Basilica Di San Lorenzo

Basilica Di San Lorenzo Overview

In the heart of Florence, Italy, you will find the expansive Basilica di San Lorenzo, initially consecrated in 393 AD by the esteemed Saint Ambrose, and considered to be one of the largest churches in the city. This grand religious structure brings together a triad of unique experiences, combining the primary Basilica, the insightful Medici Library, and the captivating Medici Chapels, each boasting of their own allure.

Brunelleschi, a mastermind of the Renaissance, lent his expertise to the Basilica's design, overseeing its reconstruction between 1421-1461. Its exterior is skilfully partitioned into three sections, the central featuring doors and windows, while the lateral segments host a collection of fourteen striking marble statues depicting various saints and prophets.

Step inside, and you're greeted by an impressive nave, flanked by two aisles, all separated by stately columns. A barrel-vaulted nave contrasts with the groyne-vaulted aisles, offering a stunning architectural juxtaposition. A treasure trove of art and artefacts reside within the Basilica, including Michelangelo's poignant "Pietà" and Brunelleschi's fascinating octagonal "Baptistery."

The Basilica has also served as a spiritual haven for religious figures like Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, and Pope Leo I, while also becoming entwined with prominent political entities, particularly the influential Medici family. A visit to the Basilica di San Lorenzo isn't just a walk through a church; it's a journey through centuries of history, art, and culture.

Explore Basilica di San Lorenzo

Inner Facades

Stepping into the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the spectacle of the inner facades is truly mesmerising. The brainchild of the renowned Michelangelo, they represent a spectacle of Renaissance architecture. The intricacy of three doors flanked by pilasters, which are beautifully adorned with wreaths of oak, is a sight to behold. Above this setting, an intricate balcony sits majestically on two Corinthian columns. The geometric precision and balance of these structures exude timeless elegance. Furthermore, the harmonious proportions, coupled with the exquisite arches and frescoes, create an enchanting ambience that resonates with the heart and soul of the Renaissance.

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Outer Facades

As you navigate through the lively Piazza San Lorenzo’s marketplace, the outer facades of the basilica command attention. Towering over the bustling Piazza San Lorenzo’s marketplace, they remain a testament to Michelangelo's unfinished vision, revealing a rustic beauty beneath their unadorned terracotta bricks, unchanged since 1480. As you observe the facades, you will still be able to appreciate the original designs created by the artists at the exhibit in Casa Buonarroti. These facades embody a silent narrative of the centuries, their aesthetic characterised by a seamless blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles, replete with intricate details and charming rose windows that offer a captivating insight into the enduring allure of this historic structure.

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Old Sacristy

The Old Sacristy, an artistic marvel from the minds of Brunelleschi and Donatello, is a must-visit space in the basilica. Home to the tombs of Giovanni di Bicci Piccard and his wife, located beneath a centre-staged marble table, the Sacristy embodies a rare balance of geometric precision and aesthetic grandeur. The sacristy encapsulates an intriguing mix of geometry and architectural finesse. Its design, a cube topped by a hemispheric dome, exhibits a balance of spatial centralization and classical Corinthian pilasters. With eight tondi depicting the Evangelists and scenes from St. John's life, Donatello's polychrome stuccos invite visitors into a vivid narrative of art and history.

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A journey through the Basilica di San Lorenzo is akin to travelling through the annals of Renaissance art. Masterpieces such as Donatello's "Marzocco" and Sluter's "Entombment of Christ" adorn its vast expanses. Additionally, Michelangelo's impressive Laurentian Library, with its intricate architectural details and grandeur, stands as a testament to his brilliance as an architect and artist. The basilica also houses the magnificent works of Verrocchio, Rosso Fiorentino, and Fra Filippo Lippi. This congregation of legendary artistic achievements makes every visit to the basilica a walk through the golden era of Italian artistry.

