Nobody knew about it for hundreds of years. Then, in 1975, under the Medici Chapels in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, a tiny room was discovered. It is thought that this room was Michelangelo’s secret hiding place for a few months in 1530, to avoid being found by the Medici.
In this room, Michelangelo, armed only with charcoal and chalk, sketched figures from his past and future works: the head of Laocoon, various revisions of David, some images from the Sistine Chapel, and even a self-portrait.
This room remained unknown until 1975, when the then director of the Medici Chapels Museum, Paolo dal Poggetto, discovered it by chance. The walls had been plastered, but careful restoration work brought Michelangelo’s charcoal drawings back to light.
It is now being reported that this room, for all these decades only accessible to art experts, may be opened to the public some time in 2020.
Why was Michelangelo hiding? The Medici Chapels, now a museum, were originally a mausoleum, the burial place for members of the Medici, starting from the second half of the 1400s. In 1519, Michelangelo was asked to erect the New Sacristy, which he worked on for about 10 years; it would become one of his greatest architectural works. At the time, Michelangelo was therefore a protégé of the noble family, but when a popular uprising broke out to oust them, the artist sided against the Medici. However, the powerful family soon returned to power, and Michelangelo had to flee.
He did not go very far though; having worked on it for a long time, he knew well the Medici Chapels and the San Lorenzo complex, and that’s where he found refuge, in a long and narrow basement under the very same sacristy he had built; what is now known as 'Michelangelo's secret room,’ which we soon may be able to see. Stay tuned for updates.