[med-i-chee; It. me-dee-chee]
Medici, Lorenzino de', 1515-47, member of the cadet branch of the Medici family. A boon companion of Alessandro de' Medici, he secretly plotted the duke's murder—possibly out of republican convictions. With a hired assassin, he stabbed Alessandro to death (1537) and fled to Venice, where he was eventually assassinated on the orders of Cosimo I de' Medici, the successor to Alessandro. He is the hero of Alfred de Musset's drama, Lorenzaccio (1833).
Medici, Alessandro de', 1510?-37, duke of Florence (1532-37); probably an illegitimate son of Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino. His prominence began when Pope Clement VII, then head of the Medici family succeeded (1530) in restoring the Medici to power in Florence after a three-year banishment. With Clement's support Alessandro was made head of the republic (1531) and hereditary duke (1532) by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, whose illegitimate daughter Margaret of Austria (later known as Margaret of Parma) he married. His arbitrary rule brought him general hatred. The Florentines sent (1535) his cousin Ippolito to appeal to Charles V against the duke, but Ippolito died en route, apparently of malaria, although he may have been poisoned at Alessandro's orders. Alessandro, who continued to enjoy imperial favor, was murdered in turn two years later by a relative, Lorenzino de' Medici (see separate article). The elder Medici line was then extinct, and the headship of the family passed to Cosimo I de' Medici.
Medici, Catherine de': see Catherine de' Medici.
Medici, Cosimo de', 1389-1464, Italian merchant prince, first of the Medici family to rule Florence. He is often called Cosimo the Elder. After the death of his father, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, Cosimo and his family were banished (1433) from Florence by a faction headed by the powerful Albizzi family. He returned a year later and, supported by the people, soon became the acknowledged leading citizen of the republic. An able financier, he vastly expanded the family's banking business. In spite of his lavish expenses for the state, for charities, and for the arts and learning, he doubled his fortune. He respected the republican institutions of the city, always sought popular support, and made his power as little felt as possible. Guiding Florentine foreign policy, he sought a balance of power among the Italian states. From the traditional alliance with Venice against Milan, he shifted to an alliance with the Sforza family, helping the Sforzas to gain control over Milan. Cosimo's claim to greatness, however, rests chiefly on his generosity toward artists and scholars. He founded the famous Medici Library and an academy for Greek studies (headed by Marsilio Ficino), built extensively in Florence, and protected such artists as Brunnelleschi, Donatello, Ghiberti, and Luca della Robbia. After his death Florence voted him the official title Pater Patriae. His son, Piero de' Medici, known as Il Gottoso [the gouty], succeeded as head of the family.

See biographies by K. D. Vernon (1899, repr. 1970) and K. S. Gutkind (1939).

