Part of the sarcophagus was in a particularly bad state as the remains of Alessandro Medici, a ruler of Florence who was assassinated, had been buried in the tomb without being eviscerated, as was customary at the time for Medici family members. This meant that over time the organic liquids from the corpse had started to seep through and stain Michelangelo’s work.

Michelangelo was commissioned to sculpt the New Sacristy, in the Medici chapels in San Lorenzo church in Florence, in 1520.

Restorers struggled to clean the dirt and grime that accumulated over the centuries until resorting to an unconventional solution: bacteria.

The tomb is adorned with sculptures representing likenesses of two dukes from the powerful Medici family, Giuliano di Lorenzo and Lorenzo di Piero, plus four allegorical figures representing different times of the day, and the Madonna and Child.

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