Michelangelo’s ‘Secret Room’ Open for Visits


A drawing by Michelangelo in the ‘Secret Room’. Photo by Anna Velazquez

Opening November 15, 2023: MICHELANGELO’S SECRET ROOM. Medici Chapels Museum. Open Mondays (at 3 pm, 4:30 pm, and 6 pm), Wednesdays (9 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, 3 pm, 4:30 pm, and 6 pm), Thursdays (9 am, 10:30 am, 12 noon, 1:30 pm, and 3 pm), Fridays (3 pm, 4:30 pm, and 6 pm ), and Saturdays at (9 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, 3 pm, 4:30 pm, and 6 pm).  General admission: €30, includes entrance to the Medici Chapels (€10).

For the first time ever, Michelangelo’s Secret Room will be open to the public. The room was first discovered in 1975 below the the New Sacristy inside the Museum of the Medici Chapels containing a series of drawings on the walls attributed to the Renaissance genius.  The walls contain sketches of a variety of figures and studies done in the skilled technique that is associated with the artist. 

In 1530 the famed artist was forced into hiding by Pope Clement VII, who was angry with Michelangelo for actively supporting the new republican government that had formed after the Medici family was driven out of Florence. The Basilica of San Lorenzo has long been suspected of being the location in which Michelangelo was forced to hide in for two months during the same year. But, it wasn’t until November 1975, when the then director of the Museum of the Medici Chapels commissioned diagnostic tests and cleaning in space located in a corridor beneath the apse of the New Sacristy that the sketches were rediscovered. The small room had been used as a storage area until 1955, and then remained untouched for 20 years. The cleaning revealed that under two layers of plaster, there were a series of drawings and sketches were subsequently attributed to Michelangelo. 

Though it has been a debated topic, today most scholars agree that the sketches discovered in this secret room were indeed done by Michelangelo. Among the figures include designs of some of his projects such as the legs of Giuliano de’ Medici, Duke of Nemours, as well as the head of Laocoön, a sculpture he had studied. With varying levels of detail, the drawings give some insight into the creative process of one of the most famous artists of all time. 

Another drawing by Michelangelo in the ‘Secret Room.’ Photo by Anna Velazquez

Due to the fragility of the room and the history of the art it contains, the secret room will be accessible only by reservation (email: operalaboratori.com), for a maximum of four people per group, with no more than 100 guests per week. Each reservation allows the visitor have 15 minutes within the room, with 45 minute breaks until the next group can enter. The limited access to the room is due to the need to intersperse the exposure to LED light with prolonged darkness. The opening of this room has been carefully planned for years and the museum has taken as many precautions as possible to protect this important discovery.  (Claire Ryan)