Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Medici Home The Show
Home The Renaissance Turning Points Florence Scape The Medici The Show Resources
Power vs Truth
 
Cosimo de'Medici with wife Isabella
Florence, 1537: Alessandro de'Medici the Duke of Florence, lies murdered in his bed.

His cousin is plucked from obscurity to lead Florence. He is just 17. His rivals think he's a puppet, but despite his youth, Cosimo de'Medici, the new Duke of Florence, is ambitious.



A Man Reborn

Cosimo strikes a deal with Giorgio Vasari, a versatile artist who believes the young Duke has potential. As a boy, Vasari rescued the broken arm of Michelangelo's “David”. Now, with Cosimo's approval, he oversees its repair.

Florence is a dangerous city, and the last thing Cosimo wants is to meet his cousin's fate. He embarks on a rigorous training regime to guard against assassination.

Cosimo's shrewd marriage to an eligible Spanish princess brings an army as a dowry. With it, he sets out to conquer his neighbors. The republic of Siena falls, and the rest of Tuscany soon capitulates to the Medici.

The image-maker

Cosimo isn't slow to publicize his success. Across the walls of the old government building, he commissions monumental frescoes from Vasari. An army of workers fill the walls of the medieval palace with tales of courage and achievement. Cosimo ensures every generation of his family has their place, turning the headquarters of the old republic into a shameless temple to the Medici dynasty.

It still isn't enough to satisfy his Duchess. Hungry for grandeur, Eleonora pays 9,000 florins for the Pitti Palace, a huge fortress on the south side of the Arno. The security is welcome. Florence still bristles with murderous intent, and Cosimo goes nowhere without knives down his pants, and body armor beneath his clothes.

Cosimo the control freak now has another problem. He is the master of a complex administration, managed by myriad offices scattered throughout the city. Vasari is ordered to provide facilities for a centralized administration. His buildings are constructed along two sides of a street with a corridor linking the two wings. They are known by the Italian word for offices, Uffizi.

Cosimo's cultural campaign is capped with a book, written by Vasari, which seals the reputation of the Medici forever. The “Lives of the Artists” is the first ever work of art history.

Triumph

Cosimo is at last secure, “I am a ruler who accepts the authority of no-one, apart from God”.

Not even the emergence of the terrifying Roman Inquisition can dampen his success. He organizes a token public book burning, to satisfy their edicts on censorship. In return, he is crowned Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, by the Pope himself. Under Cosimo I, the Medici have scaled the heights of international royalty. They seem unassailable.

The Choice

Experiments
Following Cosimo's reign, scientific enlightenment collides with Catholic doctrine, in the shape of the greatest scientist of the age, Gaileo Galilei. For three generations Galileo teaches the Medici Grand Dukes, informing the world about astronomy, gravity, momentum, buoyancy and time. But when he dares to suggest that the Earth travels around the sun, the Pope has had enough.

Galileo is summoned to appear before the Inquisition in Rome and threatened with torture. The Medici are forced to choose, between their allegiance to the church and their loyalty to the values of the Renaisssance.

They choose the path of least resistance, and Galileo is betrayed. They have failed to sustain what had set them apart from their rivals and the Renaisssance in Italy is over.

Though the reign of the Medici has faded, the movement they started in Florence goes on to launch the enlightenment, the Age of Reason, and the Modern World. Many patrons would try to follow in their footsteps, but none would ever match the legacy of the Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance.

Back to: Birth of a Dynasty | The Magnificent Medici | The Medici Popes


 
Where to next
Listings   Get local listings
DVD Get the DVD

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

Behind the Scenes

Get the DVD

Credits