Medici Home The Show
Home The Renaissance Turning Points Florence Scape The Medici The Show Resources
The Medici Popes
Florentine Battles
Florence, 1501: 26-year-old Michelangelo carves a giant masterpiece which will come to symbolize his struggle against a family he once adored. Raised from a young age alongside the Medici heirs he watched as they were cast into exile with a price on their heads. Now they are searching for a path back to power.


January 26, 1504: Michelangelo exposes “David” to the scrutiny of the outside world. It's hailed as a triumph. Michelangelo has created the ultimate symbol of resistance to the overbearing Medici.

Giulio de'Medici has been ordained as a priest and a prior. His cousin Giovanni is already a cardinal, but their clerical connections mean little, without Florence.

Pope Julius II, also from a powerful family, is sympathetic to their plight. With his help, the cousins assemble an army. They head for Florence.


Florence without the Medici is thriving. Against the wishes of the church, Leonardo da Vinci dissects corpses for private anatomical study. With the city under threat of invasion, he and Michelangelo are invited to produce frescoes of famous Florentine battles. It is an intriguing competition.

By 1512, thousands of troops are marching on Tuscany. Florence calls on Niccolo Machiavelli, political genius, to prepare its defense. The soldiers he trains are no match for the troops of the Medici. The Sack of Prato, just outside Florence, is a bloodbath.

Giovanni pronounces the massacre a deterrent to those who would resist him. He's right, the leaders of Florence surrender. Through violence and terror the Medici regain control of their city, but not the loyalty of the people of Florence.

Papa Leone

Papal Garb
With the death of Pope Julius, the cardinals gather in Rome. They take so long to elect a new pope, that their meals are reduced to a single unappetizing dish. Giovanni de'Medici is announced as the winner. From now on, he will be known as Pope Leo X.

Michelangelo is frightened for his future. Can his recent success inside the Sistine Chapel save him from the wrath of the Medici? The cousins make the artist an offer he can't refuse when they ask him to build tombs for their dead fathers, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giuliano de'Medici.

Even Machiavelli now lobbies for a job inside Leo's regime. But his plan backfires and, trapped in exile, he composes a manifesto for ruthless dictators.


Pope Leo X builds a reputation for lavish excess, with his love of 65-course banquets and extravagant parties. Desperate for cash, he turns to the ultimate money-spinner, the sale of forgiveness.

Agents of Pope Leo X flog Papal Indulgences across Europe, incurring the fury of many including a German monk. In 1517, Martin Luther publishes the “95 Theses” and sparks a religious revolution.

Sack of Rome

Leo tries to silence the heretic, but succumbs to a simple winter chill. His cousin, Giulio is subsequently crowned Pope Clement VII and has to pick up the pieces. It's a hard task. The fall-out from Luther's reformation brings furious armies to the gates of Rome itself. Many are Lutherans and hate the Pope.

On May 7, 1527 rampaging German soldiers sweep into Rome. Clement escapes the carnage, but the Sack of Rome becomes the blackest moment of the Renaisssance.

Back to Florence

After months under siege, Clement bribes his way out of a ruined Rome. His enemies in Florence have rebelled, taking captive the only legitimate heir to the Medici line. Catherine de'Medici is 11-years-old. Her uncle Clement agrees to enter Florence in peace, in return for her safety. Within four years he marries her off to the son of the French King, guaranteeing a future for the Medici. But Clement's own days are numbered.

Last judgment

A dying Clement summons Michelangelo to complete his work in the Sistine Chapel. The extraordinary “Last Judgment” will be the final twist in Michelangelo's relationship with the Medici. But Clement does not live to see it finished. In 1534, exhausted by the turmoil of his reign, he dies. The disastrous reign of the Medici popes is over.

Go to: Power vs Truth

Where to next
Part 4   Part 4: Power vs Truth

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