In a concealed room beneath the New Sacristy of the San Lorenzo Basilica in Florence, Italy, the great Italian sculptor and architect Michelangelo once went into hiding. He was fifty five at that time.
Michelangelo had enjoyed the patronage of the Medici family, which lorded over Florence in the early 16th century, for much of his life. But relations turned sour when the Medici were thrown out of power and Michelangelo went to the aid of his beloved city which ousted the Medici in 1527. The republic, however, was short-lived. The Medici were restored to power in 1530, and at once the young Alessandro Medici, who became the first Duke of Florence, began baying for Michelangelo’s blood for betraying the family.
Michelangelo eventually fled the city for Rome, but for short period of time, he remained holed up in a secret chamber under the still unfinished Medici Chapels that he was designing to serve as the burial place of the Medici family. Michelangelo passed his time by doodling on the walls of his hiding room with a piece of charcoal. There is a self-portrait, a life-size figure of Christ rising from dead, and numerous other sketches experts believe are copies of figures the artist had painted earlier on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.
"I hid in a tiny cell," Michelangelo wrote, "entombed like the dead Medici above, though hiding from a live one. To forget my fears, I fill the walls with drawings."
The room was discovered only in 1976 when Dal Poggetto, the then director of the Medici Chapels museum, was searching for a new way for tourists to exit, leading him and his team to discover a trapdoor hidden beneath a wardrobe. The room is located below the trapdoor and was once used to store coal. Poggetto believes Michelangelo hid there for about two months.
This room today is closed to the public to protect the artwork.