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Cappelle Medicee

The Cappelle Medicee, known for its opulence, embodies the essence of the powerful Medici family and is possibly the most renowned feature of the Basilica. As you enter this architectural gem, you can't help but admire the quirks of the Mannerist style it exemplifies, including oddly shaped structures, cracked cornices, and asymmetric windows. The lavish use of coloured marble in the interior decor juxtaposes with these quirks, resulting in a captivating combination of ostentation and eccentricity that is sure to intrigue any history or art enthusiast. The lavishness and grandeur of this area within Basilica di San Lorenzo exemplify the Baroque architectural style and serve as a testament to the Medici family’s power and influence during the Renaissance period. 

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Cappella Corbelli

Situated within the basilica's southern transept, the Cappella Corbelli stands as a distinct artistic marvel and is a hidden gem that you should not miss out on. It showcases Giovanni Dupre's impressive monument, dedicated to the partner of Count Moltke-Hvitfeldt, the erstwhile Danish minister to the Court of Naples. The intricate details and craftsmanship of this monument, combined with the serene atmosphere of the chapel, create a tranquil and awe-inspiring ambience here. Additionally, the well-preserved Renaissance architecture, with its beautiful frescoes by Agnolo Gaddi, depicting scenes from St. Francis's life, serves as a silent chronicle of an epoch characterised by cultural prosperity.

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History Of Basilica Di San Lorenzo

  • The Basilica of San Lorenzo, the oldest cathedral in Florence, has a rich history intertwined with the city's Christian community.
  • According to history, the original basilica was consecrated in 393 by Saint Ambrose and dedicated to the martyr Saint Lorenzo. However, no remains of this early structure exist today.
  • In 1418, Giovanni di Bicci, the founder of the Medici family, initiated a major renovation of the basilica. He entrusted the project to the renowned architect Filippo Brunelleschi.
  • Brunelleschi led the reconstruction of San Lorenzo until his death in 1446. The result was a magnificent basilica that showcased harmonious proportions and grandeur.
  • Antonio Manetti, Brunelleschi's biographer and successor, completed the project in 1461. Despite subsequent modifications, the Basilica of San Lorenzo still retains its original splendour.
  • Pope Leo X, who was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, desired to enhance the basilica's façade with marble. In 1518, he assigned the task to the acclaimed artist Michelangelo.
  • Although Michelangelo's envisioned marble façade was never realised, drawings and a wooden model displayed in the Casa Buonarroti Museum provide insight into his grand design.
  • Today, the Basilica of San Lorenzo stands as a testament to Florence's Christian heritage and architectural prowess. Visitors are captivated by its historical significance and the awe-inspiring beauty that Brunelleschi and his successors created.

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Architecture Of Basilica Di San Lorenzo

  • The architecture of the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence is a prime example of Renaissance design and innovation. The basilica's structure reflects the collaborative efforts of renowned architects such as Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Michelangelo, who each made significant contributions.
  • The exterior of San Lorenzo Basilica exhibits a simple and austere appearance. The rough-hewn facade, left unfinished due to financial constraints, contrasts with the intricate beauty found inside. The basilica follows a Latin cross plan, featuring a nave with side aisles and a transept.
  • One of the most striking features of the basilica is the Old Sacristy, designed by Brunelleschi. It showcases harmonious proportions, geometric precision, and the innovative use of gray pietra serena columns. Inside, the space exudes a serene and contemplative atmosphere.
  • The Medici Chapels, located within the basilica, are adorned with splendid artwork and sculptures. Donatello's bronze pulpits, depicting scenes from Christ's life, showcase his exceptional skill and dramatic style. The Medici family tombs, created by Michelangelo, exhibit his mastery in sculpting marble.
  • The architecture of San Lorenzo Basilica harmoniously combines classical elements with innovative techniques, creating a timeless and influential masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Its elegant proportions, use of materials, and attention to detail continue to inspire and captivate visitors from all corners of the globe.

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Know Before You Go

Essential Information
How To Reach

Location: Basilica di San Lorenzo is located at Piazza di San Lorenzo, 9, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy

Timings: Basilica di San Lorenzo remains open for visits between 10:00 a.m. to 05:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and remains closed on Sunday. Additionally, the Basilica is also closed on January 1st and 6th and on August 10th. 

