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The Magnificent Medici
Claire Orsini
Florence, August 1466: Lorenzo de'Medici, the 17-year-old heir to the dynasty, foils a murderous plot against his father and saves his family from a coup d'etat. The Medici still dominate Florence, but now take extra precautions, picking a useful bride for Lorenzo. Clarice Orsini, a baron's daughter and cardinal's niece, brings connections, class, and military muscle to the Medici dynasty.

In the workshops of Florence, business has never been better. Under Medici patronage, artists like Sandro Botticelli go on to redefine the Renaisssance itself. For now, Botticelli's “Adoration of the Magi” confirms his position at the heart of Medici power.

A New Leader

At just 20, Lorenzo becomes Capo of the Medici family. The young Godfather opens his doors to the ordinary people of Tuscany. In exchange for whatever they can afford, Lorenzo offers help and protection. This network of mutual favor is called the amici degli amici - the friends of friends.

Regular salons inside the Medici Palace bring together the cream of Florence's literati. Inspired, Botticelli creates an entirely new genre of art. Into a world dominated by the Church, Lorenzo injects a spirit of secular freedom yet he is also making enemies fast.

The Pazzi family are jealous of Lorenzo's awesome power. With the support of the Pope, they plot to murder both Lorenzo and his brother.

Murder in the Cathedral

Easter Sunday, April 26, 1478: Thousands pack inside the great cathedral of Florence. Amongst them, Lorenzo, his brother, and the Pazzi family. At the height of the ceremony, hired assassins swoop on the Medici brothers. Giuliano is stabbed 19 times and dies in front of his horrified family. Lorenzo vanishes.

The city descends into chaos. Word spreads of assassination, and the Pazzi try to seize control. Suddenly, at the windows of his palace, Lorenzo emerges, blood-soaked and wounded, but alive.

The city turns on the Pazzi, and its vengeance is brutal.

Il Magnifico

Giuliano's murder shocks Italy. Allies of the Pazzi want to finish the job that they started, and declare war on Florence. Lorenzo travels alone, to negotiate with the godfathers of the south. “Perhaps God wills that this war, which began with the blood of my brother and myself, should be ended by my means.”

He returns to Florence triumphant, having bribed the King of Naples and foiled the Pope. Hailed il Magnifico (magnificent) by his grateful city, Lorenzo eliminates all opposition. He adopts his dead brother's bastard son, and brings the entire government under his personal control. Lorenzo is now a dictator.

The Renaisssance continues to flourish. Botticelli is commissioned to paint a wedding present for the Godfather's cousin, “The Birth of Venus”. Leonardo da Vinci is discovered and brought into the Medici fold. In the world's first art-school, Lorenzo discovers a boy-genius, Michelangelo Buonarotti and adopts him into the family.

The Prophet of Doom

Lorenzo's appetite for material culture and his taste for high-living offends a zealous young monk. Girolamo Savonarola believes Lorenzo is leading Florence on a decadent path to destruction. He begins to preach against the Medici, “Go and tell Lorenzo to repent of his sins, for God will punish him and his family!“

In 1492, Lorenzo falls ill. Savonarola's predictions are coming true, and his support in Florence grows. The fortunes of the Medici bank collapse and the family's network of influence begins to fall apart.

Lorenzo dies aged 42. Savonarola spreads his breed of fundamentalism throughout Florence. All traces of extravagance are consumed in the Bonfire of the Vanities. Prostitutes are beaten, homosexuals burned to death. The Medici are banished.

Florence, in search of salvation, has become a vision of Hell.

Go to: Medici Popes | Power vs Truth

Where to next
Part 3   Part 3: Medici Popes

The Series
-Part 1: Birth of a Dynasty
-Part 2: Magnificent Medici
-Part 3: Medici Popes
-Part 4: Power vs Truth

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