Medici, Cosimo I de', 1519-74, duke of Florence (1537-69), grand duke of Tuscany (1569-74); son of Giovanni de' Medici (Giovanni delle Bande Nere). In 1537, Lorenzino de' Medici murdered Cosimo's predecessor, Alessandro de' Medici, and fled from Florence, leaving the succession to Cosimo. Cosimo, despite promises to the contrary, assumed absolute authority as soon as he was installed. A group of exiles who tried to restore the republic were defeated and were either imprisoned or beheaded. In 1539, Cosimo married a Spanish noblewoman, Eleonora de Toledo, whose enormous dowry replenished his empty coffers. Under Cosimo's able, though ruthless, rule Florence reached its highest political importance and material prosperity and almost doubled its territories—notably by the acquisition (1555) of the republic of Siena. In 1569, Pope Pius V bestowed the title grand duke of Tuscany on Cosimo. Cosimo centralized his state. His son, Francesco de' Medici, succeeded him.
Medici, Cosimo II de', 1590-1621, grand duke of Tuscany (1609-21); son and successor of Ferdinand I de' Medici. Although Cosimo played a role in the War of the Mantuan Succession, he generally avoided intervention in foreign affairs; in domestic policy he was less energetic than his father, particularly in economic matters, but he maintained a large fleet. He was a patron of Galileo, whom he appointed court philosopher and mathematician. His son, Ferdinand II de' Medici, succeeded him.
Medici, Cosimo III de', 1642-1723, grand duke of Tuscany (1670-1723); son and successor of Ferdinand II de' Medici. During his long reign the government of Tuscany degenerated into bigoted and corrupt despotism. His son and successor, Gian Gastone de' Medici, was the last of the family to rule Tuscany.
Medici, Ferdinand I de', 1549-1609, grand duke of Tuscany (1587-1609); brother and successor of Francesco de' Medici. He was made a cardinal in his youth, and he built the famous Villa Medici at Rome. To become grand duke at his brother's death he resigned his cardinalate (he had never been ordained). Ferdinand improved the administration, strengthened the fleet, and created the port of Livorno. His son, Cosimo II de' Medici, succeeded him.
Medici, Francesco de', 1541-87, grand duke of Tuscany (1574-87); son and successor of Cosimo I de' Medici. In his reign the decline of the Medici family began. He allowed the Austrian and Spanish branches of the house of Hapsburg to establish a virtual protectorate over his dominion, devoting himself to alchemy and other nonpolitical pursuits. He first married Joanna, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, and then, after Joanna's death, Bianca Capello. His daughter by the first marriage was Marie de' Medici, queen of Henry IV of France. Francesco was succeeded by his brother, Ferdinand I de' Medici.
Medici, Gian Gastone de', 1671-1737, grand duke of Tuscany (1723-37); son and successor of Cosimo III de' Medici. Gian Gastone was the last male member of his family, and the question of succession caused agitation from 1715 onward. In 1735 it was settled, in connection with the general territorial exchanges caused by the War of the Polish Succession, that on Gian Gastone's death Tuscany should fall to Francis of Lorraine (later Holy Roman Emperor Francis I), husband of Maria Theresa of Austria, in exchange for Lorraine, which went to Stanislaus I of Poland. When Francis became grand duke, Tuscany had fallen from its former glory to decadence and impoverishment.
Medici, Giovanni de', 1475-1521: see Leo X.
Medici, Giovanni de', or Giovanni delle Bande Nere [Ital.,=of the black bands], 1498-1526, Italian condottiere; great-grandson of Lorenzo de' Medici (d. 1440, brother of Cosimo de' Medici, 1389-1464). The son of Caterina Sforza (see under Sforza, family), he was trained from childhood for the military life, and in 1516 his relative Pope Leo X gave him command of a troop. He soon won great reputation as a military leader. His nickname was probably acquired because of the black stripes of mourning on his banners after the death (1521) of Leo X. In the Italian Wars, Giovanni fought (1521-22) in N Italy for the pope, on the side of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, against Francis I of France. He later changed sides, however, and fought with Francis in the battle of Pavia (1525), where he was severely wounded. In 1526 he again sided with Francis, fighting for the League of Cognac. He died of a wound received in battle. Giovanni delle Bande Nere possessed great courage and tactical ability. His hold over his men was remarkable, and his corps remained together long after his death. His wife, Maria Salviati, was a granddaughter of Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo il Magnifico), and his son became grand duke of Tuscany as Cosimo I.
Medici, Giuliano de', 1479-1516, duke of Nemours (1515-16); younger son of Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo il Magnifico) and brother of Pope Leo X. He entered Florence in 1512 when the Holy League restored his family to rule the city. Having married a princess of the Nemours branch of the house of Savoy, he was invested with the duchy by Francis I of France, who also intended to place him on the throne of Naples. Giuliano was a patron of the arts and letters. His statue, by Michelangelo, together with the statues of Day and Night, adorn his tomb in the Church of San Lorenzo, Florence. Ippolito de' Medici was his illegitimate son.
Medici, Giulio de': see Clement VII.
Medici, Lorenzo de', 1449-92, Italian merchant prince, called Lorenzo il Magnifico [the magnificent]. He succeeded (1469) his father, Piero de' Medici, as head of the Medici family and as virtual ruler of Florence. One of the towering figures of the Italian Renaissance, he was an astute politician, firm in purpose, yet pliant and tolerant; a patron of the arts, literature, and learning; and a reputable scholar and poet. Without adopting any official title, he subtly managed to conduct the affairs of the Florentine state. His lavish public entertainments contributed to his popularity, but, in combination with his mediocre success as a businessman, they helped to drain his funds. His growing control of the government alarmed Pope Sixtus IV, who helped to foment the Pazzi conspiracy (1478) against Lorenzo and his brother, Giuliano de' Medici. Giuliano was stabbed to death during Mass at the cathedral, but Lorenzo escaped with a wound, and the plot collapsed. Lorenzo retaliated against the Pazzi, and Sixtus excommunicated him and laid an interdict on Florence. An honorable peace was made not long afterward. In 1480, in order to retrieve his huge financial losses, Lorenzo used his political power to gain control over the public funds of Florence. The city, however, flourished, and Lorenzo, who played an important role on the international scene, constantly worked to preserve general peace by establishing a balance of power among the Italian states. Through his credit with Pope Innocent VIII he obtained a cardinal's hat for his son Giovanni (later Pope Leo X). In spite of the attacks of Girolamo Savonarola, Lorenzo allowed him to continue his preaching. Lorenzo spent huge sums to purchase Greek and Latin manuscripts and to have them copied, and he urged the use of Italian in literature. His brilliant literary circle included Poliziano, Ficino, Luigi Pulci, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. He was a patron of Sandro Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Andrea del Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and other famed artists. His own poetry—love lyrics, rustic poems, carnival songs, sonnets, and odes—shows a delicate feeling for nature. His son Piero de' Medici succeeded him as head of the family but was expelled from Florence two years later.

