| 2. Lorenzo the Magnificent
The elder son of Piero, Lorenzo (born in 1449) was destined to a brief but intense life that would go down in the history of Florence and Italy. Lorenzo the Magnificent is, withouth doubt, the most important and significant member of the Medici family from all points of view. He was one of the great leaders of the Italy of his time, which precisely in Florence witnessed on extraordinary flowering of intellectual activities. He was a politician, a man of power and culture.
Lorenzo began his public life very early and he succeeded his father when he was not yet twenty-one. Immediatly he had to face difficult situations such as financial problems, conspiracies, relations with the Popacy, with Kings princes and milers of the countries. Nevertheless slowly the "balance of power" that Lorenzo maintained with Milan, Venice and Naples reinforced the florentine position, and wise economic measures improved the family finances. But Lorenzo's genius went further than this: he continued his family's traditional patronage of artists, opening his house and gardens to the younger ones. First Leonardo then Michelangelo and many others such as Botticelli, Filippino Lippi etc. turned to him for aid and protection.
At the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent, precisely in 1485, Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican from the convent of San Marco began to seduce the Florentines with his prophetic language. He spoke of the Apocalypse and of the dreadful God, first from the pulpit of San Marco and then from that of the cathedral. Although it had been Lorenzo who had brought the Dominican back from exile in Bologna, Savonarola's preaching soon took on a tone of implacable accusation against his benefactor.
The friar accused Lorenzo publicy and univocably of ruining the state and squandering the wealth of the people deposited in the public coffers. Those who attempted to appease the spirit of the friar received the answer, "I do not care. But let (the Magnificent) know that I am a foreigner and he is a citizen and the first of the city: I am to stay and he is to go: I shall stay and not he." Many saw in these words a prophesy of Lorenzo's death, like the lightning-bolt that had struck Brunelleschi's dome a few months before his death. Accounts of this last meeting between Lorenzo the Magnificent and Savonarola, differ, but one may suppose, or hope, that in the end the friar remembered above all his duties as a priest. Lorenzo died peacefully in the night between April 8 and 9, 1492 in the Villa of Careggi Florence was deeply shaken by his death which left an immense void in the world.
Two years after Lorenzo's death his eldest son Piero, called the "unfortunate", was exiled from Florence for his political "incapacity" and only after 18 years the Medici family could return to its home-town.
Chapter 3 - THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE MEDICI
Family Portrait: The Medici of Florence (back to index...)