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The Hit Parade
Medieval murder
In medieval Italy, life was cheap.

In contrast to the bullet-ridden gang wars of today, a lot of time and energy went into devising unusual methods of medieval murder

The most infamous Renaissance murder was the hit on Giuliano and Lorenzo de'Medici. Giuliano was murdered in Florence Cathedral, in front of an audience of 10,000, on Easter Sunday. The Pazzi family believed a public assassination would proclaim their undisputed power over Florence, and strike fear into the friends of the Medici. Giuliano's assassins stabbed with such frenzy that one wounded himself in the leg by mistake. But the man assigned to kill Lorenzo hesitated a fraction too long and Lorenzo escaped with a minor neck wound.

Lorenzo survived and the Pazzi were doomed. Strung up by the people of Florence, they were flung from the windows of the Palazzo Vecchio and left to swing in the hot Tuscan sun. Stripped and beaten, their naked bodies the ultimate brutte figure, the dying Archbishop of Florence famously sank his teeth into the thigh of Francesco de'Pazzi, his co-conspirator. Another's decomposing corpse was ripped from its grave and dragged through the streets of Florence, even propped against the doors of the Pazzi Palace - the fetid head used as a door knocker.

Savonarola's execution in 1498 was as spectacular as the Bonfires of the Vanities. Tortured and bound in chains, he was burned at the stake until his legs and arms began to drop off. Those body parts still clinging to the chains were knocked off by a stone-throwing mob, who cheered as the executioner swept all remaining flesh into the fire.

In 1516, a group of discontented cardinals conspired to commit the ultimate crime - the assassination of the Pope. It was common knowledge that Leo X suffered from a hideous anal fistula, which had to be treated every few days. The cardinals conspired to poison his bandages - killing him from the bottom up.

But the conspiracy was discovered and the obese Pope was furious. A Muslim hangman was dispatched to kill off one Cardinal in his cell; others were dragged by horses through the streets of Rome, their flesh gouged by red-hot pincers.

Poor Isabella de'Medici, daughter of Cosimo I, met a very messy end. Trapped in a loveless marriage to Paolo Giordano Orsini, who humiliated her with his mistress, Vittoria, Isabella made the mistake of taking a lover. When her violent husband found out, he garroted her at the dinner table - whilst pretending to kiss her - and promptly married his mistress.

Where to next
Rapsheet Lorenzo   Rapsheet: Lorenzo de Medici
Savonarola Heresy: Savonarola

How to be a Medieval Mobster
- God's Bankers
- Losing Face
- Guys & Dolls
- Other Contenders
- The Hit Parade

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