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Michelangelo’s Last Years in Florence

Loredana A.

by Loredana A.

(1 reviews)
Last updated : May 14, 20243 min read

Culture

Michelangelo left Florence for good in 1534, never to come back alive. Before he departed for Rome, Michelangelo had been working on elaborate sculptural and architectural projects for Medici popes Leo X and Clement VII at San Lorenzo. His first project, with a signed contract from Leo X in 1518, was the construction of a new facade for the church. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned (there is still the rough stone facade to this day); all we have left is a sketch and a wooden model. But Michelangelo got a second chance at architecture when he was commissioned in the early 1520s by the second Medici pope, Clement VII, to create the New Sacristy at San Lorenzo and the Laurentian Library in the adjoining monastery.
 
These two commissions, however, couldn’t have come at a worse time. During these years, Rome was sacked by imperial troops and the Medici were expelled from Florence, leaving way for the establishment of the Republic of Florence. The Republic, however, was short-lived; the Medici, in the end, made their way back and laid siege to the city. The Republic fell to Medici power despite the defensive efforts, in part led by Michelangelo himself (a die-hard republican).
 
Michelangelo was pardoned by Pope Clement for his treason and put back to work in 1530, but he was not to stay very long. Upon Clement’s death, Michelangelo left the projects unfinished and abandoned his beloved Florence, by now lost to the rule of Medici tyrants. He spent the last 30 years of his life working in Rome and the Vatican, where Pope Paul III appointed him chief sculptor, painter, and architect.
 
His architectural projects at San Lorenzo, though left unfinished, are captivating spaces where architecture becomes a kind of sculpture to create mesmerizing effects. Michelangelo is considered a Mannerist architect, breaking the rigid rules of Renaissance balance and harmony to create powerful plays of light and dark and dynamic movement. Michelangelo created architectural forms never seen before. For architecture lovers, the New Sacristy and the Laurentian Library are must-sees when in Florence.
 
Check out my tour of San Lorenzo 
 
 

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