You have probably watched the Medici TV show and you are wondering who the Medicis are and their historical significance.
The Medicis, popularly known as the house of Medici, attained massive wealth and political power in the 13th century. The family was known for its banking success and its support for arts and humanities.
The Dynasty Originated From a Giant-Slaying Knight
Legend says that the family descended from Averardo, who was one of Charlemagne’s eighth-century knights. The story goes that as Averardo was riding through a region in North Florence known as the Mugello, he encountered a giant that had been frightening people. He fought and killed the giant, and in the process, his shield was dented by the iron balls of the opponent’s mace.
The Medici Coat of Arms
The Medici coat of arms is believed to have been inspired by Averado’s fight with the giant. It features a gold shield with red balls on it. However, other theories suggest that the coat is derived from a symbol for medieval money-changers, which was the profession of some early members of the Medici dynasty.
Today, the Medici coat of arms is on many buildings throughout Florence that were linked to the family.
What Was the Medici Family Best Known For?
The Medici dynasty is acknowledged for being a patron of arts. Their financial support for humanities and arts played a crucial role in making the Rennaissance-era Florence a thriving cultural center. Florence was recognized as the center for the Renaissance because it attracted thinkers and artists to the city.
Medici family sponsored creative individuals, which made Florence attractive to the ideals and philosophies of distant lands. Although the Medici used their talents to gain power, they used their influence to enhance the quality of life and keep Florence free from foreign domination.
Medici Were Renowned Bankers
The Medici owned most of their financial prosperity and power to the Medici bank. It made them one of the wealthiest and most successful banks in Europe. The bank developed notable improvements in accounting procedures, such as the development of the double-entry system.
Notable Members of the Medici Include Two Queens and Four Popes
Giovanni de Medici (1360 – 1429) – Founder of the Medici bank.
Cosimo de Medici (1389 – 1464) – Leader of the city of Florence.
Lorenzo de Medici (1449 – 1492) – Ruled Florence and supported many artists.
Pope Leo X (1475 – 1521) – First Medici to become pope and he commissioned various artistic works.
Other popes from the Medici are Pope Clement VII, Pope Pius IV, and Pope Leo XI.
Catherine de Medici (1529 – 1589 – Married King Henry II and became the queen of France.
Marie de Medici (1575 – 1642) – Became the queen of France when she married King Henry IV of France.
The Collapse of the Medici Dynasty
The Medici line later abandoned the older generation’s republican rule and adopted an authoritarian government. The change led to the region’s decline as a cultural center. When the last Medici grand duke, Gian Gastone died without a male heir in 1737, the family reign died with him.
As per the agreement of the European powers of the time (Netherlands, France, Austria, and England), the power was passed to Francis of Lorraine.