The oldest Medici tombs at San Lorenzo

Today I am speaking of the tombs of Gianni di Bicci, Cosimo, Lorenzo the Magnificent and the family’s good friend, Renaissance sculptor Donatello. If you are interested in the ducal tombs in the 16th century chapel, this ain’t that.

Società Canottieri

Giovanni di Bicci and his wife Piccarda were buried in the Old Sacristy, on a project designed by Brunelleschi. Their joint tomb is under what looks like a marble table in the Old Sacristy.

The basilica was completed by the Old Sacristy, commissioned by the Medici as their family mausoleum. Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici entrusted the project to Filippo Brunelleschi, who between 1421 and 1426 built one of the most complex masterpieces of renaissance architecture. Dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, the so-called “Old Sacristy” is a cube covered by a hemispherical umbrella dome divided by ribs. The chromatic interplay of grey stone and white plaster is heightened by the presence of painted stuccoes: the frieze with cherubim and seraphim, the roundels with the Evangelists on the walls and the ones in the spandrels of the dome with Scenes from the life of St. John the Evangelist, by Donatello, who was also responsible for the bronze doors with Saints, Martyrs, Apostles and Doctors of the Church.

The frescoes in the small dome in the apse show the Sun and constellations as they appeared over Florence on the night of 4 July 1442. It is thought that this celestial map was executed by the eclectic painter and decorator Giuliano d’Arrigo, known as Pesello. The funerary monument to Piero and Giovanni de’ Medici, sons of Cosimo il Vecchio, was commissioned from Verrocchio in 1472 by Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano: one of the most sophisticated products of Laurentian artistic culture.

When you enter the crypt of San Lorenzo, you are able to visit the “Treasures of San Lorenzo” museum as well as the underground tomb of Cosimo and the tomb slab of Donatello.

First, I’m focusing on the underground tomb of Cosimo:

In addition to the underground tomb, the sculptor, Verrocchio, was also commissioned to create a cenotaph in the floor of the main basilica to commemorate Cosimo. This consists of an abstract patterned floor slab in front of the high altar connecting to a burial chamber in the crypt beneath. The artist used valuable materials—bronze, marble, red porphyry and green serpentine stones—to suggest Cosimo’s prestige. Interlocking ellipses within a circle and square evoke medieval diagrams of the universe, associating the name of Cosimo with the cosmos.

was equally skilled in a variety of media and often approached one medium as he would another. His training as a goldsmith reveals itself in his love of polychromy, and the tomb of Cosimo de’ Medici in white marble and red and green porphyry is distinguished by the richness and colour of the materials. This was developed in the tomb of Piero I and Giovanni de’ Medici (San Lorenzo, Florence), where the combination of a variety of coloured stones with bronze decoration is strikingly original.

The picture shows the floor tomb of Cosimo il Vecchio in the nave of Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

The tomb of Donatello in the crypt of San Lorenzo

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