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Michelangelo’s secret room
The new minor treasure at the Medici Chapels museum in Florence

It was November 1975, during work on a new exit for the Medici Chapels in Florence – built  as a burial place for the Medici family adjoining the church of San Lorenzo -, when the restorer Sabino Giovannoni removed the top two layers of plaster in a room measuring seven by two metres under the apse of the New Sacristy and made an extraordinary discovery: a series of drawings on the walls, made using charcoal and dried blood. Paolo Dal Poggetto, then director of the museum, attributed most of them to Michelangelo.

Indeed, according to Dal Poggetto, in 1530 this small room was where Michelangelo took refuge from the vengeance of the Medicis: despite being commissioned by them to design the Sagrestia Nuova, the artist sided with their enemies during the time the Medicis were expelled from the city, but became a target when they retook the Duchy with the aid of Charles V, king of Spain.

It was the Prior of San Lorenzo, Giovan Battista Figiovanni, who helped Michelangelo to hide; two months later he was pardoned and allowed to resume his work as an artist.

The  drawings are still being studied by art historians, but Dal Poggetto’s hypothesis is that Michelangelo used the walls of the narrow chamber to make sketches for some of his projects, including those in the Sagrestia Nuova, on which he had been working since 1523, such as the legs of Giuliano de’ Medici.

Used as a store for coal until 1955 and then abandoned, the room remained closed and forgotten for decades, its trapdoor hidden by furniture. Now, almost 50 years after its discovery, what has been called “Michelangelo’s secret room” is at last open to the public, currently until the end of June 2024.

Access is solely with advance bookings, in groups of four visitors accompanied by a guide. Tickets can be booked with those of the Medici Chapels.

For info and bookings: www.operalaboratori.com – +39 055 294883

(ph. Francesco Fantani – courtesy Musei del Bargello)

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