Best time to visit: The best time of the day to visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo is in the morning. Arriving early allows you to beat the crowds and enjoy a more serene and contemplative experience. Additionally, the morning light casts a beautiful glow on the basilica's architecture and artwork, enhancing its visual appeal. As for the best day of the week, weekdays tend to be less crowded compared to weekends, providing a quieter atmosphere for exploration. Additionally, the best time to visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo is from June to September. During this period, the weather is pleasant, there are fewer crowds and longer daylight hours for sightseeing. It's an ideal time to explore the basilica's artwork and architecture, including the renowned Cappelle Medicee Mausoleum with Michelangelo sculptures.

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  • By bus: One of the most convenient ways to reach Basilica di San Lorenzo is via a bus ride. You can easily take a bus from the city centre and get off at the Piazza San Lorenzo bus stop, which is located 210 metres, or a 1-minute walk away from the Basilica.
  • By Car: If you are travelling by car, you can drive on the Via dei Calzaiuoli route, which is around 1.2 kilometres long, and takes anywhere between 6 to 12 minutes to get to the Basilica.
  • By Train: You can also reach Basilica di San Lorenzo via a train ride, and reach the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station. It is located around 1.7 kilometres from the Basilica. From here, you can walk for around 10 to 15 minutes and get to the landmark easily. Another station located nearby is the Firenze Campo Di Marte Station, located 2.7 kilometres away.

Tips To Visit Basilica Di San Lorenzo

  • When visiting the Basilica di San Lorenzo, refrain from using flash photography as it can disturb the peaceful atmosphere and potentially harm delicate fixtures.
  • Dress appropriately by covering your shoulders, midriffs, and legs below the knee as a sign of respect for the sacred site.
  • Avoid bringing food, water, or any objects that could contribute to littering inside the churchyard of the Basilica.
  • Video recording equipment is strictly prohibited inside the Basilica, so it's best to leave them behind.
  • Plan your visit with ample time, allowing for around 2 hours to explore the Basilica thoroughly and appreciate its art and architecture.
  • Maintain a quiet and respectful demeanour to honour the sacredness of the place and show consideration for other visitors, whether they are faithful or tourists.
  • It is not allowed to bring pets inside the Basilica, and touching the works of art is strictly forbidden.
  • Be mindful of the rules and regulations in place to preserve the sanctity and integrity of this significant religious site.


Are there any famous artworks inside the basilica?

Yes, the basilica houses impressive artworks, including Donatello's bronze pulpits and Michelangelo's sculptures in the Medici Chapels.

Can visitors access the Medici Chapels?

Yes, visitors can access the Medici Chapels, where they can admire Michelangelo's magnificent sculptures and the grandeur of the Medici family tombs.

Can I take photographs inside the Basilica di San Lorenzo?

Photography is allowed inside the Basilica di San Lorenzo; however, the use of flash is generally prohibited. It is important to be respectful and mindful of the sacred atmosphere of the basilica while taking photographs. Certain areas or specific artworks might have restrictions on photography, so it's advisable to follow any signage or instructions provided by the basilica staff or guides.

Is there a dress code for visiting the basilica?

It is advisable to dress modestly when visiting religious sites in Italy, so it is recommended to have your shoulders and knees covered.

What is the historical significance of Basilica di San Lorenzo?

The Basilica di San Lorenzo holds immense historical significance as the oldest cathedral in Florence, symbolising the origins of the Christian community in the city. It has witnessed various transformations throughout history and is closely linked to the influential Medici family, who played a crucial role in its renovation and patronage of art and culture.

Are there guided tours available at Basilica di San Lorenzo?

Yes, guided tours are available at the Basilica di San Lorenzo. These guided tours offer visitors a deeper understanding of the historical and artistic significance of the basilica. Knowledgeable guides provide insights into the architecture, the Medici family's patronage, and the remarkable artworks housed within the basilica, enriching the overall visitor experience.

Is there a recommended time or season to visit Basilica di San Lorenzo to avoid crowds?

To avoid crowds, it is recommended to visit the Basilica di San Lorenzo during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekdays tend to have fewer tourists, providing a more serene and less crowded experience. Additionally, visiting during non-peak seasons, such as spring or autumn, can further help in avoiding large crowds.


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