Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici
Portrait by Bronzino
|Lord of Florence|
|Reign||6 October 1434 – 1 August 1464|
|Successor||Piero the Gouty|
Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici
|Born||10 April 1389|
Florence, Republic of Florence
|Died||1 August 1464 75) (aged|
Careggi, Republic of Florence
|Spouse(s)||Contessina de' Bardi|
|Father||Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici|
Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici, called "the Elder" (Italian: il Vecchio) and posthumously "Father of the Fatherland" (Latin: pater patriae) (27 September 1389 – 1 August 1464), was an Italian banker and politician, the first member of the Medici family which effectively ruled Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance. Despite his influence, his power was not absolute; Florence's legislative councils at times resisted his proposals throughout his life, and he was viewed as first among equals, rather as than an autocrat.His power derived from his wealth as a banker, and he was a patron of arts, learning and architecture.
Cosimo de' Medici was born in Florence to Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici and his wife Piccarda Bueri on 10 April 1389. At the time, it was customary to indicate the name of one's father in one's name for the purpose of distinguishing the identities of two like-named individuals; thus, Giovanni was the son of Bicci, and Cosimo's name was properly rendered Cosimo di Giovanni de' Medici. He was born along with a twin brother Damiano, who survived only a short time. The twins were named after Saints Cosmas and Damian, whose feast day was then celebrated on 27 September; Cosimo would later celebrate his own birthday on that day, his "name day", rather than on the actual date of his birth.Cosimo also had a brother Lorenzo, known as "Lorenzo the Elder", who was some six years his junior and participated in the family's banking enterprise.
Cosimo inherited both his wealth and his expertise in banking from his father Giovanni, who had gone from being a moneylender to join the bank of his relative Vieri di Cambio de' Medici. Giovanni had been running Vieri's branch in Rome independently since the dissolution of the latter's bank into three separate and independent entities until 1397, when he left Rome to return to Florence to found his own bank, the Medici Bank. Over the next two decades, the Medici Bank opened branches in Rome, Geneva, Venice, and temporarily in Naples; the majority of profits was derived from Rome. The branch manager in Rome was a papal depositario generale who managed Church finances in return for a commission.Cosimo would later expand the bank throughout western Europe and opened offices in London, Pisa, Avignon, Bruges, Milan, and Lübeck. The far-flung branches of the Medici rendered it the best bank for the business of the papacy, since it enabled bishoprics in many parts of Europe to pay their fees into the nearest branch, whose manager would then issue a papal license, and the popes could more easily order a variety of wares – such as spices, textiles, and relics – through the bankers' wholesale trade. In fifteen years, Giovanni would make a profit of 290,791 florins.
In 1415, Cosimo allegedly accompanied the Antipope John XXIII at the Council of Constance. In 1410, Giovanni lent John XXIII, then simply known as Baldassare Cossa, the money to buy himself the office of cardinal, which he repaid by making the Medici Bank head of all papal finances once he claimed the papacy. This gave the Medici family tremendous power, allowing them to threaten defaulting debtors with excommunication, for instance.But misfortune hit the Medici Bank in 1415, when the Council of Constance unseated John XXIII, thus taking away the near monopoly they had held on the finances of the Roman Curia; thereafter, the Medici Bank had to compete with other banks. However, after the Spini Bank of Florence went insolvent in 1420, they again secured priority. John XXIII, facing the enmity of a church council at which he was accused of a large variety of offenses against the Church, was confined by Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor to Heidelberg Castle until the Medici paid his ransom and granted him asylum. In the same year as John's dethronement (1415), Cosimo was named "Priore of the Republic [of Florence]". Later he acted frequently as an ambassador for Florence and demonstrated a prudence for which he became renowned.
About 1415, Cosimo married Contessina de' Bardi (the daughter of Alessandro di Sozzo Bardi, count of Vernio, and Camilla Pannocchieschi).The wedding was arranged by his father as an effort to reaffirm relations with the long-standing noble Bardi family, who had operated one of the richest banks in Europe until its spectacular collapse in 1345; they nevertheless remained highly influential in the financial sphere. Only part of the Bardi family were involved in this marriage alliance, for some of the branches considered themselves the opponents of the Medici clan. The couple had two sons: Piero the Gouty (b. 1416) and Giovanni de' Medici (b. 1421). Cosimo also had an illegitimate son, Carlo, by a Circassian slave, who would go on to become a prelate.
Giovanni withdrew from the Medici Bank in 1420, leaving its leadership to both of his surviving sons. He left them 179,221 florins upon his death in 1429.Two-thirds of this came from the business in Rome, while only a tenth came from Florence; even Venice offered better returns than Florence. The brothers would earn two-thirds of the profits from the bank, with the other third going to a partner. Besides the bank, the family owned much land in the area surrounding Florence, including Mugello, the place from which the family originally came.
