Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level





Sexton, Kim

Committee Member/Reader

Buege, David

Committee Member/Second Reader

Jacobs, Lynn F


This thesis focuses on the architectural work of Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti, who, perhaps, is better known for his painting and sculpture than for his architecture. Nevertheless, his buildings are revered by architectural historians, such as James Ackerman, for their mimicry of bodily motion and emotion. Under the influence of Renaissance humanism, it was not uncommon for architects to validate their designs by reference to the human body, for example, basing the dimensions of a basilica on ideal bodily proportions. But, Michelangelo's approach in his earliest architectural designs, such as the Medici Chapel (1521-1524) and the Laurentian Library (1523-1525) in Florence, Italy, had already diverged in that respect from his peers. Ackerman observed that Michelangelo's architectural style recalled human musculature, but further survey of the widespread culture of dissection in the Renaissance reveals that Ackerman, like many art historians, underestimated the hold that the multivalent domain of human anatomical study had on the imagination of leading artists. This research aims to uncover how, why, and the degree to which the increasingly acceptable practice of dissection influenced Michelangelo's body of built work. In a detailed analysis of the symbolic meanings of dissection, artists' participation in the culture of dissection, and Michelangelo's Medici Chapel, this thesis explores the different ways in which human dissection found expression in Michelangelo's architectural work and helped to shape the powerful character of High Renaissance architecture in Italy.


Michelangelo, High Renaissance, art history, medieval architecture