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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/148

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MEDICI


120


MEDICI


Qofc-nr-EcHABD, Scriplores O. P. (Paris. 1721), 11, 42.'5 b; HcRTER, NoMENCLATon (Innsl)ruck, 1S92), 1, 257 b.; Molisoi-r in Kirchrnli'xikon (Kreiburi? im Br., lSS):i), treuts more fully of the ucw features of the \'ici eii. of the " Kxpliattio,"

Tiio.MAs .\ K. Reilly.

Medici, Hou.se of, a Florentine family, the mem- bers of wliich, liaving acf|iiiroil great wealth as bank- ers, ro.se in a few generations to be first the vmoflficial nilora of the republic of Florence ami afterwards the recognized sovereigns of 'I'liscany.

C'o.SIMO THE Eldek, b. Li.SO^ d. 1 Aug., 14G4, the founder of their power and so-called "Padre della Patria", was the son of tiiovanni di Averardo de' Medici, the richest banker in Italy. He ol>tained the virtual lordsliip of Florence in li'.'A by the overthrow and expulsion of the leaders of the oligarchical faction of the Albizzi. While maintaining republican forms and institutions, he held the government by banishing his opponents and concentrating the chief magistracies in the hands of his nwii adherents. His foreign pnlicy, whicli he- came traditional with the Medici throughout the fifteenth cen- tury until the French invasion of 1494, aimed at establishing a balance of power between the five chief states of the Italian peninsula, by allying F'lorence with Milan and maintaining friendly relations with Naples, to counterpoise the similar un- derstanding existing between Rome and Venice. He was a munificent and discerning patron of art and letters, a thor- ough humanist, and through Marsilio F'icino, the founder of the famous Neo-Platonic acad- emy. Sincerely devoted to reli- gion in his latter days, he was clo.sely associated with St. An- toninus and with the Dominican friars of San Marco, his favourite foundation. His son ami suc- cessor, Pieroi) Ciotloso, the hus- band of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a man of magnanimous character but whose activities were crip- pled by illness, contented him- self with following in his foot- steps.

On Piero's death in 1469, his sons Lorenzo, b. 1449, d. 8 April, 1492, and Giuliano, b. 145.3, d. 26 April, 1478. .suc- ceeded to his power. The latter, Cosimu i a genial youth with no particu- Pontormo, Uffizi lar aptitude for politics, was murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy of 147.S, leaving an illegitimate son Giulio, ■who afterwards became Pope Clement VII. Among those executed for their share in the conspiracy was the Archbishop of Pisa. A war with Pope Sixtus IV and King F'errante of Naples followed, in which Florence was hard pressed, until Lorenzo, as Machia- velli says, "exposed his o\jn life to restore peace to his country", by going in person to the Neapol- itan sovereign to obtain favourable terms, in 1480. Henceforth until liis death Lorenzo was undi-sputed


master of Florence and her dominions, and, while continuing and developing the foreign and domes- tic policy of his grandfather, he greatly extended the Medieean influence throughout Italy. His skilful diplomacy was dirceted to nuiiiitaining the jieace of the peninsula, and kecjiing the live chief states united in the face of the growing danger of an invasion from beyond the Alps. Ouicciardini writes of him tliat it would not ha\'e been possible for Florence to liaxo had a better or a more l)leasanl tyrant, and certainly the workl has seen no more splendid a patron of artists and scholars. The poets, Pulci and Poliziano, the philosopher and mystic, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and a whole galaxy of great artists, such as Botti- celli and Ghirlandaio, shed glory o\er his reign.

Posterity has agreed to call Lorenzo the Magnificent ", but this is, in part, a misunderstand- ing of the Italian title "ma- gnififo". which was given to all the ineniliors of his family, and, intlecd, during the fifteenth cen- tury, applied to most persons of importance in Italy to whom the higher title of "Excellence " did not pertain. Lorenzo sums up the finest culture of the early Renaissance in his own person. LTnlike many of the humanists of his epoch, he thor- oughly appreciated the great Italian classics of the two pre- ceding centuries; in his youth he wrote a famous epistle on the subject to Federigo of Aragon, which accompanied a collection of early Italian lyrics. Flis own poems in the vernacular rank very liigh in the literature of the fifteenth century. They are remarkably varied in style and subject, ranging from Pe- trarcan canzoni and sonnets, with a pro.se commentary in imitation of the " Vita Nuova", to the semiparody of Dante entitled "I Beoni". His canzoni a hallo, the popular dancing songs of the Floren-. tines, have the true lyrical note. Esi)ecially admiralile are his compositions in ollai'a rima: the " t'accia col Falcone ", with its keen feeling for nature; the " .Vmbra ", a mythological fable of the Florentine country-side; andthe NenciadaBarberino", an itljllic picture of rustic loves. e' Mbdici His "Altercazione", six cantos in

Gallery, Florence ter'za rima, discusses the nature

of true feUcit.v, and closes in animpressiveprayertoGod, somewhat Platonic in tone. To purely religious poe- try belong liis " Laude ", and a miracle-jjlay , t he " Rap- presentazione di san Giovanni e san I^iolo", with a curiously modem appreciation of the Emperor Julian. In striking contrast to these are his carnival-songs, canti carnascialeschi, so immoral as to lend colour to the accusation that he strove to undermine the moral- ity of the Florentines in order the more easily to enslave them.

At the close of his life, Lorenzo was brouglit into con-