Skip to comments.Medici's Secret Crypt Unearthed
Posted on 07/11/2004 12:25:26 PM PDT by blam
Medicis' secret crypt unearthed
John Hooper in Rome
Thursday July 8, 2004
The Guardian (UK)
A long-rumoured secret crypt of Italy's mighty Medici family was discovered by scientists yesterday after a hunt reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. The vaulted chamber was found under a stone floor behind the main altar of the Medici chapels in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. Under the gaze of sculptures by Michelangelo and his pupils, researchers lifted a stone slab to find seven steps leading down to the entrance. According to Italian media reports, the hidden crypt is between 2.1 metres (7ft) and 2.4 metres high and six metres by at least four metres wide.
Yesterday's discovery is the latest development in a remarkable project. Since last month, a team of paleopathologists from American and Italian universities have been digging up the bodies of 49 members of the Medici family buried in the church of San Lorenzo.
They aim to carry out tests to build a picture of the lives - and deaths - of a ruling elite that held power in Florence and much of Tuscany for more than three centuries.
On Tuesday researchers opened the tomb of the last of the dynasty, the grand duke Gian Gastone de' Medici - and were astonished to find it empty.
Gino Fornaciari, of Florence University, told the Ansa news agency: "Behind a first marble panel we expected to find a second stone slab. Instead, we found a wall."
In trying to locate the final resting place of Gian Gastone, who died in 1737, they stumbled on the secret crypt. The stone slab blocking the entrance to the stairs was found a few metres away from Gian Gastone's mysteriously empty tomb.
It was known that some of the Medici family's remains were moved from their original burial places in 1857. And, according to the early 20th-century British historian GF Young, the coffins of Gian Gastone and his grandfather had been moved to a secret crypt accessible only down hidden stairs. Until yesterday's discovery, his account had been dismissed as baseless rumour.
However, inside the crypt, there were another eight bodies, one of an adult and the remaining seven of children.
Most of the remains were in an advanced state of decomposition. But one of the children had been expertly embalmed and vestiges of clothing remained on the body.
The 400,000 (£267,000) exhumation project involves scientists from the universities of Florence, Pisa, New York, Long Island and Minnesota. Even before yesterday's sensa tion, it had yielded interesting results.
The researchers are already convinced that the family was not, as previously believed, afflicted with gout, but with a severe form of arthritis. Piero de' Medici, who ruled Florence from 1464 to 1469 and was known as Piero the Gouty, was so badly crippled that he was often able to use only his tongue.
Historians hope the project will help clear up some of the puzzles about the Medicis, including the death in 1589 of Prince Francesco I, who was said to have died of malaria but is long suspected to have been poisoned.
This is fabulous! Can't wait to hear what else they discover. What a find!!
This is a "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" -- Archeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc. PING list.
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This is very interesting. The Medici famiy has always fascinated me, most modern politics can be traced to them. I hope the find out more.
Thanks for the post. The Medici family has always held great fascination for me.
You beat me to it!
Hey...I don't have to put the other stuff back now, do I ?!!
What ever happened to "finders keepers?"
Well...some of the bones I can't put back.
The "news" will be broadcast by Jerry Rivers on local channels.
Hillary's filing cabinet, discovered.
Digging up the dead? This is weird.
You should check out the exhibition in Memphis about the Medici: http://www.wonders.org/current/index.htm
Dammit ! this means several hundred additional democrat voters...
Gerraldo was there.
Did they find Jimmy Hoffa?
Fortune Is a River:
Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli's
to Change the Course of Florentine History
by Roger D. Masters
If anyone finds my lost pawn ticket, please let me know...I've been hoping to get my watch back.
Thanks blam for your usual interesting post.
got a bit of the Medici sage on the re-run of NOVA's show on Galileo today.
Thanks for the link. I took a quick look at it, looks like some interesting info under the press section. Bookmarked it .
WOW...this is an incredible find! Thanks for the ping.
The Medicis had ornate rings with compartments for poison. When you weren't looking, they spiked your Snapple...
The dead should be allowed to rest.
As a Conservative I am appalled at this desecration of the final resting places of these great men and women. Not only did they make elaborate plans to bury themselves they gave the world some of it's very greatest art in the process, art which has been shared with the world for hundreds of years.
These are not anonymous paupers or pre-historic remains of archeological significance. These are the well known remains of historic individuals. They should be left to rest in peace as they intended and not disturbed for the amusement of moderns.
To think that our transitory desires over ride the dictates of tradition and decency if a fundametally liberal position. Just as marraige is no longer a sacred bond, the tomb too is apparently only a temporary resting place until some govt. agency decides they want to 'investigate'.
Has all decency fled our world? Why is everyone on this conservative forum so enthusiastic about this desecration?
I gotta agree. As rotten as most of the Medici's were, the predelection of scientists to disturb graves--of people not that ancient either--is kind of disturbing.
You have to think that these people when they died, didn't expect their great-great....grand-kids to dig them up again just out of curiousity.
It's happening all over Europe, people who were given a decent Christian burial are now being exhumed, all in the name of science. I don't think the science to be learned for this makes up for the disrepect of the dead.
Knowing whether a Medici was poisoned, or had gout or arthritus, doesn't benefit the living enough to disturb private graves...just because they died centuries ago.
You wouldn't want your mother dug up by scientists curious about her ailments and anatomy, would you? Why is it then OK for your great-great-.....grandmother?
What they accomplished while they lived is what is important; the history they wrote as a direct results of their actions is their legacy. To desecrate their final resting places to satisfy the morbid curiosity of scholars is blasphemous.
May God forgive them.
It wouldn't bother me in the least to have any of my ancestors exhumed and examined, especially if the findings could help with filling in historical gaps.
I don't understand why people find this distasteful. After all, they are merely dead bodies. Their souls have gone on to their just rewards.
When they are dead, what was great about them is gone. The rest is just dust.
Lancelot Smith (hey just trying to get into the spirit of this thing)
This sounds like the desecration of a church. I have no idea how this could be permitted.
More proof Europe is apostate. Graves desecration at it's morbid worst.
Interior, looking toward altar:
Even St. Peter's in Rome has been excavated--right under the altar.
You apparently have been to Hattenheim, on the Mosell river.
The church ran out of space in the cemetary, so all the bones were dug up and moved to the church basement. Layered very neatly too, I might add. At the time I was there (45 years ago) it only cost 5 phennigs to go down and look.
Sorry! should have read: You apparently HAVEN'T been
One scarecely knows where to begin.
What you've posted is the church of S. Lorenzo. It's in the same complex as the Medici chapel, but in a different area.