Thursday Seminar "Saving the soul of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici: function and design in the Old Sacristy"


Thursday, September 27, 2018, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Gould Hall, I Tatti
sagrestia vecchia veduta

Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici (c.1360-1429) – one of the richest and most eminent Florentines of his day – was buried in the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo in Florence. But why did he choose a sacristy as his burial place?

It was a place for storing church plate and vestments, and one where priests gathered the necessary equipment to say mass and where they cleaned up afterwards? This question is usually answered by considering the opportunities the new structure afforded for demonstrating conspicuous consumption, It was, after all, large, lavishly appointed, and designed by the leading artists of the day, Brunelleschi and Donatello. This paper, by contrast, challenges whether the desire to express status and power was the sole reason for Giovanni di Bicci’s decision. It proposes instead that he believed interment in a sacristy to be beneficial for the health of his soul. It goes on to explore the ways in which his soul might have been benefitted and how they might have affected aspects of the sacristy’s design.

Paul Davies is Professor of History of Architecture at the University of Reading. He is the author of Michele Sanmicheli (with D. Hemsoll) (Electa, 2004) and The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo. A.X. Renaissance Architecture and Later Architecture and Ornament, 2 vols, (with D. Hemsoll) (Royal Collection, 2013), and editor of Architecture and Pilgrimage: the Southern Mediterranean and Beyond (with D. Howard and W. Pullan) (Ashgate, 2013), and has published many articles on Italian Renaissance architecture. His particular interests lie in sixteenth-century architecture in the Veneto, ecclesiastical architecture (1350-1600), especially pilgrimage architecture and the centrally planned church, and in architectural drawings.