Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

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Reading room of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana; Design: Michelangelo Buonarotti . The corridor between the reading benches, furnished with precious stone mosaics, is now protected on the sides by carpets.

The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (short Laurenziana ) is an Italian state library in Florence, famous for its manuscripts . It goes back to the early days of the Medici rule and has been in the monastery of San Lorenzo , the former house church of the Medici , since 1560 . The Laurenziana bears the name after Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449–1492), who considerably expanded the inventory of the library founded by his grandfather Cosimo de 'Medici .

The library is open to the public and, as Biblioteca pubblica statale, is supervised by the Ministry of Cultural Property and Tourism .

History of the collection

Codex Amiatinus (8th century), fol.5r: Ezra . Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Cosimo d. Ä. (il Vecchio) de 'Medici (1389–1464) founded the “Marciana” in 1441 with the manuscripts of the library of his advisor in book matters, the humanist Niccolò Niccoli (1364–1437). Niccoli originally wanted to make his collection of 800 manuscripts accessible to the scholarly public in the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angioli in Florence. However, in 1437, shortly before his death, he changed his mind because of large debts. Cosimo took on Niccolo's financial obligations and acquired 200 manuscripts for his private collection, the “Medicea privata”, or “Bibliotheca privata Cosimi”. In 1441 he moved another 400 to the library hall built by Michelozzo in the Dominican monastery of San Marco , then in the northern suburbs of Florence.

Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449–1492), highly educated and literary himself, founded the monastery of San Lorenzo in Florence around 1470, in which the “Medicea privata” was housed. Under Lorenzo the holdings were generously loaned to scholars. Lorenzo showed particular interest in the acquisition of Greek manuscripts through his agent in the Aegean Sea and in Constantinople, Andreas Johannes Laskaris (1445–1535).

History of the construction

Vestibule of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (floor plan)

Pope Clement VII , before his election as Pope Giulio de 'Medici, commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1523 to build a library for the Medici collection above the cloister of San Lorenzo. The building was completed in the following three decades up to 1560 according to Michelangelo's plans by other architects, including Giorgio Vasari and Bartolomeo Ammanati . The library was opened in 1571. The architectural design of the reading room is characterized by the style of the Italian High Renaissance . The vestibule and the staircase , however, show characteristics of Mannerism , the late Italian Renaissance style, which is characterized by surprising effects. The Ricetto motif of the narrowed pairs of columns in the vestibule is also striking , because Michelangelo has used a design that has not been in use since the Middle Ages. The staircase to the library, built according to Michelangelo's plans, shows a complicated system that makes the staircase appear wider and higher than it actually is.

Reading benches in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

The main hall shows the furnishings typical of the libraries of the 16th century. The reader took a seat on a reading bench resembling church stalls, on whose desk the librarian had laid out the work he wanted. The reading benches of the Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana still have the original long, narrow boards on the sides, on which - as the forerunner of the library catalog - the holdings that were kept in the compartments under the lecterns were handwritten. For the reader, the individual book was attached to the desk with a chain to prevent uncontrolled removal and thus to secure the location of the tape indicated on the respective board.


The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana today has a stock of around 150,000 books, including incunabula from the 15th and prints from the 16th century, and holds around 11,000 manuscripts, a number of which are listed as Codices Laurentiani , and around 2,500 papyri . The book of hours by Lorenzo I , dated 1485, is one of the library's celestial items .


  • James S. Ackermann: The Architecture of Michelangelo (= Studies in architecture. Volumes 4–5). 2 volumes. A. Zwemmer , London 1961.
  • Edoardo Bonechi: Firenze. Guida completaper la visita della citta . Bonechi Il turismo, Florence 1979.
  • Georg Brandes : Michelangelo Buonarroti . Reiss, Berlin 1924.
  • Marcel Brion : The Medici. A Florentine family . 9th edition. Paperback edition, Heyne, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-453-55023-4 .
  • Peter Burke : The Renaissance in Italy. Social history of a culture between tradition and invention . Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-423-10972-6 .
  • Fritz Erpel (Ed.): I, Michelangelo. A selection of letters, seals and conversations . 7th edition. Henschel, Berlin 1979.
  • Herman Grimm : Michelangelo. His life in the history and culture of his time, the heyday of art in Florence and Rome . Edited by Reinhard Jaspert. Safari-Verlag, Berlin 1941 (abridged edition of: Life of Michelangelo ).
  • Thomas Gronegger: The Ricetto of the Biblioteca Laurenziana. A reconstruction of the Tribolo project and a new proposal for the interpretation of Michelangelo's letter to Vasari of September 28, 1555 in the light of the discoveries under the stairs . Böhlau, Vienna et al. 1997, ISBN 3-205-98685-7 .
  • My Heilmann: Florence and the Medici. A companion through the Florence of the Renaissance . DuMont, Cologne 1981, ISBN 3-7701-0430-7 .
  • Christoph Hennig: Florence . 3rd updated edition. DuMont, Cologne 1996, ISBN 3-7701-3060-X .
  • Golo Maurer: Michelangelo - The architectural drawings. Design process and planning practice . Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2004, ISBN 3-7954-1645-0 , (also: Dissertation, University of Munich 2003).
  • Alessandro Nova : Michelangelo. The architect . Belser, Stuttgart et al. 1984, ISBN 3-7630-1798-4 .
  • Henry Thode : Michelangelo. Critical research into his works. As an appendix to the work of Michelangelo and the end of the Renaissance . Grote, Berlin 1908–1913.
  • Volker Reinhardt : The Medici. Florence in the age of the Renaissance . Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-44028-2 .
  • Volker Reinhardt: Florence at the time of the Renaissance. The art of power and the message of images (= Ploetz picture story. Volume 1). Ploetz, Freiburg et al. 1990, ISBN 3-87640-360-X .

See also

Web links

Commons : Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Florentine Museums: Laurenziana Library
  2. Helke Kammerer-Grothaus: The Deus Rediculus in the Triopion of Herodes Atticus. Investigation of building and polychrome brick architecture of the 2nd century AD in Latium. In: Communications from the German Archaeological Institute. Roman department . Volume 81, 1974, p. 182.
  3. Christoph Hennig: Florence . Cologne 1996, p. 142. ( View of the stairs )
  4. Bibliotheca Laurenziana: Visita al complesso: Sala di lettura

Coordinates: 43 ° 46 ′ 28.2 "  N , 11 ° 15 ′ 12.1"  E