Cosimo's power over Florence stemmed from his wealth, which he used to control the votes of office holders in the municipal councils, most importantly the Signoria of Florence. As Florence was proud of its "democracy", he pretended to have little political ambition and did not often hold public office. Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Bishop of Siena and later Pope Pius II, said of him:
Political questions are settled in [Cosimo's] house. The man he chooses holds office... He it is who decides peace and war... He is king in all but name.
In 1433, Cosimo's power over Florence began to look like a menace to the anti-Medici party led by figures such as Palla Strozzi and the Albizzi family, headed by Rinaldo degli Albizzi. In September of that year, Cosimo was imprisoned in the Palazzo Vecchio for his part in a failure to conquer the Republic of Lucca, but he managed to turn the jail term into one of exile. Some prominent Florentines, such as Francesco Filelfo, demanded his execution, [ citation needed ]a fate that may have been almost certain without the intervention of the monk Ambrogio Traversari on his behalf. Cosimo traveled to Padua and then to Venice, taking his bank along with him and finding friends and sympathizers wherever he went for his willingness to accept exile rather than resume the bloody conflicts that had chronically afflicted the streets of Florence. Venice sent an envoy to Florence on his behalf and requested that they rescind the order of banishment. When they refused, Cosimo settled down in Venice, his brother Lorenzo accompanying him. However, prompted by his influence and his money, others followed him, such as the architect Michelozzo, whom Cosimo commissioned to design a library as a gift to the Venetian people. Within a year, the flight of capital from Florence was so great that the decree of exile had to be lifted. Cosimo returned a year later, in 1434, to influence the government of Florence (especially through the Pitti and Soderini families) for the last 30 years of his life of 75 years.
Cosimo's time in exile instilled in him the need to quash the factionalism that resulted in his exile in the first place. In order to do this, he instigated a series of constitutional changes with the help of favorable priors in the Signoria to secure his power through influence.
Following the death of Filippo Maria Visconti, who had ruled the Duchy of Milan from 1412 until his death in 1447, Cosimo sent Francesco I Sforza to establish himself in Milan to prevent an impending military advance from the Republic of Venice. Francesco Sforza was a condottiere , a mercenary soldier who had stolen land from the papacy and proclaimed himself its lord. He had yearned to establish himself at Milan as well, an ambition that was aided by the fact that the current Visconti head lacked legitimate children save for a daughter, Bianca, whom Sforza ultimately married in November 1441 after a failed attempt at winning her hand from her father.The resultant balance of power with Milan and Florence on the one side and Venice and the Kingdom of Naples on the other created nearly half a century of peace that enabled the development of the Renaissance in Italy. However, despite the benefits to Florence from keeping Venice at bay, the intervention in Milan was unpopular among Cosimo's fellow citizens, primarily because they were called upon to finance the Sforza succession. The Milanese made a brief attempt at democracy before Sforza was finally acclaimed duke by the city in February 1450.
In terms of foreign policy, Cosimo worked to create peace in northern Italy through the creation of a balance of power between Florence, Naples, Venice and Milan during the wars in Lombardy between 1423 and 1454 and the discouragement of outside powers (notably the French and the Holy Roman Empire) from interfering in Italian affairs. In 1439, he was instrumental in convincing Pope Eugene IV to move the Ecumenical Council of Ferrara to Florence. The arrival of many notable Byzantine figures from the Eastern Roman Empire, including Emperor John VIII Palaiologos, for this event further inspired the growing interest in ancient Greek arts and literature.
Edward Gibbon (1880). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire . Philadelphia: Nottingham Society. pp. 456–457
On his death in 1464 at Careggi, Cosimo was succeeded by his son Piero, father of Lorenzo the Magnificent. After Cosimo's death, the Signoria awarded him the title Pater Patriae , "Father of the Fatherland", an honor once awarded to Cicero, and had it carved upon his tomb in the Church of San Lorenzo.
Cosimo de' Medici used his vast fortune to control the Florentine political system and to sponsor orators, poets and philosophers,as well as a series of artistic accomplishments.
Cosimo was also noted for his patronage of culture and the arts during the Renaissance and spent the family fortune liberally to enrich the civic life of Florence. According to Salviati's Zibaldone, Cosimo stated: "All those things have given me the greatest satisfaction and contentment because they are not only for the honor of God but are likewise for my own remembrance. For fifty years, I have done nothing else but earn money and spend money; and it became clear that spending money gives me greater pleasure than earning it."Additionally, his patronage of the arts both recognized and proclaimed the humanistic responsibility of the civic duty that came with wealth.
