Little Bits of History

April 26

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2017

1478: Giuliana de’ Medici is murdered in church. Cosimo de’ Medici was the first member of the family to combine the Medici Bank with politics and leadership of the Republic of Florence. Cosimo was one of the wealthiest men in Europe and spent large sums of his money on government and philanthropy, supporting the burgeoning Renaissance arts. His son, Piero, was also into Florentine politics and philanthropy and when he died, his son, Lorenzo, took over the leadership of the Republic. Lorenzo was groomed for leadership, was the smartest of Piero’s five children, and trained in statesmanship and warring. He ruled mostly by proxy but was considered a tyrant. Rival families in Florence were hoping to gain control and the most notable of these was the Pazzi family.

On this day, Francesco Pazzi, Girolamo Riario, and Francesco Salviate (the Archbishop of Pisa) with the blessing of Pope Sixtus IV, attack Lorenzo and Giuliano (who assisted his brother in rule) at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Giuliano died of a sword wound to his head, but was stabbed a total of 19 times. Lorenzo escaped with a minor wound to his shoulder, having been defended by Poliziano, a poet and benefactor of the Medici family. News of the attack spread quickly throughout Florence and revenge was swift and brutal. They lynched the Archbishop and all Pazzi family members who participated were killed. The Pope had sided with the Pazzis and seized all Medici assets he could find and excommunicated Lorenzo and the entire government of Florence.

Eventually, all of Florence was put under interdict, a way for the Catholic Church to censure individuals or groups. This had little effect. Sixtus allied with King Ferdinand I of Naples and Alfonso, Duke of Calabria and the King’s son, led an attack on Florence which was still being ruled by Lorenzo. Florence’s allies in Bologna and Milan were having their own problems and did not come to aid Florence. Lorenzo went to Naples, offered himself as prisoner, and ultimately resolved the crises through diplomatic means, something he had been trained for since just a teen. He was able to bring the siege to an end and remained in power in Florence which passed constitutional changes which enhanced Lorenzo’s power and position.

Giuliano died at the age of 25. The handsome, “golden boy” had fathered one child via his mistress who would later become Pope Clement VII. Lorenzo, like his grandfather Cosimo, used diplomacy to maintain peace and balance of power among the northern Italian states. He was able to maintain an uneasy peace with other European states (mostly France and the Holy Roman Empire) and even with the Ottoman Empire as the Florentines carried on a healthy trade with the Ottomans, a source of wealth for the Medici family. He was also a great patron of the arts and supported such noted artists as Botticelli, da Vinci, and Michelangelo.

Assassination is the extreme form of censorship. – George Bernard Shaw

Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities. – Pope Francis

The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination. – Voltaire

Assassination has never changed the history of the world. – Benjamin Disraeli

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