I find it perfectly logical that so much began in Florence. Wool from Europe and dyes from Asian ports met in Tuscany, which was far enough from Rome that religious strictures against profits could be stretched, and in a region so poor the nobility, the only people with any money, were willing to experiment with capitalism. A cultural and economic “rinascità”, or renaissance was set off. And riding the first wave in 1378 was Salvestro de'Medici, a black sheep of his clan.
Salvestro led the popolo minuto, the little people, the unskilled Ciompi textile workers in demanding the right to form their own guilds. Their rulers, the popolo grasso, the fat ones, initially gave in, but a month later, when the workers followed one of their own, Michele di Lando, in storming the Palazzo Vecchio, the textile makers closed their shops, and Salvestro remained silent. Within days hunger forced the unpaid workers to surrender. But the Medici family had established their reputation as defenders of the common man. And thanks to Salvestro they built a great fortune by using that populist image selectively
And on the heartless application of violence. One hundred years later, on 26 April 1478, as soon as Lorenzo Medici escaped from the cathedral, he dispatched forces to retrieve his brother's mutilated body, left to bleed out on the cathedral floor. From a second story window of his home Lorenzo then appeared to a crowd of supporters, showing he was still alive, if wounded. His survival inspired the Medici forces to strike back without pity.
Archbishop Francesco Salviati was already in custody in the Palazzo Vecchio. He was quickly joined by his brother, Jacopo Salviati, and his cousin, Bartolomeo Salviati. Both men had been in the cathedral during the murders of Guiliano Medici and Frecesco Nori. In addition, armed men were dispatched to the Pazzi home, where Francesco Pazzi, still bleeding, was arrested. They were all questioned at an rump trial by the eight members of the City Council. The results were, it might be said, per-ordained.
Within the hour Francisco Pazzi was stripped naked. A noose was thrown around his neck. Then he was pushed from the second story window of the Palzzo Vecchio. The drop was not intended to be far enough to break his neck. It was intended that he should slowly strangled for the amusement of the jeering mob gathered in the square. And while he still writhed at the end of the rope, Archbishop Salviati, also naked, was shoved out the window, to writhe in desperate agony until, as an observer noted, his eyes bugged out. Once both men were finally dead, the ropes were cut and the bodies dropped into the square, where the mob beat and dismembered the corpses. One enraged man, said a witness, even bit into the dead Francesco's chest.
Next out the window was the two Salviati cousins, to dance to the crowd's delight, who then vented their blood lust upon the dead bodies. Then the priests, Setefano da Bagnone and Antonio Maffei de Volterra, the pair who had attacked Lorenzo, had their noses and ears cut off, before being castrated. Then, they were thrown from the window, to dance for the mob. Now, eager to prove their loyalty to the Medici family and with their blood lust released, the mob tracked down as many Pazzi and Pergia supporters as they could find, breaking into private homes and public buildings, even churches, to kill them. At least eighty were butchered that Easter Sunday on the streets or in their homes, with many thrown from the Vecchio's clock tower. Guilt in the murder or the plot was no longer required. The Pazzi name was enough.
Jacopo Pazzi was trying to reach Pisa, but only managed to get as far as the tiny mountain village of Castagno, about seven miles west of Florence, before he was captured, beaten and returned to the city. He then flew out the Palazzo Vecchio window, like his nephew and sons. After he was buried in the family crypt, a drunken mob disentered his corpse, and dragged it through the streets. It was then reburied outside the city walls, but dug up again, this time by children, who used the head to pound on the Pazzi family front door. When no one answered, the rotted corpse was dragged to the river Arno and tossed into the water. It was last seen, decomposing in the shallows.
Those Pazzi males not killed outright were arrested. and confined in the new prison fortress in Volterra, twenty miles southwest of Florence. It was so secure, it is still being used as high security prison today.Guglielmo Pazzi, Francesco’s brother, was spared execution only because he was married to a Medici daughter. He was banished from Florence for life, along with all Pazzi females, old men and children. All Pazzi gold and silver in Europe were ordered seized, their homes, businesses and estates plundered and confiscated. No Pazzi was ever again allowed to hold public office in Florence. The family crest of two dolphins was removed wherever found, as were all images of Pazzi faces in paintings . So complete and absolute was the Medici revenge, that the name Pazzi became, in English, to define anyone who could be implicated in a crime - a patsy.
Then there was the case of Giovanni Batista da Montesecco, a cousin to the Duke of Urbano. He had originally been chosen to kill Lorenzo, but bowed out after realizing the murders were to occur in the cathedral during Easter services. But neither had he warned the Medici of the plot. Arrested after being implicated by the unfortunate Setefano and Antonio, Giovanni revealed how deeply Pope Sixtus' had been involved. In return for his testimony, he was merely beheaded. The man who had officiated at the Easter Mass and Sixtus' nephew, Cardinal Raphael Riario, was held incommunicado for a month before Lorenzo decided he was only naive, and allowed him to return to Rome.
Bernardo Bandini, who had helped Francesco Pazzi murder Guiliani Medici, managed to get as far away as Constantinople. But the Medici bank reached that far, and 18 months after the attack Bernardo was kidnapped and hustled aboard a fast ship back to Italy and Florence. Immediately after his arrival, on 29 December, 1479, Bandini also flew out the Palazzo Vecchio window, still dressed in his Muslim disguise Leonardo Di Vinci sketched him hanging there.
After the Easter Sunday massacre, all of Italy had to pick sides, and most either joined the Pope or chose not to support the Medici. The King of Naples, Ferdinand I, sent an army to lay siege to Florence. And while the King of France offered an army to Lorenzo, the surviving Medici son knew the cost of such support would be disastrous for the rest of Italy. And so in December of 1479 Lorenzo changed the rules of the game. He sneaked out of Florence, and took ship for Naples. He was instantly imprisoned by Ferdinand, but the monarch was convinced by Lorenzo's own wounds that the Pope had precipitated this crises. Also, Naples was clearly on the French wish list of Italian properties to grab, if an invasion was possible. Ferdinand forced Sixtus to reconcile with the Medici, and the war quickly came to an end. From that day forward, Lorenzo would be known as Lorenzo the Magnificent.
Sixtus (above left) would sit on Peter's throne for another six years, and be best remembered for this Easter Sunday attack, for the Sistine Chapel he had built, for two decrees approving of black slavery in the new world, and for appointing Tomás Torquemada (above right) as the Grand Inquisitor of the infamous Holy Office of the Inquisition. This worldly Pope died in 1484 a bitter and disappointed man.
Lorenzo Medici (above) ruled Florence for another fifteen years, gradually more openly as a dictator. .He tracked down the new born son his brother had fathered with Fioretta Gorini, and had the boy brought into the family home and raised and educated as a full Medici. When he died in 1492, Lorenzo de Medici would mostly be remembered for his wise rule, and the great public art works he commissioned, including the magnificent tomb containing his own and his brother' Guiliano's bones in the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence, a tomb designed and carved by Michelangelo.
But the ultimate Medici revenge of Sixtus came when Lorenzo's son, Giovanni de Medici, became Pope Leo X in 1513, and was succeeded by Giuliano's son, Giulio de Medici, as Pope Clement VII in 1523 It is said, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And the Medici of Florence did both.
- 30 -