII, commissioned Michelangelo to design the library   ...   Three pairs of  putti



Reading Room
Mannerist style stained glass
Papal tiara and St. Peter's keys to heaven surmount the Medici coat-of-arms. It was the Medici pope,  Clement VII, who commissioned Michelangelo to design the library   ...   Flanking  putti   ...   Grotesque at bottom of photo



Reading Room




Reading Room
"The books were not kept in the bookshelves.  Instead, the outside of the reading seats had lists attached to them, showing the books to be found in that particular seat. The books themselves were chained to the reading seat.  (500 years ago one was already concerned about guarding against theft.)" - Museums of Florence: Laurentian Library  (online May 2020)



Reading Room
Carved walnut lecterns



Reading Room
Each row had a specific topic and a list of books assigned to that desk. Books were chained.







Reading Room

Terra cotta    ...   Two details below:


Reading Room
Bucrane mirrors those on the ceiling



Reading Room
Grotesque at top  ...   Bucrane in the middle of bead-and-reel and egg-and-dart borders  ...   Ribbons   ...    Laurel leaf  swags





Tribune of Elci

In the first half of the 19th century, the Tribuna d’Elci was added to the original library.

This Rotunda, in neoclassical style, served to house the rich book collection once belonging to the Florentine bibliophile and scholar Angelo Maria D’Elci, who donated to Florence his collection of first print editions of the Classics and incunabula.

The Rotunda was inaugurated in 1841 and was the Library’s Reading Room until  1970. Now the room is employed for seminars, meetings, and inaugurations.



Tribune of Elci
Coffered dome features hexagonal coffers with center rosette   ...   
Pietra serena gray sandstone Corinthian columns


Tribune of Elci
Sunlight enters through an outdoor lantern atop the cupola    ...   Coffered cupola


Tribune of Elci
Coffers:   Egg-and-dart and leaf-and-dart borders   ...    Rosettes include acanthus leaf petals



Tribune of Elci
Corinthian capital   ...   Note Roman style smooth shaft (vs. Greek fluted shafts)



Tribune of Elci
Table features gadrooning on table top and S scrolls on base




Book display


Book display



Book display
Two details below:

 Two details below:
Book display


Book display






Photos and their arrangement 2020 Chuck LaChiusa
| ...Home Page ...| ..Buffalo Architecture Index...| ..Buffalo History Index... .|....E-Mail ...| ..

web site consulting by ingenious, inc.