Cappelle Medicee

Exterior of the Medici Chapel and Mausoleum


The Cappelle Medicee is the mausoleum for the Medicee family, and it is done up in a style befitting the absolute rulers of Florence at its height. Unremarkable from the outside, save for the red dome that resembles a smaller version of Brunelleschi's dome on the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori (shown in the photo to the left), the interior belies the power and opulence of its inhabitants.  Street access leads to a crypt where the lesser nobility were enshrined. some are marked by plain marble tablets while others command a more impressive tomb, such as the Tomb of Cosimo the Eldest, created by Verrochio (shown in the photo at the bottom left). It also includes an impressive array of religious relics, housed in glass cases (photo at upper right).  One flight up is the magnificent Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of Princes, shown in the photo at the bottom right) a dazzling array of marble under the huge dome; the tombs of six Medici Grand Dukes are in the chapel beneath the dome, in sculptured recesses that stretch nearly from floor to ceiling.  The mausoleum, with its large dome and lavish interior ornamented withChapel of the Princes Verrochio's Tomb of Cosimo the Eldermarble, was conceived to celebrate the power of the Medici dynasty which had successfully ruled Florence for several centuries. The octagonal room designed to contain the bodies of the Grand Dukes is in fact almost entirely covered with semi-precious stones and different-coloured marbles. The sarcophagi of the Grand Dukes are contained in niches and complemented by bronze statues. The inlay of the semi-precious stones, partially executed by highly skilled workers from the laboratories of the Opificio delle Pietre dure took several centuries to complete due to the difficulty of obtaining such rare materials that were available only at very high cost. The interior of the dome was planned originally to be entirely covered with lapis lazuli, but was left incomplete at the end of the Medici period; the frescoes we see today were painted by Pietro Benvenuti in 1828 and feature scenes of the Old and New Testaments; these frescoes were commissioned by the then-reigning Lorraine family.