Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Piazza San Lorenzo, 9 - 50123 Firenze - Florence   see map - Contact
The Laurentian Library of Florence is a library built in the sixteenth century by the will of Pope Clement VII and enriched by Lorenzo the Magnificent. Designed by Michelangelo, it preserves one of the largest collections of manuscripts in the world, with 68,405 volumes printed, 406 incunabula, 4058, five hundred and a total of 11,044 priceless manuscripts.

Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana History

The Laurentian Medicea Library, once called the Laurentian Library, is one of the main collections of manuscripts in the world. The construction of this architectural complex was entrusted to Michelangelo in 1519 by Cardinal Giulio de 'Medici, who later became Pope Clement VII. Michelangelo personally directed the shipyard from 1524 to 1534, the year he moved to Rome, and the construction was slowly completed by other architects thanks to the commitment of Cosimo I de 'Medici. The library was thus completed in 1571 by Giorgio Vasari and Bartolomeo Ammannati, in charge of continuing the work according to Michelangelo's drawings and was opened to the public that same year.
Original and majestic the famous vestibule staircase, originally planned in walnut wood and then executed in stone by Ammannati: for the first time we can recognize an anticipation of the baroque style that would soon have invaded Europe, where the spectator in front of the entrance there is a veritable waterfall of living material held back by the presence of two rigid balustrades. At the top of the staircase a large portal leads to the vast reading room, one of the few sixteenth-century environments in the world to have remained almost intact: here it is all original and the wide and expanses of the space contrast with those of the vestibule. We find the lime wood ceiling decorated by Giovan Battista del Tasso, the magnificent stained glass windows with Medici coats of arms designed by Giorgio Vasari and finally the splendid red and white terracotta floor designed by Niccolò Tribolo, a student of Michelangelo. The same wooden desks, arranged in two rows parallel to the sides of the hall, were made following the drawings of Buonarroti.
The most important addition to the complex dates back to the early nineteenth century, the Elci Tribune, a neoclassical roundabout designed by architect Pasquale Poccianti to house the collection of ancient books donated to the library by the Florentine scholar and bibliophile Angelo Maria d'Elci.
The original core of the book collection comes from the private collections of the Medici, to which, through constant growth, today there is a patrimony of about 11,000 highly valuable manuscripts, 566 incunabula, 1,681 cinquecentine and about 120,000 printed editions (from the seventeenth to the twentieth century) and the largest collection in Italy of Egyptian papyrus, about 2,500, result of the Italian excavation campaigns in Egypt. Among the Laurenziano's treasures we must mention, among the many, codes of inestimable value for uniqueness and antiquity such as the works of Tacitus, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Pliny, Quintilian, as well as the oldest testimony of Justinian Corpus luris, copied shortly after his promulgation.
Among the most precious relics there is also the Squarcialupi code, the only source of 14th century profane music, some autograph manuscripts by Boccaccio and Petrarca, and the biography of Benvenuto Cellini. Humanism is represented by the presence, as authors and copyists, of Poggio Bracciolini, Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino.

Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Time period
  • 1500s
  • Italy, Florence
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Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
  Piazza San Lorenzo, 9 - 50123 Firenze
  +39 055 2937911

Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
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