Lorenzo De Medici Essay, Research Paper
Florence 1453. Politics were stable, artists and intellects flooded to the city, commerce was booming, the city was being beautified, and in the midst of all this greatness grew the strength and power of the Medici family. The Medici’s considered themselves to be Florentine royalty although it was their wealth, and thus, power that elevated the family to their status.
All of this took place during the Renaissance which saw a revived interest in the arts, it was a time of movement, forward thinking and progressiveness. New ideas and thoughts gave Europeans a new direction and excitement for the future. A time like this needed a powerful leader.
Lorenzo de Medici was likely to have great power over his city and country, like his father and grandfather before him. “Although he projected an image of himself as a man who led a life of sobriety and simplicity, the fact remains that he always enjoyed the good things of life: wine, food, music, books and beautiful surroundings, and that he positively delighted in spending money”. 1 During his lifetime, Lorenzo had a great influence on many artists who lived or moved through Florence, he ruled the city until his death, and was also a gifted artist and poet himself.
Lorenzo’s grandfather, “Cosimo de Medici was the first Medici to rule Florence. Exiled from Florence in 1433, he returned in 1434 and doubled his wealth through banking”. 2 After Cosimo’s death, Florence continued to be ruled by the Medici family for centuries. Piero de Medici, Lorenzo’s father, was next to control the destinies of the Florentine people, and after his death, it was up to Lorenzo and his brother, Guiliano, to continue the greatness and cultural diversity of Florence.
The Medici’s wealth continued to increase due to their success as merchants as well as, bankers. They were not stingy, and flaunted their wealth, building a large palace in the center of Florence for all to see and admire. “Although Cosimo liked the story which spread around that he had deliberately chosen an unostentatious design for his palace [Via Larga], the fact remains that twenty other dwellings had to be demolished to make room for it, and the completed building, built in the new Renaissance style, was an imposing structure…”. 3 It was here that young Lorenzo grew, surrounded by friends and relatives.
From his earliest days, Lorenzo received the best education. He was taught by the best and brightest intellectuals in Florence. And Lorenzo was an avid learner: “by the age of twelve Lorenzo was reading Latin with pleasure, and combining the study of Ovid with that of Dante; he began to write poems of his own when he was about sixteen”. 4 It was this love of learning and eagerness to please that made Lorenzo perfect for public office. Another part of his education and preparation to be the next ruler of Florence started at age 15. 5 At this time, young Lorenzo was sent on missions throughout Italy to plan, interact and work with many prominent families as well as, royalty. “Piero had begun to coach him for the responsibilities to which it was hoped he would fall heir, by sending him on courtesy missions to some of the ruling families with whom he would have to deal” 6. It was not until several years later, after his father’s death in 1469 7, that Lorenzo began to rule Florence with his brother, Guiliano. By this time, Lorenzo knew his duty as a Medici and realized that it was his turn to control the destiny of this great Italian city:
Although I, Lorenzo, was very young, being twenty years of age, the principal men of the city and of the regime came to us in our house to condole with us on our loss and to
encourage me to take charge of the city and the regime as my grandfather and my father had done. This I did, though on account of my youth and the great peril and responsibility arising therefrom, with great reluctance, solely for the safety of our friends and of our possessions. For it is ill living in Florence for the rich unless they rule. 8
Lorenzo was still a young man when he began ruling Florence and was in complete control of the Medici destiny. He would have to gain the trust and respect of the Florentine people before he could begin ruling efficiently and fulfilling their needs. But it was the wealthy that Lorenzo often protected in his public affairs. By 1469, Lorenzo had settled into a stable position as a politician. “From the interests of the Medici family, he came to realize that, paradoxically, in order to defend his position and that of his family, he had to make his first priority the defense of Florentine interests, or, rather, the interests of Florence’s ruling families”. 9 The Florentine people began rallying behind him and his decisions. Lorenzo did not rule Florence as a single-minded, controlling man, but rather as a democracy, with the aide of councils and the ruling class.
