Medici Chapels from the air

The Medici Chapels: Unveiling Treasures to the Public

By Region Central Italy Culture News

The Medici Chapels have undergone extensive restorations. Along with a new exit to help streamline visitor flow, the Lorraine Crypt is now reopened. In November, Michelangelo’s secret room will open for the first time.

In a remarkable feat of architectural innovation that seamlessly integrates with the rich history of the Medici Chapels, a new exit has been unveiled. This exit not only promises to streamline visitor flow at the conclusion of the museum tour but also marks the reopening of the Lorraine Crypt after decades of closure. It provides a unique opportunity for visitors to explore a section of ancient medieval Florentine walls, unearthed during extensive excavations. Furthermore, a spacious new bookshop and modern visitor services are now available.

From today (27th September), visitors will emerge onto a square overlooking the Canto dei Nelli. From there, they will enjoy a panoramic view of the Basilica San Lorenzo’s bell tower and the domes of the New Sacristy and the Cappella dei Principi. Starting from September 27, 2023, visitors to the Medici Chapels Museum can experience these exciting developments.

Renovations without closure

The museum remained open to the public without interruption, whilst this new passage was constructed. It is thoughtfully integrated into the historical and artistic context, is finally accessible. It also pays homage to the great masters who left their indelible mark on these walls, including the legendary Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Starting from November, visitors will have the opportunity to explore “Michelangelo’s secret room” for the first time. This room houses charcoal drawings believed to be the work of the master himself.

Massimo Osanna, General Director of Museums, explained the project’s origins: “The urgent need to adapt the Museum of the Medici Chapels to current safety regulations and to provide the museum with adequate public services led the Superintendence to start the first excavation works in 2010.” During these excavations, a rare segment of medieval walls from the 12th century was discovered, underscoring the historical significance of this site.

Antonella Ranaldi, SABAP Superintendent of Florence, Pistoia, and Prato, commented, “We worked on tiptoe, over the shoulders of giants. A graft that could not be simply distributive – it needed poetry.” The design of the new exit pays homage to the idea of an uncovered tomb, symbolising the resurrection and transition from darkness to light.

The new design

Paolo Zermani and his architectural firm, Zermani e Associati, won the competition in 2018 to develop the project. They transformed the complex underground area into modern museum services, a disabled-friendly bookshop, and a new small square. All are harmoniously integrated with the surrounding historical context. Linear shapes and Rapolano Travertine were chosen to blend seamlessly with adjacent structures, ensuring the project’s formal autonomy.

The project was driven by the need to enhance safety, offer modern visitor amenities, and preserve external facades. The total cost amounted to approximately €2.6 million, funded through a combination of sources.

The journey began in 2010 with excavation work, which uncovered significant archaeological remains. Over the years, the project evolved through collaboration between various institutions and professionals.

In anticipation of the new exit’s opening, extensive maintenance and restoration work was carried out on all museum rooms, overseen by Francesca De Luca, an art historian and head of the Medici Chapels Museum. The restoration efforts ranged from repairing the polychrome marble floor in the Chapel of the Princes to cleaning and restoring various artifacts and artworks.

Finally, the Lorraine Crypt, closed to the public for several decades, was fully restored, revealing its beauty once more. A new lighting system and windows were added, allowing visitors to admire the tomb of Cosimo the Elder.

The Medici Chapel narrates the history of Florence and the illustrious Medici family. Visitors can look forward to exploring the mysteries and masterpieces within these hallowed walls, where history, art, and culture converge.

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