Rule of Lorenzo de’ Medici Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Lorenzo de’ Medici’s court was a cultural hub in which writers, artists, and intellectuals established new standards for European art, philosophy, literature, and architecture. Under his patronage, the Florentine Republic became the center of Renaissance Humanism.

Summary of Event

Lorenzo de’ Medici, called the Magnificent, was the leader of the Republic of Florence Florence;Republic of during the apex of the Italian Renaissance. Originating from rather humble beginnings in the Tuscan countryside, the Medici family migrated from the Mugello region to Florence in the twelfth century. Once in Florence, family members began to amass significant riches from trade, commerce, and banking, eventually transforming their great wealth into unparalleled political power. The family’s first foray into the political life of this Tuscan republic occurred in the thirteenth century, when a member of the family first served in public office. Medici, Cosimo de’ Medici, Lorenzo de’ Medici (1453-1478), Giuliano de’ Sixtus IV Leonardo da Vinci Michelangelo Savonarola, Girolamo Medici family Medici, Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, Cosimo de’ Medici, Piero di Cosimo de’ (1416-1469) Medici, Giuliano de’ Sixtus IV Leonardo da Vinci Michelangelo Savonarola, Girolamo

By the fourteenth century, the Medici family’s political fate seemed tied to the common citizenry. In 1378, Salvestro de’ Medici led the lower orders in revolt against a Florentine government controlled by the wealthiest elite. When the popular regime Salvestro had inspired fell in 1381, the family seemed to withdraw from political life until the end of the fourteenth century, when Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici (1360-1429) began more openly to use the Medici’s vast wealth for political gain.

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When Giovanni’s son, Cosimo de’ Medici (also known as Cosimo il Vecchio, or the Elder), reached adulthood, it was clear that the family’s quest for wealth and power was inextricably tied to Florentine politics. The political and cultural influence of Cosimo the Elder was so great that his rule came to be considered the seminal period in the foundation of the Medici both as a political dynasty and as leading patrons of the arts. Cosimo’s son, Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici (1416-1469), called the Gouty, continued to rule over the family’s fortunes until his death in 1469. At Piero’s death, his sons Lorenzo de’ Medici and Giuliano de’ Medici inherited the Medici fortune and the family’s political power.

The brothers’ unified tyrannical rule was cut down on April 26, 1478, when political conspirators attempted to end Medici political power by assassination. The assassins’ attack, known as the Pazzi Conspiracy Pazzi Conspiracy (1478) , came during Easter mass at the altar of the city’s cathedral. Lorenzo managed to take refuge in a sacristy and then escaped from a side door. His brother Giuliano, however, was struck down and killed. Medici retribution was swift. The conspirators were captured and hanged in the city’s main square, the Piazza della Signoria. Deeply offended that the archbishop of Pisa was hanged as one of the conspirators, Pope Sixtus IV threatened the Florentine Republic with interdiction and demanded Lorenzo’s extradition to Rome.

Acting in a swift and audacious manner, Lorenzo risked personal safety by traveling to Naples to plea with the pope’s ally, Ferdinand I, king of Naples. Lorenzo’s success in concluding a favorable agreement with this southern Italian kingdom meant that the Papacy was now isolated and, thus, unable to act against Lorenzo and the republic. The course of these unanticipated events ensured that Lorenzo would be the undisputed, if unofficial, leader of the Florentine state for the next fourteen years. During Lorenzo’s tenure as Florence’s leader, the republic became a central participant in and producer of Italian Renaissance culture.

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Lorenzo de’ Medici exhibited the leadership that established Florence as the cultural capital of Europe. Under Lorenzo’s guidance, Florence moved to the forefront of humanistic studies, scientific innovations, artistic achievements, and music and poetry. Seldom has such a stellar era of artistic, literary, and scientific accomplishments been achieved. Art patronage;Italy

Lorenzo engaged in extensive scholarly activities and patronage. He supported the University of Pisa, amassed a significant library of printed works—including ancient texts and translated Greek manuscripts—and funded a book-copying workshop to create and circulate new copies of these texts. His actions helped to spark a resurgent interest in classical literature and philosophy within Italy and later throughout Europe. Philosophy;Italy

The Florentine ruler also made significant contributions to poetry and music that helped nurture both art forms. His poetry, written in the Florentine dialect rather than the traditional Latin, was much admired by his contemporaries. Many members of Italy’s educated elite had already come under the influence of Dante’s similarly dialect-driven La divina commedia (c. 1320; The Divine Comedy, 1802), and this influence, combined with the success of Lorenzo’s work, helped promote the adoption of the Tuscan dialect as the national language of Italy. Lorenzo’s equally committed patronage of music, moreover, eventually led to the development of important new compositions.