See C. M. Ady, Lorenzo de' Medici and Renaissance Italy (1955, repr. 1964); C. L. Mee, Lorenzo de Medici and the Renaissance (1969).

Medici, Lorenzo de', 1492-1519, duke of Urbino (1516-19); son of Piero de' Medici. His uncle, Pope Leo X, made the youthful Lorenzo duke of Urbino. After his early death, however, Urbino reverted (1521) to the Della Rovere family. A patron of the arts and humanities, Lorenzo has been immortalized by Michelangelo, who designed and made his tomb in the Church of San Lorenzo, Florence. Of the three statues adorning his tomb, one represents Lorenzo in a pensive attitude (hence it is known as the Pensieroso) and the other two represent Dawn and Dusk. Lorenzo was the father of Catherine de' Medici, queen of France.
Medici, Marie de': see Marie de' Medici.
Medici, Piero de', 1416-69, Italian merchant prince. He succeeded his father, Cosimo de' Medici, as head of the Medici family and as leader of the Florentine state. His ill health earned him the nickname Il Gottoso [the gouty]. In 1466, Piero put down a conspiracy of nobles headed by the Pitti family, and although it was directed at his life, he allowed the conspirators to go free. His son, Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo il Magnifico), succeeded him as head of the family.
Medici, Piero de', 1471-1503, Italian merchant prince. He succeeded his father, Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo il Magnifico), as head of the Medici family and as leader of the Florentine state. In 1494 he surrendered the chief fortresses of Tuscany to the invading army of Charles VIII of France. The democratic party in Florence, led by Savonarola, took advantage of Charles's approach and of Piero's weakness to expel the Medici, who had virtually ruled Florence for half a century. After Piero's death the Medici regained (1512) control over Florence with the help of the Holy League. Giuliano de' Medici and Pope Leo X were brothers of Piero. Piero's son, Lorenzo de' Medici, became (1516) duke of Urbino.
The Medici family was a powerful and influential Florentine family from the 13th to 17th century. The family produced three popes (Leo X, Clement VII, and Leo XI), numerous rulers of Florence (notably Lorenzo the Magnificent, patron of some of the most famous works of Renaissance art), and later members of the French and English royalty. Like other Signore families they dominated their city's government. They were able to bring Florence under their family's power, allowing for an environment where art and humanism could flourish. They led the birth of the Italian Renaissance along with the other great signore families of Italy like the Visconti and Sforza families of Milan, the Este of Ferrara, the Gonzaga of Mantua, and others.