Cosimo hired the young Michelozzo Michelozzi to create what is today perhaps the prototypical Florentine palazzo, the austere and magnificent Palazzo Medici. The building still includes, as its only 15th-century interior that is largely intact, the Magi Chapel frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli, completed in 1461 with portraits of members of the Medici family parading through Tuscany in the guise of the Three Wise Men. He was a patron and confidante of Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, and Donatello, whose famed David and Judith Slaying Holofernes were Medici commissions. His patronage enabled the eccentric and bankrupt architect Brunelleschi to complete the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore (the "Duomo") in 1436.
Francesco Guicciardini. The History of Italy. Translated by Sidney Alexander. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 60
In 1444, Cosimo de' Medici founded the first public library in Florence, at San Marco, which was of central importance to the humanist movement in Florence during the Renaissance. It was designed by Michelozzo, a student of Lorenzo Ghiberti who later collaborated with Donatello and was also a good friend and patron to Cosimo. Cosimo contributed the funds necessary to repair the library and provide it with a book collection, which people were allowed to use at no charge. "That Cosimo de'Medici was able to finance the construction of such a site placed him in a privileged position of leadership in the city. He hand-selected those individuals who were given access to this laboratory of learning, and, through this social dynamic, he actively shaped the politics of the Republic."He also commissioned Michelozzo to design a library for his grandson, Lorenzo de' Medici. His first library, however, was designed by Michelozzo while the two were in Venice, where Cosimo had been temporarily exiled. In 1433, in gratitude for the hospitality of that city, he left it as a gift, his only such work outside Florence. His libraries were noted for their Renaissance style of architecture and distinguished artwork.
Cosimo had grown up with only three books, but by the time he was thirty, his collection had grown to 70 volumes. After being introduced to humanism by a group of literati who had asked for his help in preserving books, he grew to love the movement and gladly sponsored the effort to renew Greek and Roman civilization through literature, for which book collecting was a central activity. "Heartened by the romantic wanderlust of a true bibliophile, the austere banker even embarked on several journeys in the hunt for books, while guaranteeing just about any undertaking that involved books. He financed trips to nearly every European town as well as to Syria, Egypt, and Greece organized by Poggio Bracciolini, his chief book scout."He engaged 45 copyists under the bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci to transcribe manuscripts and paid off the debts of Niccolò de' Niccoli after his death in exchange for control over his collection of some 800 manuscripts valued at around 6,000 florins.
In the realm of philosophy, Cosimo, influenced by the lectures of Gemistus Plethon, supported Marsilio Ficino and his attempts at reviving Neo-Platonism. Cosimo commissioned Ficino's Latin translation of the complete works of Plato (the first ever complete translation) and collected a vast library that he shared with intellectuals such as Niccolò de' Niccoli and Leonardo Bruni.He also established a Platonic Academy in Florence in 1445. He provided his grandson Lorenzo de' Medici with an education in the studia humanitatis. Cosimo certainly had an influence on Renaissance intellectual life, but it was Lorenzo who would later be deemed to have been the greatest patron.
Roberto Rossellini's three-part television miniseries The Age of the Medici (1973) has Cosimo as its central character (the original Italian title is L'età di Cosimo de' Medici, which translates as 'The Age of Cosimo de' Medici'). The first part, The Exile of Cosimo, and the second part, The Power of Cosimo, focus on Cosimo's political struggles and on his patronage of the arts and sciences in Florence. The part of Cosimo is played by Italian actor Marcello Di Falco.
The television series, Medici (2016), shows the rise of the powerful banking family following the death of Giovanni (played by Dustin Hoffman), his son Cosimo (played by Richard Madden) takes over as head of the family and later Cosimo's grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent (played by Daniel Sharman).
Lorenzo de' Medici was an Italian statesman, de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic and the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of Renaissance culture in Italy. Also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent by contemporary Florentines, he was a magnate, diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists, and poets. As a patron, he is best known for his sponsorship of artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo. He held the balance of power within the Italic League, an alliance of states that stabilized political conditions on the Italian peninsula for decades, and his life coincided with the mature phase of the Italian Renaissance and the Golden Age of Florence. On the foreign policy front, Lorenzo manifested a clear plan to stem the territorial ambitions of pope Sixtus IV, in the name of the balance of the Italian League of 1454. For these reasons, Lorenzo was the subject of the Pazzi conspiracy (1478), in which his brother Giuliano was assassinated. The Peace of Lodi of 1454 that he helped maintain among the various Italian states collapsed with his death. He is buried in the Medici Chapel in Florence.
The House of Medici was an Italian banking family and political dynasty that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the first half of the 15th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of Tuscany, and prospered gradually until it was able to fund the Medici Bank. This bank was the largest in Europe during the 15th century, and it facilitated the Medicis' rise to political power in Florence, although they officially remained citizens rather than monarchs until the 16th century.
