The Medici Chapels in Florence, by Ellen Miller

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The Medici Chapels in Florence are one of the must-see attractions, as well as a reminder of just how wealthy and powerful the Medici family must have been to commission such an extensive work. Part of the church of San Lorenzo, the location already holds a bit of mystery because of the unfinished facade of the church.

Now is a particularly good time to visit the Medici Chapels because there is a special display of photographs of Michelangelo’s works on display in the crypt. The photography exhibition corresponds with the 450th anniversary of death of Michelangelo this February. On display through March 15, the photographs are powerful images of Michelangelo’s sculptures taken by Aurelio Amendola. Fifteen images are on display in the center of the crypt; four of the David are displayed near the tomb of Cosimo I; two more of Prisoners near Ferdinand I. In the images Amendola tried to capture the “power of the gaze” in Michelangelo’s sculptures.

The Medici Chapels have treasures of their own to gaze upon, however, so even if you miss the photography display be sure to stop by. The crypt displays a collection of reliquaries as well as a family tree for the Medici family, some of whom are buried beneath the floor you walk over. Upstairs, there is one grand room of the chapel, with massive frescoes on the ceilings with bright colors. It is currently undergoing some restoration work, so there is a limited amount of scaffolding present, but the powerful paintings are well worth the inconvenience. Two side chapels display more reliquaries from a variety of different saints, collected over the years.

The entire Medici Chapels has wonderful signage in English and Italian that allows visitors to really comprehend the different rooms, their designated purposes, and the pieces of art on display, including that designed for the tombs. Technically reservations are required, but if you go during the morning it is not very busy and you can usually walk right in. Part of Florence’s important history, the chapels are an interesting look at how art and life intersected during the Medici times.

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