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The treasures of San Lorenzo


By Sabrina Carollo

Historic archives reborn

“Lisa, wife of Francesco del Giocondo passed away on this day of 15th July 1542, buried here in S. Orsola.” This is the entry in the register of Monna Lisa’s funeral, the woman who passed into history for having been portrayed by Leonardo in the painting “La Gioconda”. The authentic document is one of the many jewels that are emerging from the archives of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, recently reorganized, open to academics and public – only upon request for the moment, but it is hoped to start on a regular basis soon. A treasure of extraordinary value, made up of documents which go from the 9th century right up to our days, one of the most important ecclesiastic archives in Florence. 10,000 volumes, 1,180 of which parchments, over 2,000 photographs, an important musical collection of which 32 beautiful illuminated choral music and a small library.
It very nearly seems like entering the magic world of Harry Potter, amongst books of huge proportions and leather bindings and studs, yellowed parchments and ribbed registers in an elegant calligraphy full of flourishes. Here, you can come across diaries of notable families or even personal ones, bring to light ancient profane pieces of music carefully cancelled to use the parchments upon which they were written once more to write the list of assets of the Chapter over them, rediscover rare and precious seals. And also all the correspondence between the Medici family and the religious authorities of the time, especially those necessary for the making of the Chapels dedicated to the family; moreover, the Sylloge notariorum is kept here, a 1688 register filled in by the prior Giovan Battista Frescobaldi where the signum tabellionis used to be carefully drawn and written, that is, the symbol that notaries put before underwriting a guarantee of authenticity of a document. The most ancient of these “marchi” belonged to a notary who actually worked in 1013.
The recovery works of the archives are part of the general redevelopment of the areas and restoration of some facilities of the Laurentian complex aimed at rendering all the area a cultural centre open to tourists: concerts, expositions, conventions, a bookshop, public convenience and places for travelers to rest – recovering that which was once the most ancient traditions of monasteries, the welcoming of pilgrims.
In this large and magnificent area it is now easy to visit the marvelous Basilica of San Lorenzo, the selected church of the Medicis who built the first Florentine palace right next to the historic religious building – precisely Palazzo Medici Riccardi; the superb Medici chapels, the constructions of which have names of the caliber of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and Donatello; the amazing Medici Laurentian library made by Michelangelo as well as two harmonious cloisters – the major one, known as that of the canons, and the second, smaller and more ancient.
Thanks to the renovation works in progress it will be possible also for tourists to visit the area of San Lorenzo more comfortably, enjoying the new settings and the various cultural proposals which fill its billboard.


Complesso Monumentale di San Lorenzo
P.zza San Lorenzo 9, Firenze
Tel. 055 214042, email
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 10am to 5.30pm. closed on Sundays.