Rise and Fall and Rise Again of a Renaissance Family: the Medicis LEC 4

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2011 (Winter Term)
The Renaissance: Lecture 4
The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of a Renaissance Family: the Medicis
1. The legend and the origins of the family
a. The French knight, the huge giant, and the six balls and chains ( a giant
came to Florence, and the knight got into hand to hand combat the knight
won. The giant had the balls and better equipped. The knights shield got
indented from them, and Charlemagne gave him the crest of six balls.)
b. The family coat of arms / crest: a pawnbroker’s business or just six round
coins ( instead of the six ball chains)
c. The name “Medici” (main assumption is started off somewhere in
d. The first mention of the name (13th century)
e. The next 150 years (Florence is the main hub of the Medici)
2. Salvestro de’ Medici and Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici
a. Salvestro and the Ciompi Revolt (1378) (became high political power
from being merchants; he realized his future support was with the wool
b. Giovanni establishes the family fortune (business matters to the Medici
more than political, considered it a means to improve business)
c. Giovanni and Pope John XXII (became good friends, and was given the
Vatican business - official bank of the papacy)
d. Giovanni’s role in Florentine politics ( this left him able to secure the
future for his son Cosimo)
i. Avoided appearing to ambitious (did not want to draw attention to
themselves, but needed to stay involved to keep their civic
ii. The principles of civic humanism (without civic humanism people
begin to question them)
e. He marries his son, Cosimo, to a daughter of the de’ Bardi family
f. Cosimo’s humanist education (best scholars and training - interest in arts
and architecture)
g. Giovanni’s ultimate purpose in seeking political influence
3. Cosimo de’ Medici
a. The Medici party and its opposition (had to be careful of political - careful
to not lose business)
b. Cosimo succeeds his father as head of the Medici bank (1429)
c. The influence of his humanist education (sent agents to libraries to find
manuscripts of old authors; forced monasteries to hand them over)
d. His fairness, interest in learning (believed in learning of culture -
promoted through collecting art), and active involvement in the affairs of
his city
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