Legend has it that Michelangelo hid in this secret vault in 1530 while hiding from Pope Clement VII, using its walls as a sketch pad to while away the hours.
The ‘secret room’ is 33 ft long and eight ft high and was used as a coal storage and a corridor. Its hidden artworks were discovered during exploratory work in 1975 to create a new exit for the venue, during which a restorer found drawings of human figures, drawn in sanguine and charcoal, hidden below two layers of plaster.
They were formally attributed to Michelangelo by the former director of the Medici Chapels, Paolo Dal Poggetto, though not all scholars are convinced they’re the works of Michelangelo. Some argue they appear to be provisional sketches for future works, including limbs of statues found in the New Sacristy.
Michelangelo is best known for his awe-inspiring frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and the dome of St Peter’s. In 153o, he was sculpting tombs for members of the powerful Medici family, of which Pope Clement VII was a member. The two had a falling out, which resulted in the pope ordering Michelangelo’s death – an order that was rescinded a few months later.
Only 100 people will be able to see the works in person per week, with groups of four admitted at 15-minute intervals. It’s a trial opening, with tickets costing €20 in addition to the €10 entry to the site and a €3 reservation charge. Something else to note – unfortunately, the experience is not accessible to all, as the room is located down a narrow staircase.