The Basilica of San Lorenzo (Basilica di San Lorenzo) is one of the most important Renaissance churches in Florence. Commissioned by the powerful Medici family and designed by Brunelleschi, it is home to magnificent sculptural and architectural works by Michelangelo, including the Medici Chapels (Cappelle Medicee) and the Laurentian Library.
The Medicis had the Basilica of San Lorenzo constructed in the 15th century on the site of an older Romanesque church to house family tombs, located in the New Sacristy and decorated by Michelangelo’s monumental statues depicting the reclining figures of Night and Day and Dawn and Dusk. The church, dedicated to St. Lawrence, is part of a larger complex that also includes Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy with sculptures by Donatello; the Laurentian Library, with a monumental carved staircase leading to the reading room where even the desks were designed by Michelangelo; the cloister, crypts, and treasury; and the Chapel of Princes by Matteo Nigetti.
The Medici Chapels inside the basilica are among the most popular attractions in Florence, so book a tour that includes skip-the-line entrance to avoid long lines. Many Florence sightseeing walking or Segway tours also visit highlights such as the Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell'Accademia), and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Things to Know Before You Go
- To enter the church, you must wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
- Large bags and backpacks must be left at the free coat check at the entrance.
- Tickets to the Basilica of San Lorenzo complex include entrance to the Medici Chapel Museum, Medici and Lorenese crypts, Cannon’s Cloister, and Basilica Treasury.
- The Laurentian Library is only open to the public when a special exhibition is being held, and tickets must be purchased separately.
- There is wheelchair access to the ground-floor church and cloister and the chapels above.
How to Get There
The Basilica of San Lorenzo is located on Piazza San Lorenzo, just a few minutes’ walk north of Florence Cathedral (Duomo) or east of the Santa Maria Novella train station.
When to Get There
The San Lorenzo Basilica complex is crowded with visitors touring the Medici Chapels during summer; visit in spring or fall for fewer tourists. If visiting Florence on a Sunday or Monday, note that the chapels are closed on the second and fourth Sunday and the first, third, and fifth Monday of every month.
Michelangelo’s Unfinished Facade
The Basilica of San Lorenzo was built by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419, his first project in Florence and a masterpiece of Renaissance interiors. The rough exterior was meant to be covered by a spectacular facade designed by Michelangelo, but lack of funds and other complications left the church unfinished outside. To see what the facade would have looked like had it been completed, view the scale model in the Casa Buonarroti museum.