Laurentian Medicean Library, no closure: there will be agreement between state and parish

The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana will not close the scholars' room. There will be agreement between state and parish: speaks Monsignor Marco Domenico Viola, prior of San Lorenzo.

In recent days it had been feared that the study room of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence would be closed: a room of fundamental importance for scholars, equipped for the consultation of the ancient manuscripts that make up the most precious part of the Library’s heritage. In particular, there had been widespread news, later moreover relaunched in an irresponsible manner on social media (so much so that many, equivocating, even thought of a closure of the Library), of the cancellation of the rental contract that the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities had to pay to the parish of San Lorenzo for the occupation of the room, which is ecclesiastically owned.

Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
Laurentian Medicean Library. Ph. Credit Francesco Bini

The risk, averted thanks to the willingness of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, which allowed the scholars to continue using the room despite the state’s cancellation of the lease, was that of forcing the users to give up the room pending an eventual transfer. A risk that now, we can say, has been definitively averted. We reached Monsignor Marco Domenico Viola, prior of San Lorenzo, as well as episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Florence. “The hall,” Monsignor Viola reiterated to us, “has been cancelled by the Ministry for a year already, and despite the fact that this lapse of time has passed, we have always allowed the Library to continue its work. Together with the director, we have tried to have relationships with the Ministry, although due to transfers and retirements it has not always been easy to maintain these relationships assiduously.”

The difficulties in maintaining relations with the state have also been insisted on by news reports in recent days. But in the last few hours there have been meetings aimed at resolving the issue, and Monsignor Viola confirmed that an agreement will be sanctioned between the state and the parish of San Lorenzo to allow scholars to continue using the room for reading and studying manuscripts. “It has been decided that we will find an agreement,” reassured the prior of San Lorenzo. “The Basilica,” he added, “is willing to cede the hall in ownership to the state, and the state will probably cede to the Basilica some rooms that it does not use. So there will be an exchange, not a sale. We have entered into relations with the new official, who will come to make an inspection in the next few days. In principle, the agreement, which will then have to be ratified officially, will include the willingness of the Basilica of San Lorenzo to cede the ownership of the hall to the state, and on the part of the state the willingness to cede to the Basilica rooms that it does not need.”

In short: all indications are that the matter will be concluded in the best possible way, because the dialogue is proceeding well and because the parties are showing determination. The prior’s reassurances, moreover, follow those of MiBACT’s director general of libraries, Nicola Macrì, who had already reiterated the fact that the scholars’ room will remain the Laurentian Library’s property. “To confirm the agreement,” Monsignor Viola concluded, “all that will be needed is good will on the part of both parties, and I think I can say that the good will is there both on our part and on the part of the ministry.” All that remains, therefore, is to wait for news of the agreement’sofficiality: at the moment, however, we can feel able to reassure those who had been concerned about the Library’s fate, due to an unjustified sensationalism that had accompanied the relaunches of the news. The Library, in good substance and as we had predicted, will not close the room to scholars, who will be able to continue their work quietly.

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