Piero di Lorenzo de' Medici, called Piero the Unfortunate, was the gran maestro of Florence from 1492 until his exile in 1494.
Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici was an Italian banker and founder of the Medici Bank. While other members of the Medici family, such as Chiarissimo di Giambuono de' Medici, who served in the Signoria of Florence in 1201, and Salvestro de' Medici, who was implicated in the Ciompi Revolt of 1378, are of historical interest, it was Giovanni's founding of the family bank that truly initiated the family's rise to power in Florence. He was the father of Cosimo de' Medici and of Lorenzo the Elder; grandfather of Piero di Cosimo de' Medici; great-grandfather of Lorenzo de' Medici ; and the great-great-great-grandfather of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Cosimo I de' Medici was the second Duke of Florence from 1537 until 1569, when he became the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, a title he held until his death.
The Republic of Florence, also known as the Florentine Republic, was a medieval and early modern state that was centered on the Italian city of Florence in Tuscany. The republic originated in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon the death of Matilda of Tuscany, who controlled vast territories that included Florence. The Florentines formed a commune in her successors' place. The republic was ruled by a council known as the Signoria of Florence. The signoria was chosen by the gonfaloniere, who was elected every two months by Florentine guild members.
Piero di Cosimo de' Medici , was the de facto ruler of Florence from 1464 to 1469, during the Italian Renaissance.
The Pazzi conspiracy was a plot by members of the Pazzi family and others to displace the Medici family as rulers of Renaissance Florence.
Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi (1396–1472) was an Italian architect and sculptor. Considered one of the great pioneers of architecture during the Renaissance, Michelozzo was a favored Medici architect who was extensively employed by Cosimo de' Medici. He was a pupil of Lorenzo Ghiberti in his early years and later collaborated with Donatello.
The Medici Bank was a financial institution created by the Medici family in Italy during the 15th century (1397–1494). It was the largest and most respected bank in Europe during its prime. There are some estimates that the Medici family was, for a period of time, the wealthiest family in Europe. Estimating their wealth in today's money is difficult and imprecise, considering that they owned art, land, and gold. With this monetary wealth, the family acquired political power initially in Florence, and later in the wider spheres of Italy and Europe.
The Villa Medici at Careggi is a patrician villa in the hills near Florence, Tuscany, central Italy.
San Marco is a religious complex in Florence, Italy. It comprises a church and a convent. The convent, which is now the Museo Nazionale di San Marco, has three claims to fame. During the 15th century it was home to two famous Dominicans, the painter Fra Angelico and the preacher Girolamo Savonarola. Also housed at the convent is a famous collection of manuscripts in a library built by Michelozzo.
The Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo is a villa situated near the Tuscan town of Barberino di Mugello in the valley of the River Sieve, some 25 kilometres north of Florence, central Italy. It was one of the oldest and most favoured of the Medici family estates, having been in the possession of the family since the 14th century, when it was owned by Averardo de' Medici. Averardo's son, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, is considered to be the founder of the Medici dynasty.
The Magi Chapel is a chapel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi of Florence, Italy. Its walls are almost entirely covered by a famous cycle of frescoes by the Renaissance master Benozzo Gozzoli, painted around 1459 for the Medici family, the effective rulers of Florence.
Lorenzo the Elder was an Italian banker of the House of Medici of Florence, the younger brother of Cosimo de' Medici the Elder and progenitor of the so-called "Popolani" line of the family, named for a later generation whose members were supporters of the Florentine political activist Girolamo Savonarola.
Giovanni Tornabuoni was an Italian merchant, banker and patron of the arts from Florence.
The Italic League or Most Holy League was an international agreement concluded in Venice on 30 August 1454, between the Papal States, the Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Milan, the Republic of Florence and the Kingdom of Naples, following the Treaty of Lodi a few months previously.
Bernardo Rucellai, also known as Bernardo di Giovanni Rucellai or as Latin: 'Bernardus Oricellarius', was a member of the Florentine political and social elite. He was the son of Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai (1403–1481) and father of Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai (1475–1525). He was married to Nannina de' Medici, the elder sister of Lorenzo de' Medici, and was thus uncle to Popes Leo X and Clement VII, who were cousins. Oligarch, banker, ambassador and man of letters, he is today remembered principally for the meetings of the members of the Accademia platonica in the Orti Oricellari, the gardens of his house in Florence, the Palazzo Rucellai, where Niccolò Machiavelli gave readings of his Discorsi.
Medici is an Italian-British historical drama created by Frank Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer. The series was produced by Italian Lux Vide and Rai Fiction in collaboration with Frank Spotnitz's Big Light Productions.
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