The Medici Bank was one of the most prosperous and most respected in Europe. There are some estimates that the Medici family was, for a period of time, the wealthiest family in Europe. From this base, the family acquired political power initially in Florence, and later in wider Italy and Europe. A notable contribution to the profession of accounting was the improvement of the general ledger system through the development of the double-entry bookkeeping system for tracking credits and debits. This system was first used by accountants working for the Medici family in Florence.


The Medici family came from the agricultural Mugello region, north of Florence, being mentioned for the first time in a document of 1230.

The origin of the name is uncertain although its Italian meaning is "medical doctor". Members of the family rose to some prominence in the early 14th century in the wool trade, especially with France and Spain. Despite the presence of some Medici in the city's government institutions, they were still far less notable than outstanding families such as the Albizzi or the Strozzi. One Salvestro de' Medici was speaker of the woolmakers' guild during the Ciompi revolt, and one Antonio was sentenced to death in 1396. The involvement in another plot in 1400 caused all branches of the family to be banned from Florence's politics for twenty years, with the exception of two: from one of the latter, that of Averardo (Bicci) de' Medici, originated the Medici dynasty.

Averardo's son, Giovani di Bicci, increased the wealth of the family through his creation of the Medici Bank, and became one of the richest men in the city of Florence. Although he never held any political charge, he gained strong popular support for the family through his support for the introduction of a proportional taxing system.

His son Cosimo the Elder took over in 1434 as gran maestro, and the Medici became unofficial heads of state of the Florentine republic.

Elder — ruled until the assassination of Alessandro de' Medici, first Duke of Florence, in 1537. This century-long rule was only interrupted on two occasions (between 1494–1512 and 1527–1530), when popular revolts sent the Medici into exile. Power then passed to the "junior" branch — those descended from Lorenzo the Elder, younger son of Giovanni di Bicci, starting with his great-great-grandson Cosimo I the Great. The Medici's rise to power was chronicled in detail by Benedetto Dei.

Cosimo and his father started the Medici foundations in banking, manufacturing - including a form of franchises - wealth, art, cultural patronage, and in the Papacy that ensured their success for generations. At least half, probably more, of Florence’s people were employed by them and their foundational branches in business.

15th century

Piero de' Medici (1416-1469), Cosimo’s son, stayed in power for only five years (1464-1469). He was called Piero the Gouty because of the gout that infected his foot, and it eventually led to his death. Unlike his father, Piero had little interest in the arts. Due to his illness, he mostly stayed at home bedridden, and therefore did little to further the Medici control of Florence while in power. As such, Medici rule stagnated until the next generation, when Piero's son Lorenzo took over.

Lorenzo de' Medici “the Magnificent” (1449-1492), was more capable of leading and ruling a city. To ensure the continuance of his family's success, Lorenzo planned his children's future careers for them. He groomed the headstrong Piero II to follow as his successor in civil leadership; Giovanni (future Pope Leo X) was placed in the church at an early age; and provided his daughter Maddalena with a sumptuous dowry when she made the politically advantageous marriage to a son of Pope Innocent VIII. When Giuliano, Lorenzo’s brother, was assassinated in church on Easter Sunday (1478), Lorenzo adopted his illegitimate son, Giulio de' Medici (1478-1535), the future Clement VII. Unfortunately, all Lorenzo's careful planning fell apart to some degree under the incompetent Piero II, who took over as the head of Florence after his father Lorenzo's death. Piero was responsible for the expulsion of the Medici from 1494-1512.

