Sacri Splendori. The treasure of the “Chapel of the Relics” in Palazzo Pitti
Silver Museum – Palazzo Pitti
Situated on the piano nobile of the Medici residence next to the apartments set aside for Tuscany’s grand duchesses, for over one hundred and thirty years the Chapel of Relics played the role of schutzkammer for one of the largest and richest collections of reliquaries and other items of devotion in Europe, comparable in terms of sheer magnificence to the collection of the kings of Spain at El Escorial.
This astonishing heritage, comprising almost one thousand items of incalculable worth, was dispersed from 1785 onwards. It owed its dispersal in part to its very magnificence: the gold, silver, precious stones and other valuable materials making up many of the reliquaries were used to replenish the coffers of the Grand Duchy of Lorraine, whose ruling house had become Tuscany’s new overlords after the death of Gian Gastone, the last Medici grand duke.
This exhibition is the result of meticulous scholarship based on a thorough and painstaking search through documents in the archives which has allowed us to reconstruct this important devotional treasure, with over one hundred items coming together again for the first time in more than two hundred years. In particular, a careful comparison of the detailed descriptions in the 17th and 18th century inventories of the Chapel of Relics with information contained in the reliquary files drawn up both by the Ministerial Catalogue Office (now under the aegis of the Directorate General for the Historical, Artistic, Ethnic and Anthropological Heritage and for the Museum Cluster of the City of Florence and the Directorate General for the Architectural, Landscape, Historical, Artistic, Ethnic and Anthropological Heritage of the Provinces of Florence, Pistoia and Prato) and by the Italian Bishops’ Conference has allowed us to identify a considerable number of those reliquaries that were shared out among various churches and other places of worship in the diocese of Florence.