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The Medici ; Richer than the Rockefellers, Mightier than the Tudors (Documentary)
They were the most powerful and influential family in the world. Richer than the Rockefellers, mightier than the Tudors. They were the Medici. They bankrolled the Renaissance and ignited the Reformation. They were soldiers, bankers, politicians and Popes - and they dominated Europe for 300 years.
Rise to power
The Medici family was connected to most other elite families of the time through marriages of convenience, partnerships, or employment, as a result of which the Medici family had a position of centrality in the social network: several families had systematic access to the rest of the elite families only through the Medici, perhaps similar to banking relationships. Some examples of these families include the Bardi, Salviati, Cavalcanti, and the Tornabuoni. This has been suggested as a reason for the rise of the Medici family. Members of the family rose to some prominence in the early 14th century in the wool trade, especially with France and Spain. Despite the presence of some Medici in the city's government institutions, they were still far less notable than other outstanding families such as the Albizzi or the Strozzi. One Salvestro de' Medici was speaker of the woolmakers' guild during the Ciompi revolt, and one Antonio was exiled from Florence in 1396. The involvement in another plot in 1400 caused all branches of the family to be banned from Florentine politics for twenty years, with the exception of two: from one of the latter, that of Averardo de' Medici, originated the Medici dynasty.
The biggest accomplishments of the Medici were in the sponsorship of art and architecture, mainly early and High Renaissance art and architecture. The Medici were responsible for the majority of Florentine art during their reign. Their money was significant because during this period, artists generally only made their works when they received commissions in advance. Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the first patron of the arts in the family, aided Masaccio and commissioned Brunelleschi for the reconstruction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence in 1419. Cosimo the Elder's notable artistic associates were Donatello and Fra Angelico. The most significant addition to the list over the years was Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475--1564), who produced work for a number of Medici, beginning with Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was said to be extremely fond of the young Michelangelo, inviting him to study the family collection of antique sculpture. Lorenzo also served as patron to Leonardo da Vinci (1452--1519) for seven years. Indeed Lorenzo was an artist in his own right, and author of poetry and song; his support of the arts and letters is seen as a high point in Medici patronage.
After Lorenzo's death the puritanical Dominican friar, Girolamo Savonarola rose to prominence, warning Florentines against excessive luxury. Under Savonarola's fanatical leadership, many great works were "voluntarily" destroyed in the Bonfire of the Vanities (February 7, 1497). The following year, on May 23, 1498, Savonarola and two young supporters were burned at the stake in the Piazza della Signoria, the same location as his bonfire. In addition to commissions for art and architecture, the Medici were prolific collectors and today their acquisitions form the core of the Uffizi museum in Florence. In architecture, the Medici are responsible for some notable features of Florence; including the Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens, the Belvedere, and the Palazzo Medici, Medici Chapel
Later, in Rome, the Medici Popes continued in the family tradition of patronizing artists in Rome. Pope Leo X would chiefly commission works from Raphael. Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel just before the pontiff's death in 1534. Eleanor of Toledo, princess of Spain and wife of Cosimo I the Great, purchased the Pitti Palace from Buonaccorso Pitti in 1550. Cosimo in turn patronized Vasari who erected the Uffizi Gallery in 1560 and founded the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno -- ("Academy of the Arts of Drawing") in 1563. Marie de' Medici, widow of Henry IV of France and mother of Louis XIII, is the subject of a commissioned cycle of paintings known as the Marie de' Medici cycle, painted for the Luxembourg Palace by court painter Peter Paul Rubens in 1622-23.
Although none of the Medici themselves were scientists, the family is well known to have been the patrons of the famous Galileo Galilei, who tutored multiple generations of Medici children, and was an important figurehead for his patron's quest for power. Galileo's patronage was eventually abandoned by Ferdinando II, when the Inquisition accused Galileo of heresy. However, the Medici family did afford the scientist a safe haven for many years. Galileo named the four largest moons of Jupiter after four Medici children he tutored, although the names Galileo used are not the names currently used.