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The Medicis Dynasty: Pope Leo X

Leo XTwo years after Lorenzo’s death, his eldest son Piero, called the “unfortunate”, was exiled from Florence during the Savonarola‘s rule. This Dominican friar took the power in 1494 and ruled until 1498, preaching vehemently against the vicious habits and the moral corruption of the Church. During his despotic government he urged the destruction of the arts and incited people to burn books, which he considered dangerous for a virtuous and principled society. Nevertheless, Florentines soon got tired of Savonarola’s sermons and in 1497 on the Ascension Day the city revolted. In the same period Pope Alexander VI, one of strongest enemies of Savonarola, excommunicated him and charged him with heresy, uttering prophecies, sedition, and religious error. Savonarola was then emprisoned and finally condemned to the stake in 1498 in Piazza della Signoria, with two other Dominican friars. Today in the San Marco convent it is still possible to visit Savonarola’s cell, a small and gloomy room situated just a few steps from the marvellous frescoes painted by Beato Angelico, that we cannot help visit during our Art History Course.
However, the Medicis returned to Florence only after 14 years Savonarola’s death, when Giuliano, the youngest son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, later called the Duc de Nemours, finally managed to make his way back to Florence and governed the city together with his brother, the Cardinal Giovanni di Lorenzo the Magnificent, a sort éminence grise of the city.
Giovanni di Lorenzo, was born in 1475 and from the moment of his birth he was destined to the ecclesiastic life. He received a careful philosophical and humanistic education at his father’s court and he soon became Cardinal in 1489, even if he was not allowed to wear the insignia until he was 17. After his father’s death he came back to Florence, until the expulsion of the Medicis in 1494. Then he travelled a lot through the German empire and the Netherlands.
In 1500 he returned to Rome, where where he lived for many years, studying Art and Literature. Although he made several attempts to regain the political control of Florence, he never succeeded in his plans until 1512, when after a revolt the Medicis were called back to Florence. But only one year later Pope Julius II died and Giovanni di Lorenzo was elected pope, after a stormy conclave and an amazingly fast career: he was ordained to the priesthood on the March 15th, consecrated bishop on 17th and enthroned with the name of Leo X two days later,. However, his election was hailed with enthusiasm by the Romans, as this 37-year old new pope was famous for his his generosity and his love for peace and the humanities, just like his father. Nevertheless his pontificate was going to be one of the most tormented in the History of the Catholic church both owing to the Protestant Schism and to the the many wars that troubled Italy and Europe.

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