The Medici family were merchants and bankers who had enormous impacts over the city of Florence throughout the Renaissance. They managed the Medici bank, which at its peak was the biggest bank in Europe. The House Of Medici rose to power around the time of Giovanni de Medici who began the Medici bank and became leader of the merchants in Florence. His son Cosimo continued the family’s rise to power by becoming the leader of Florence. The powerful family ruled Florence until its decline in the late fifteenth century. In its time, the Medici family rose to positons of power throughout Europe. The Medici have been called the “godfathers of the Renaissance.” Intellectuals, artists and scholars began to rediscover the great classics and recover the talented aspects of the past; they fused it with the present creating a new era that led to another period of greatness in history. Florence served as the cradle and center of the Renaissance. Here, the Medici Family rose to power and played a prominent role. The man responsible for putting the family in Florentine society supremacy was no other than Cosimo de Medici or Cosimo the Elder. He was able to gain power first and foremost through his wealth which came from the Medici Bank. These funds from his business was what let him have the opportunities to extend his influence further than his business connections and expand the power bestowed to his family. With Cosimo de Medici’s further rise to power, Florentine leadership in the arts had also been established well. His patronage brought much work to the city’s painters, sculptors and architects and he also greatly encouraged another strand of the Renaissance in which Florence plays a major role.
Cosomo De Medici
Cosimo de’ Medici opened his eyes into a rich banking family in 1389. His father was Giovanni di Bicci de Medici and his father was good at business. His father, Giovanni di Bicci decided to stop working and retired. As a result, he delivered his various business and art attempts, and also the bank to Cosimo de Medici.
He was one of the most famous figures of Renaissance Florence and a big patron of the arts,especially architecture. He was also one the most important bankers in Florence, and finally in all of Europe, thanks in part to his management of the Papacy’s finances. Cosimo’s effective actions in the art and the financial arena made him politically vigorous, and he was given the title “father of his country.”
As Nicolai Rubinstein has observed, “Cosimo’s vast and complex network of patronage was essential for the working of his political ascendancy, and while that ascendancy in its turn helped to extend it, his patronage was an indispensable instrument in making his will prevail.”
His ancievement was the beginning of the reign of the Medici family in Florence that lasted until well into the 17th century.
Cosimo gave a large part of his wealth to churches and other charitable institutions, and what he did not give away he used as a weapon to gain power, particularly on the outside of Florence. Cosimo de’ Medici acquired a significant amount of authority from his prevalent family and the connections that this gave him.
As Professor Dale Kent has noted, “Cosimo became the family’s leading representative in the ruling group, its symbolic head, and the chief architect of family and party policy.”
For instance, Cosimo gave plenty of debts to the Venetian Republic to help them fight off the French and the Duke of Milan. Cosimo’s economic supports allowed the Venetians to successfully get rid of the attack, which kept Florence safe from invasion. On the other hand, when Venice and Naples united against Florence, Cosimo prevented their attacks by demanding that they pay their debts to the Medici bank, leaving them without any resources to maintain the war and expenses.
Cosimo also had many private connections that gave him effectiveness in the political world . He participated meetings of humanists and had learned conversation with such men as Bruni,Poggio, and Marsuppini, leading humanists in Florence. All of these men later became chancellors of the Republic, giving Cosimo important political effect through his friends.
As Dale Kent argued,
Cosimo succeeded in identifying the honor of the Medici family with that of the commune more completely than any citizen before him. He did this by making his friends and political supporters honorary extensions of this group, to be seen as dear as fathers, brothers, and sons in affection and obligation.
Cosimo utilized from these opportunities and used his wealth to influence policy, particularly external policy.
For example, he used his connections and economic authority to arrange the Council of Florence, a meeting between the authorities of the Eastern and Western church. Cosimo housed all of the members of the council with his own resources, giving him extensive opportunity to acquire from the council.
This merging of Eastern and Western culture gave Cosimo and other humanists special opportunities to expand their learning. Cosimo de Medici’s rise to power in Florence was not always straight. His cautiously crafted personality as a patriot made him very popular, even though he held no official political title.
As Cosimo began to raise his authority among the people , he also gained enemies. The Medici weren’t the only renowned family. The Albizzi family disliked the power that Cosimo and his family had been gaining in Florentine society and thus made it their mission to eliminate the Medici from Florence. The Albizzi family were not unpopular, as they ruled in a time of prosperity for Florence. However, the opponent family saw the threat that Cosimo brought due to his wealth and influence over the citizens of Florence. They were not convinced by Cosimo’s pious personality. They found a way to arrest him on the charges of attempting to raise himself above the average citizen, a serious offense in Florence, where chastity and humbleness were immensely valued.
Cosimo’s rivals designed a plan to have him killed in prison, but Cosimo became aware of their plan and rejected to eat anything, lest it had been poisoned. Seeing that they would not be able to kill him without raising suspicion, on September 7, 1433, Cosimo and his family were exiled. However, the government soon shifted in the favor of the Medici, and Cosimo made a triumphant return just over a year later. Cosimo became the head of a group of families, typically younger families determined to oppose the older families led by the Albizzi. The Albizzi family eventually made their way to Arezzo, which caused tension between the Medici and Arezzo for many years to come.
Yet, this was a futile effort because of the large network of connections that Cosimo had nurtured through his business which enabled him to access money and continue living his life no matter what the Albizzi did:
As Cosimo stated in his diary, “They thought to ruin us by preventing me from making use of what was mine. But in this they failed, for we lost no credit, and many foreign merchants and gentlemen offered us, and even sent to Venice, large sums of money.”
Cosimo took great care to ensure that his return to power was reflected in every aspect of his life, especially in the art he was in charge. Cosimo commissioned a great variety of works from the most talented artists in Florence at the time. His patronage spanned personal, religious, and civic subjects. Each work he commissioned contained a specific message for a specific audience, depending on the context of the work. These works aimed to promote the strength and honor of the Medici family.
Briefly, Cosimo de’ Medici was a powerful, wealthy man who gained power and control by connections, economic influence, and a personality portrayed through the art he commissioned. In each commission and business decision, Cosimo increased the strength and honor of the Medici family, and he was so beloved that when he died, the ruler of Florence gave the title “father of his country.” He left a powerful legacy in the buildings he commissioned, including the churches, as well as his own residence, the Medici Palace. Finally, Cosimo left a legacy in his family, who governed Florence, one of the most powerful cities in Europe, until 1537.