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The Medicis dinasty

Medici's coat of arms If you come to Florence for studying Art History you can find extremely interesting the history of the Medici’s family. The Medicis were the first rulers of the city after the Republic period, that is from the 15th to the 18th century, and they were also the powerful patrons of all kind of artists who contributed to create the Florentine Renaissance.
The Medicis were originally farmers who had moved into the city, where they initially became merchants and then bankers. They came from the Mugello valley (Castello di Cafaggiolo) but the first records of the family can be found in Florence in 1378, when a certain Salvestro de’ Medici, took part to the revolt of the Ciompi (1378), the largest social upheaval in the history of the Florentine Republic. However, the actual founder of the dinasty of the Medicis was Giovanni di Neri di Bicci (1360-1429). Giovanni founded the family’s bank, his main interests were in the commerce and not in politics, although he became also “Gonfaloniere” (a sort of a judge). In 1410 Giovanni supported the return of the Pope to Rome and when the Papacy came back to Italy, subsequent popes began to rely on the Medici’s bank. It was the beginning of the rise of the dinasty: Giovanni rapidly turned his family into one of the richest and most powerful in Europe while his son, Cosimo di Giovanni de’ Medici (1389 – 1464), was the first of the Medicis to become a political leader.
Cosimo the Elder Also known as “Cosimo ‘the Elder'” (“il Vecchio”) and “Cosimo Pater Patriae”, firstly he was named “Priore della Repubblica” (a sort of an eminent representative of the Florentine Republic – 1415), then he frequently travelled and worked as ambassador of Florence and, even if he never occupied public charges, he strongly influenced the political life of the city to the point that he was also imprisoned and exiled by his enemies (1433-1434).
When he succeeded in coming back to Florence he was stronger and more powerful than before and he managed to secure his power, mainly through his finances and his great influences.
Cosimo’s patronage of the arts, pushed him to spend most of the family fortune, increased during the years by his flair for business. He transformed Florence into the marvellous city we still can admire today. He was the patron of artists like Fra’ Angelico, Fra’ Filippo Lippi, and Donatello and he managed to charge the eccentric architect Brunelleschi to plan the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, probably his masterpiece and the symbol of the Renaissance in Florence as you can study in our Art History Course. Cosimo also called Michelozzo Michelozzi, a young architect follower of Brunelleschi, to design the grandiose, but also austere, Palazzo Medici that you can visit in one of our Art History courses, as an example of Florentine early Renaissance palace with inside garden.

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