MICHELOZZO DI BARTOLOMEO
(b. 1396, Firenze, d. 1472, Firenze)

Library

1437-51
Photo
Convento di San Marco, Florence

When the Dominican Order took charge of the dilapidated monastery of San Marco in Florence in 1436, Cosimo de' Medici hired Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to rebuild it. Cosimo also added a library (which he then helped to fill with books), a cloister, a chapter room, a bell tower, a bronze bell, and church furnishings, including an imposing altarpiece by Fra Angelico for the main altar.

The library is one of the most elegant creations of Michelozzo. It is composed of three aisles of equal height, the outer ones groin-vaulted, the central one roofed by a barrel vault and supported on an airy arcade of delicate Ionic columns; such a combination has no precedent. The effect of perspective recession is very strong. The long narrow design with windows on both sides is created to maximize the availability of natural light; this functional aspect of the architecture would have been more important to the monks who worked in this space - reading, writing, and copying manuscripts - than any of the architectural refinements we admire in the structure today.




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