Italian Renaissance is a historical period marked by political and cultural changes. The state was jumping into a completely new era, leaving the Middle Ages to evolve over time. One dynasty, among others, contributed enormously to build this revolutionary period: the Medici family. In this guide, discover the Medici Family Tree and how this powerful family impacted the city of Florence.
Who Was the Medici Family?
Contrary to popular belief, the Medici weren’t noble, meaning they weren’t supposed to reign. Despite this disadvantage, the family was rich and comprised of intelligent members, able to take right decisions at the right time. In a relatively short amount of time, the Medici family gathered a fortune working in a rural area close to Florence, the Mugello Valley, and their rising journey began.
Medici Family Tree
During the 14th century, Giovanni de’ Medici, also known as Giovanni di Bicci, founded the Medici Bank. This choice empowered the whole family so much that they became able to finance wars and even the reigning Pope at the time. Thanks to this brave move, Giovanni got invited to join the Florentine Signoria, what we could see today as a modern parliament. Then, the Pope gave all of his support to Giovanni and chose the Medici Bank as the official bank for the Vatican, greatly increasing the power and the influence of the Medici all over the city of Florence.
Cosimo de’ Medici
Giovanni died in 1429 and his son, Cosimo de’ Medici, inherited the family business. Cosimo understood immediately that the only way to protect the fortune they had gathered was to acquire an even larger political influence in Florence. He rapidly created connections with the influential members of the Florentine society and funded many of the architectural projects in the city. His rising importance, though, was feared by the Florentine reigning families, the Strozzi and the Albizzi, who decided to imprison Cosimo and expel him from the city in 1433.
One year later, in 1434, the community protested against the Strozzi and Albizzi families and asked for Cosimo de’ Medici to come back as their leader. Cosimo came back and walked into the city as the only governor, marking the real beginning of the Medici family as the only dynasty able to hold the power in Florence.
Thanks to Cosimo, the Medici established their supremacy over the city and continued to reign over the centuries giving Florence the fame that the city still preserves. This dynasty faced wars, poverty and diseases but always helped the population protest when the economy was weak.
The legacy of Cosimo de’ Medici was perpetrated by his son Piero, who worked only to maintain what his father had accomplished.
Lorenzo de’ Medici – Lorenzo the Magnificent
In 1469, Piero’s son, Lorenzo (better known as Lorenzo the Magnificent), ascended to the throne and with him, the Medici’s fame grew even more.
Thanks to his marriage with a noble woman from the Orsini family, the Medici created connections even within the aristocracy and redefined their right to control the city of Florence.
When he was only 29 years old, Lorenzo was brutally involved in an episode today known as the Crazy Conspiracy (la Congiura de’ Pazzi) in which he got hurt and his brother, Giuliano, died. The conspiracy was organized by some members of the other Florentine families, sick of having the Medici holding the power. Those members where rapidly founded and imprisoned.
Due to this tragedy, Lorenzo lost his brother but gained even more popularity among the people of Florence. He was recognized as the only possible governor of the city and worked hard to empower the family even more by changing laws and the bureaucracy.
Medici Family’s Influence on Art
Lorenzo the Magnificent was a very peculiar political figure. He was educated to be a leader by receiving all the notions to reign from a very young age but, at the same time, he was mainly interested in the arts and in a world far away from the political one. He dreamed to be an artist and was fascinated by ancient Roman culture and Rome itself, a city where he used to hide whenever he could. When he became governor, he devoted his life and his power to protect, improve and sponsor the arts, from literature to figurative arts. He surrounded himself with the best living artists that he used to host, pay and protect in order to give them the possibility to work at their very best.
Under his patronage lived artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo. Throughout this period, Michelangelo was in charge of many of the architectural projects sponsored by Lorenzo to renovate the city and created the David, the magnificent sculpture we can still admire today at the Accademia Gallery.
As a sign of his gratitude, Botticelli used to include members of the Medici family in his paintings and even Lorenzo was portrayed by the artist many times.
Lorenzo de Medici died in 1492 and his administration definitely made Florence one of the most modern cities of Italy. During the 15th century, the city had seen the raising of landmarks such as the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (also known as the Florentine Duomo), the Uffizi structures, Santa Maria Novella and many more.
The Medici family After Lorenzo’s Death
Unfortunately, with Piero, Lorenzo’s son, the Medici dynasty began to decay. They kept holding the power for centuries, but never again with the bright success they used to have. At this point, their influence was spread all over Italy. The Medici were controlling the Vatican by choosing cardinals and even future Popes and they were strongly linked to all the most important aristocratic families.
Despite this enormous power though, the family started to fall apart from the inside. The betrayals between family members led the whole dynasty to a slow, yet strong corrosion that ended in 1737 with Anna Maria Luisa Medici.
Florence still preserves all of the landmarks created by the Medici all over the city. Their legacy is vivid and it is possible to see what they have accomplished throughout the centuries when exploring the city of Florence.
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