Les Medicis de Florencia, argent et bautée
The Medici and Florence
The most significant period of the history of Florence is focused on the name of the Medici, a family who deeply influenced and largely determined economic and political events in the city from the 15th to the 17th century and beyond. Like many other families of land-owners they moved into the city from the Mugello-valley in the North of Florence presumably in the 13th century. They soon came to be rich merchants and smart bankers and developed finantial links all over Europe including a previleged relationship with the Pope who entrasted them with the collection of taxes due to the Holy Seat.
Their escalation to political power already started at the end of the 14th century. In the struggle between the aristocratic families of ancient origin and the rising middle class who owed their wealth to trading activities, the Medici became the champions of the latters: having no noble title, they were provided though with consistent economic means that they used to obtain not only political support by their many protegè, but also an immense prestige thanks to the important art commisions they financed to embellish the city of Florence.
In the 15th century Cosimo the Elder first and later his celebrated grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent become patrons to many of those Florentine artists who are today held as the founders of the Renaissance: Brunelleschi, Donatello, the workshop of Verrocchio, Leonardo, Michelangelo and so many others, they all were helped by the economic means and exquisite taste of the family.
In the 1530s, despite many useless attempts to undermine the increasing power of the Medici, the family formally obtained the political domain of the city and made of Florence first and later large part of the Tuscan territory the set of their escalation to their personal and absolute government.
The Medici received the title of granddukes of Tuscany and such they remained for six generations untill the end of the dinasty in 1737: without any more descendants, they had to cede political leadership to the Habsburg-Lorraine family who was related to them through the arranged marriages between members of the European royal families.
Before they died out, the Medici had given to European history two queens of France – Caterina and Maria - and two popes fundamental for the history of the Church: Leo X – who excomunicated Luther after his rebellion – and Clement VII – who excomunicated Henry VIII of England for his disgraceful habit of changing wife any time he wished so.
The fading of the Medici dinasty means for Florence the end of a government held by a Florentine family and the switch, even in Tuscany, to the leadership of foreigners – the Habsburg-Lorraine family – that will come to an end only in 1861 with the unification of the Italian nation.