Many times I have asked myself where Florence got all of its rich art and architecture; after much research, I found one family that stuck out every time—the Medici family. From the commissioning of Michelangelo and the creating of The David to funding Brunelleschi and creating the towering freestanding dome of the Duomo, the Medici family created an empire of history embedded into Florence. Under the reign of Cosimo de’ Medici and Lorenzo de’ Medici, also known as Lorenzo de’ Magnificent, they hired many artists to create artwork and erect buildings to show their power in a way that simple wealth could not.
The Medici family was a family of bankers that some would say had more money than any man, even in present times. While it is Cosimo de Medici who is accredited with starting the family fortune, it was Giovanni de’ Medici who got the ball rolling when he saved Salvestro de’ Medici from going bankrupt and turned his empire into something much greater. Cosimo de’ Medici created a fortune out of the Medici banks when he inspired ideas such as booking systems for tracking debts and credits making sure no money fell through the cracks. While Cosimo was on his financial up rise, his political wellbeing was not so great so the Albizzi family took over political power and banished the Medici family out of Florence. After a short period, Cosimo came back into power at Florence and was the uncrowned king all by the popular choice of the people in 1434. With Cosimo ruling Florence, it gained much wealth and respect, as well as, political power.
While Cosimo had a lot of wealth and power, he spent a large sum of it on charitable acts such as creating the largest library in Europe. Through his charitable acts and way of living life meagerly, Cosimo gained much respect among his people. This benefited the Medici family because they weren’t powerful in arms. They didn’t have an army, nor could the Florentine people create one. This is why the Medici family had many strong allies who would fight for them. They worked as more of a verbal and wealthy family than a family of political and military power. Through the way the family created friendships and married the wife’s of other powers in Europe, it would only increase the power of their own family.
After Cosimo died in 1464, Piero de’ Medici would take over family control for a few years until his sons Lorenzo and Giuliano took reign. While they reigned over Florence as tyrants, they built on the banks funds and were recognized as building upon artistry of Cosimo. The Pazzi family was always struggling for power in Florence so in 1478 they planned an attack on both Lorenzo and Giuliano to end their lives and the line of the Medici family; however, a failed attach left Guiliano dead and Lorenzo simply wounded but he continued his reign. This attack benefited Lorenzo in a positive way to humble him and create allies with the other families as he traveled across Italy bringing money as an offering to end the attacks upon the Medici family, and it worked. They could now make progress on the dome of the Duomo again and begin rebuilding his empire into something much more than what the previous generations had done. During the renaissance era, Lorenzo commissioned many artists such as Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Boticelli to create beautiful works of art displayed all over the city of Florence. There was one boy, Michelangelo, who was special to the Medici family. At the age of 13 Michelangelo was taken in by the Medici family because they loved how he worked with marble and his eye for envisioning what was beyond blank canvas. For this reason Michelangelo studied under many great artists and later on created “The David.”
The Medici family is the main reason Florence gains so much recognition even today. Without the Medici family, Florence would not have the prosperity of art and architecture that it has today. This family of bankers carried the city financially through the rough times and raised them even higher during the high times. It is because of Cosimo de’ Medici and Lorenzo de’ Magnificent that Florence is striving and many people visit there all the time for the Duomo and multitude of art museums Florence has to offer. It is safe to say that without the wealthy charitable Medici family Florence would not be the magnificent and culturally outstanding city it is today.