It was around this time that there began a rivalry and disagreements between the Medici and Pazzi families. This argument over money and power in Florence eventually led to assassination threats on the lives of Lorenzo and Guiliano. These two powerful families were not only rivals in Florence, but also in Rome where their powerful banks fought for control over the papal finance. The Pazzi family had been ridiculed and exiled to their home in Florence for years before Cosimo de Medici’s generous exemption from past charges. The Pazzi family’s power grew through government and banking, not unlike the Medici’s: “But late entry into the mainstream of political and economic competitiveness brought resentment. … In 1478, with the
help of hired assassins and confident of support from the Pope, they attempted to kill both him [Lorenzo] and his brother”. 10 The attempt on Lorenzo’s life was unsuccessful, but Guiliano was not so lucky. He was killed by Pazzi conspirators as his brother was rushed to safety. Repercussions from the assassinations were bloody and lasted weeks until every last conspirator was found. Lorenzo wanted to be sure that people then understood that he was not a man to be fooled around with. Lorenzo was in shock, not only because of the death of his dear brother, but also because people so near to him had conspired to take his life. “Even when the secretaries resumed work they were still in a state of shock. So also was Lorenzo who had, after all, lost a dearly loved brother as a result of a conspiracy in which there was at least a possibility that his own brother-in-law had been implicated; he himself had barely escaped with his life”. 11 Lorenzo was now alone, to rule Florence without his brother and friend, Guiliano
The Medici family was known for their extensive and elaborate celebrations of family occasions, and luckily for the rest of the community, every prominent member was invited to join. Another such gallant affair was the marriage of Lorenzo de Medici to Clarice Orsini. Theirs was an arranged marriage, so that the Medici’s would have a connection to “one of the most powerful families of the Church State”. 12 The marriage included both families, but due to the ill health of Lorenzo’s father, Piero de Medici, the marriage was held in Florence. Although the ceremony itself concluded in one day, the celebrations continued for three days. There was constant food, wine and entertainment and it was a time for all of the prominent patrons of Florence to cast their admiration on the happy couple as well as, the Medici palace.
The relationship between Lorenzo and his wife, Clarice, is not well known or documented. Although theirs was an arranged marriage, it seems as though they loved each other very much. Clarice was dedicated to her husband and supported him in all of his endeavors.
When Lorenzo was away, Clarice worried ceaselessly about his health and his state of mind, and regularly dispatched presents, food and comforts to him. He, for his part, wrote to her regularly and, no matter how tired he was, normally with his own hand, always addressing these letters to ‘my very dear wife’. 13
Their love and relationship also produced many children and heirs to the Medici legacy. The Medici name was destined to live on and be as powerful as always through Lorenzo’s children.
During Lorenzo’s rule, Florence was exploding with culture. It seemed to draw artists, sculptures, writers, poets, and theorists to its city limits. Lorenzo was much the reason for the artistic talent arriving in Florence, and was known as a ‘Patron of art and scholarship’. 14 Lorenzo supported many artists that came through the city as, Michalangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. “He certainly assisted Florentine painters, sculptors and architects to find commissions outside Florence. … It was probably as a result of his advice that, in 1481 Botticelli was invited to Rome to decorate the Sistine chapel.” 15 Lorenzo’s influence on art, politics, and religion stretched across Italy. He was a patron of many things.
During his final years, Lorenzo spent many moments feverishly writting. He began writing poetry which, for the first time, was focused on religion. He kept himself busy, trying not to be largely affected, but continually productive, after the death of his wife, Clarice:
Other pursuits also absorbed him. He was buying antiques and jewels on a regular basis but, above all, his interest in architecture was now given full rein. A large part of his
time was taken up with town-planning, palace-building, and the design of gunpowder fortifications for the contado. He sat on a number of committees concerned with the
redecoration of the Palazzo della Signoria, the building of the Sapienza at Pisa, and other group projects, and advised other prominent Florentines about their building plans. 16
Lorenzo was always a busy man, but more so after the death of his dearly beloved wife. His death forthcoming, Lorenzo finally received his greatest ambition and goal when his son, Giovanni, had been formally nominated Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria in Domenica. 17 This appointment of a Medici family member to the religious hierarchy was a great honor. Although the Pope had specified that the exciting information not be released to the public for three years, Lorenzo could not hold back: “The elevation of Giovanni to the dignity of a prince of the Church meant that the Medici family could finally be said to have achieved that respectability they had so long sought” 18. With the acknowledgment of the news there were great celebrations and festivities for days in which all of Florence was able to acknowledge the Medici’s great accomplishment.
Lorenzo de Medici was an extraordinary man. Although he was raised with all of the influences and benefits of royalty, he was kind and generous to all the people of Florence. He was held in high regard by all his patrons and ensured the political and cultural success of Florence in the 15th century. He was also very determined that Florence remain a cultural haven and under the control of the Medici family. He demonstrated his force and anger during the Pazzi conspiracy, but also demonstrated control over his people and city. At the time of his death, Lorenzo was still viewed as an important and successful man. “His contemporary Florentine, Lucca Landucci, by no means a mere Medici timeserver, recorded in his diary that:
This man, in the eyes of the world, was the most illustrious, the richest, the most stately, and the most renowned among men. Everyone declared that he ruled Italy; and in very truth he was possessed of great wisdom and all his undertakings prospered”. 19
Lorenzo de Medici influenced many people in his time. He was a great man to his people during the 15th century and still stands a great leader and scholar.