However, the Medici remained masters of Italy through their two famous 16th century popes, Leo X and Clement VII, who were de facto rulers of both Rome and Florence. They were both patrons of the arts, but in the religious field they proved unable to stem the advance of Martin Luther's ideas. Another Medici became Pope: Alessandro Ottaviano de' Medici (Leo XI).

The most outstanding figure of the 16th century Medici was Cosimo I, who, coming from relatively modest beginnings in the Mugello, rose to supremacy in the whole of Tuscany, conquering the Florentines' most hated rival Siena and founding the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Art and architecture

The most significant accomplishments of the Medici were in the sponsorship of art and architecture, mainly early and High Renaissance art and architecture. The Medici were responsible for the majority of Florentine art during their reign. Their money was significant because during this period, artists generally only made their works when they received commissions and advance payments. Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the first patron of the arts in the family, aided Masaccio and commissioned Brunelleschi for the reconstruction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence in 1419. Cosimo the Elder's notable artistic associates were Donatello and Fra Angelico. The most significant addition to the list over the years was Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), who produced work for a number of Medici, beginning with Lorenzo the Magnificent. Lorenzo commissioned him often, even as a child, and was extremely fond of him. Lorenzo commissioned Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) for seven years. Lorenzo also was an artist of poetry and song. Later, Pope Leo X would chiefly commission Raphael (1483-1520) — "the Prince of Painters." Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel; the de' Medici family oversaw the construction of the Sistine Chapel as well.

Under Savonarola's fanatical leadership, many great works were "voluntarily" destroyed in the Bonfire of the Vanities (February 7, 1497). The following year, on May 23, 1498, Savonarola and his two young supporters were burned at the stake in the Piazza della Signoria, the same location as his bonfire. In addition to commissions for art and architecture, the Medici were prolific collectors and today their acquisitions form the core of the Uffizi museum in Florence. In architecture, the Medici are responsible for some notable features of Florence; including the Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens, the Belvedere, and the Palazzo Medici.

Although none of the Medici themselves were scientists, the family is well known to have been the patrons of the famous Galileo Galilei, who tutored multiple generations of Medici children, and was an important figurehead for his patron's quest for power. Galileo's patronage was eventually abandoned by Ferdinando II, when the Inquisition accused Galileo of heresy. However, the Medici family did afford the scientist a safe haven for many years. Galileo named the four largest moons of Jupiter after four Medici children he tutored.

Notable members

See also



  • Miles J. Unger, "Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de Medici" (Simon and Schuster 2008) is a vividly colorful new biography of this true "renaissance man", the uncrowned ruler of Florence during its golden age
  • Christopher Hibbert, The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Morrow, 1975) is a highly readable, non-scholarly general history of the family
  • Ferdinand Schevill, History of Florence: From the Founding of the City Through the Renaissance (Frederick Ungar, 1936) is the standard overall history of Florence
  • Paul Strathern, The Medici - Godfathers of the Renaissance (Pimlico, 2005) is an informative and lively account of the Medici family, their finesse and foibles - extremely readable, though very homophobic and full of typographical errors.
  • Lauro Martines, "April Blood - Florence and the Plot Against the Medici" (Oxford University Press 2003) a detailed account of the Pazzi Conspiracy, the players, the politics of the day, and the fallout of the assassination plot . Though accurate in historic details, Martines writes with a definite 'anti-Medici' tone.
  • Accounting in Italy
  • Herbert Millingchamp Vaughan, The Medici Popes New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908.
  • Jonathan Zophy, A Short History of Renaissance and Reformation Europe, Dances over Fire and Water. 1996. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.
  • Villa Niccolini (Camugliano), Villa Niccolini, is one of the Medici's tuscany villa previously called Villa Medicea di Camugliano, Villa Niccolini is located east from Ponsacco, near a little feudal village, Camugliano.


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