Michelangelo’s ‘secret room’ in Florence
Many are familiar with the extraordinary works of Buonarroti. Still, only some know that within the Sacristy of San Lorenzo, there is a secret room where the artist took refuge during the Spanish siege of Florence. It was in this hidden chamber that he created a series of incredible charcoal drawings.
Florence, September 21, 2015 – It was November 1975 when, during a series of structural interventions at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, a secret room was discovered.
Measuring approximately seven meters by two, this room is located within the Sacristy of the Florentine monumental complex and, as recognized by Paolo Dal Poggetto, then Director of the Museum of the Medici Chapels, it holds a series of sketches created by Michelangelo himself on its walls.
It was during the final stages of the Spanish siege of Florence that the artist sought refuge in this small chamber, where he remained hidden for a remarkable three months.
Michelangelo had compelling reasons to disappear from public view. To counter the army of Charles V, he had offered his genius to reinforce the city’s defensive walls. Today, the room serves as a reminder of the artist’s presence during that fateful summer of 1530.
With only charcoal at his disposal and lacking paper, Michelangelo adorned the chamber’s walls with his remarkable drawings. The sketches depict a variety of subjects, including a horse’s head, studies related to the sculptures of the Sacristy of San Lorenzo, and even some reconsiderations of his famous David.
One striking image portrays a figure curled in on itself, believed by experts to be a self-portrait of the artist in captivity.
While not accessible to the public for security reasons, the history of Michelangelo’s Secret Room can be explored through the work of Paolo Dal Poggetto (“Michelangelo. The Secret Room. The Mural Drawings in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo”), recently republished in a revised and expanded version.
A few questions and answers about Michelangelo’s ‘secret room’ in Florence
Who discovered the hidden room in Florence covered in drawings believed to be the work of Michelangelo and his disciples?
Paolo Dal Poggetto, a museum director in Florence, discovered the hidden room.
What do art experts believe about the sketches found in the hidden room?
Art experts believe that some of the sketches in charcoal and chalk are almost certain to be Michelangelo originals.
Where is the hidden room located in Florence?
The hidden room is located in Florence’s Basilica di San Lorenzo.
What was the Basilica di San Lorenzo’s significance in relation to the Medicis?
The Basilica di San Lorenzo was the official church of the Medici family, famous patrons of the arts who governed Florence and Tuscany for centuries.
What was Michelangelo commissioned to design for the Medicis around 1520?
Michelangelo was commissioned to design a family mausoleum, which came to be known as the Medici Chapels.
What is the historical event that led historians to believe that Michelangelo went into hiding in the hidden room?
Michelangelo is believed to have gone into hiding in the hidden room after joining a 1527 revolt that drove the Medicis out of Florence. They returned three years later.