If there ever was a sign that the Renaissance remains a work in progress, it could be the current efforts to complete Michelangelo’s design work on the facade of Florence’s San Lorenzo Basilica. Construction delays are not so unusual, but this one has been going on now for nearly 500 years.
Florence’s mayor, Matteo Renzi, wants to change that. He’s advocating completion of the long-abandoned work on that plain Jane facade almost everyone is accustomed to.
While the interior of the church remains one of the most magnificent in Italy, the exterior is decidedly ordinary with crude masonry. That was not the intention back in 1515 when Pope Leo X commissioned Michelangelo to design a facade. Those Renaissance brick layers didn’t even bother to scrape away the excess mortar and smooth out the gaps between the blocks.
Michelangelo made some sketches and built wooden model, but the Pope halted the project before incurring the expense of hauling in the blocks of white marble from Carrara.
Instead of completing the facade, the Pope decided to use the money to build a magnificent mausoleum for his own Medici family relatives’ remains. Today, you’ll the Medici Mausoleum attached to the rear of the church.
This would not be the first time a facade was added to one of Florence’s major churches hundreds of years after it was completed. The multi-hued pink and green marble face of the main cathedral, Santa Maria Fiore, otherwise known as “The Duomo”, was added to the structure in the 19th Century. This facade was in a gothic revival style what would have appalled Renaissance era Florentines. To this day, the public reception of that facade reception remains mixed, some saying it reminds them of a zebra in striped pajamas.
So, it shouldn’t be too surprising. idea of restarting the facade project is being beset with some controversy. Some people are not comfortable with the change. The design for San Lorenzo and may be true to the Renaissance and may be 500 years old, there’s no denying that the church’s present appearance is its historical appearance.
No longer would the square in front of the church have quite thesame feel as it did in Michelangelo’s time. Then again, it could be gratifying to see whatwould have been one of Michelangelo’s most significant works brought to completion. It could end up reminding us just how much the of Renaissance remains in play in our times.