Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo, Florence


Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo, Florence
(1421-1428)
   Built by Filippo Brunelleschi, the Old Sacristy protrudes from the left arm of the Church of San Lorenzo's transept. Conceived as the final resting place for Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, Brunelleschi's first patron, the Old Sacristy is in essence a cube of equal height and width capped by a dome. Attached to it is a rectangle divided into three parts; the central segment, meant to accommodate the altar, is also domed. This simple arrangement of quadrangular and circular forms follows a Pythagorean principle of proportions common to Brunelleschi's architecture. The sacristy's elevation is tripartite as well, with Corinthian pilasters that fold at the corners and carry the weight of the entablature. Pietra serena, a local tancolored stone, trims the white stucco walls, another typical Brunelleschian feature. To allow light into the interior, the dome is capped by a lantern and pierced at the base by 12 oculi (round openings), meant to refer to the 12 apostles and the 12 gates of Jerusalem. Terracotta reliefs by Donatello fill the roundels on the arches and pendentives that support the dome, as well as the semicircular fields above the doorways. Brunelleschi is said to have complained that Donatello's contributions to the sacristy were too busy and disrupted the harmony of his architectural design. The Old Sacristy reflects Brunelleschi's rational approach to building. The first Renaissance master to introduce classical elements to architecture, his Old Sacristy echoes the balance, symmetry, and harmonious proportions of the ancients.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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