Lorenzo’s Florentine court also welcomed, nourished, and promoted the artistic talents of such Renaissance masters as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Andrea del Verrocchio. Lorenzo treated men of talent and genius with great respect and even friendship. In about 1490, for example, a young Michelangelo’s genius was recognized by Lorenzo, and the youthful artist was soon welcomed into the Medici household. He was treated as a member of the family, in addition to receiving academic and artistic instruction. Eventually, Lorenzo’s admiration of artists and his support of their labors helped elevate artists from the level of common tradesmen to a new and higher social status established by merit and talent. The elevated social status enjoyed by artists in modern society results, in no small part, from the new meritocracy of talent and ability that Lorenzo created in Renaissance Florence.

Though often at odds with high clerics of the Roman Catholic Church, Lorenzo allowed Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola publicly to castigate the church and the Medici for their allegedly sinful actions. From the protection of the pulpit, Savonarola mesmerized the Florentine citizenry with prophetic utterances concerning the divine retribution awaiting evil church and secular rulers. Many thought that the divine retribution of which Savonarola spoke could be seen in the declining health of Lorenzo. According to doubtful popular belief, as Lorenzo’s health steadily declined, Savonarola was brought to Lorenzo’s death bed, but the popular preacher refused to grant the Florentine ruler final absolution. After Lorenzo’s premature death at age forty-three, he was entombed in the Medici family’s church, San Lorenzo, in Florence.

Significance

Lorenzo de’ Medici is justly referred to as Lorenzo the Magnificent, as his rule proved a decisive event in Renaissance history. It was during Lorenzo’s reign as the de facto ruler of the Republic of Florence that his city came to be the epicenter of artistic production and Humanistic studies. Lorenzo’s rule helped bring the European Middle Ages to a final end and, concomitantly, inaugurated a newly emerging meritocratic society where the abilities of the best and brightest were nurtured and their accomplishments were celebrated. Through the implementation of Lorenzo’s enlightened policies, those who possessed great talent, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, came to add the product of their genius to the cultural foundations of modern Western civilization. Lorenzo can thus be credited as a harbinger of cultural and social modernity.

In addition, though tyrannical in the governance of Florence, Lorenzo’s political leadership marked him as an innovative leader who sought to keep a balance of power between the varied Italian states. For a brief period, Lorenzo’s strategy protected Florentine independence, and it also helped ensure that foreign powers would have fewer opportunities to meddle in the political affairs of the Italian peninsula. The political character of Lorenzo’s rule and the innumerable advances achieved in humanistic studies and art under his leadership have caused many to conclude that his reign, though tyrannical, was one in which culture flourished and beauty was celebrated.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Blessington, Francis. Lorenzo de’ Medici. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1992. The author’s fictional work presents an historically accurate picture that, through its mixture of drama and scholarship, sheds light on the conflict between Lorenzo’s Renaissance Humanism and the Christian spirituality personified by the Dominican monk, Savonarola.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Greenblatt, Miriam. Lorenzo de’ Medici and Renaissance Italy. New York: Benchmark Books, 2003. Offers a brief review of the reign of Lorenzo the Magnificent and summarizes the importance of the Medici to the Renaissance.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hibbert, Christopher. The House of the Medici: Its Rise and Fall. New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1980. This seminal book on the Medici dynasty remains a vital tool for understanding Lorenzo’s role in the development of European cultural advancements and for assessing the political machinations of Renaissance Europe.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Martines, Lauro. April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. This compelling book presents the definitive interpretation of the evolution of Medici power at a critical period, and it also offers a colorful depiction of the complexities of Renaissance politics.

Apr. 9, 1454: Peace of Lodi

1462: Founding of the Platonic Academy

1477-1482: Work Begins on the Sistine Chapel

c. 1478-1519: Leonardo da Vinci Compiles His Notebooks

Apr. 26, 1478: Pazzi Conspiracy

1486-1487: Pico della Mirandola Writes Oration on the Dignity of Man

1495-1497: Leonardo da Vinci Paints The Last Supper

c. 1500: Revival of Classical Themes in Art

1508-1520: Raphael Paints His Frescoes

1508-1512 and 1534-1541: Michelangelo Paints the Sistine Chapel

Categories: History Content