What the Church of San Lorenzo would be like if Michelangelo could have finished the project ?
San Lorenzo Church (nb. Basilica di San Lorenzo), was designed under the direction of Filippo Brunelleschi, after the Medici family commissioned him for a project of renovation in 1420. It was considered as the parish church of the Medici dynasty as well as the burial place of all its principal members.
San Lorenzo Church is regarded as a jewel of Renaissance architecture, although it has never had its façade finished. In 1515, after winning the competition held by Pope Leo X (one of the Medici popes, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent), Michelangelo started working on plans to design the façade. However, the work remained unbuilt when Michelangelo was finally commissioned by the Pontiff to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome – although, it is also said that the project was shelved because of budgetary reasons, Michelangelo wishing to use white Carrara marble rather than inexpensive marble.
For a time, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (last heir of the Medici dynasty) intention was to finalize plans for the outer façade, but they never went beyond paper. In 1900, Francesco Mattei, a private citizen, launched a competition which attracted 53 architects, but that did not come to fruition either.
In 2011, Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence revisited the issue of finishing the façade of San Lorenzo Church according to Michelangelo’s plans and called for a referendum in which Florentines could vote on whether they wanted to see the project realized. Besides the cost estimated at 2,5 millions euros, this endeavor aroused much controversy, people not looking kindly on any intervention on prestigious monuments of ancient architecture. If granted, this project was supposed to materialized in 2015, but it seems that the discussion is no longer on the agenda.
The polemic demonstrates however that after 500 years a building façade remains the site of politics, orchestrating not only the building’s spatial relationships but also engaging with its social context, historical evolution and associated meanings in relation to theories of perception and representation.
Plans for the façade of San Lorenzo Church are now kept in Casa Buonarroti, a house once owned by Michelangelo himself. You can have the opportunity to discover all of them there (via Ghibellina, 70, Florence) but HURRY UP ! You only have 20 days left to see the exhibition “The Power of Myth” that runs until November 15.
The David, the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel…Learn more about how Michelangelo’s artistic virtuosity might never have been recognized without the backing of the Medici family.