Michelangelo’s “Secret Room” (1) infographic
Graphic shows the location of the Stanza Segreta.
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CULTURE

Michelangelo sketches hidden beneath church for almost 500 years

By Ninian Carter

November 15, 2023 - March 31, 2024 - A hidden chamber discovered in 1975 beneath the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence, and adorned with what are believed to be Michelangelo sketches, is to open to the public for the first time.

In 1975, a chamber beneath the apse of the New Sacristy in the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence, which had been used as a coal bunker until 1955, was being considered for conversion into a new exit from the church.

Restorer Sabino Giovannoni was instructed to carry out cleaning tests in the narrow corridor, which had remained sealed and forgotten for decades below a trapdoor hidden by wardrobes and furniture.

Upon removing two layers of plaster from the walls, Giovannoni discovered several figure drawings in charcoal and sanguine – a reddish drawing material favoured by Rennaissance artists.

Further inspection led then museum director Paolo Dal Poggetto to attribute many of the works to High Rennaissance master Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni.

His belief was that they had been carried out in 1530, when the Prior of San Lorenzo hid Michelangelo from the wrath of Pope Clement VII, who was infuriated by his supervision of city fortifications during a short-lived republican uprising that saw the Medicis thrown out of Florence.

Known as the “Stanza Segreta” or Secret Room, it has remained closed for nearly 50 years and never been seen by the public.

On November 15, 2023, the chamber will open to pre-booked ticket holders for the first time, albeit to small guided parties of four people at a time (up to a limit of 100 people per week), who will only be allowed to spend 15 minutes in the room, accompanied by security personnel.

The fragile nature of the artworks require short periods of exposure to special LED lighting followed extended periods of darkness.

In March 2024, checks will be carried out as to the feasibility of continuing the visits.

Sources
PUBLISHED: 11/11/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images
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