Lorenzo de’ Medici, (Lorenzo the Magnificent)


Portrait by Agnolo Bronzino


Da Vinci’s Demons actors in a field Laura Haddock as Lucrezia Donati, Elliot Cowan as Lorenzo Medici, Tom Riley as Leonardo da Vinci, Blake Ritson as Girolamo Riario and Lara Pulver as Clarice Orsini.

In a world where thought and faith are controlled, one man fights to set knowledge free.

The secret history of Leonardo da Vinci’s tantalizing life reveals a portrait of a young man tortured by a gift of superhuman genius. He is a heretic and skeptic intent on exposing the lies of religion. An insurgent seeking to subvert an elitist society. A bastard son who yearns for legitimacy with his father.

He finds himself in the midst of a storm that has been brewing for centuries. A conflict between truth and lies, religion and science, past and future. His aspirations to improve his position in life bring him into contact with the two opposing forces of the time—the Vatican and the Medici family who both try and lure him onto their side.


Italian scholar-prince Although Lorenzo outwardly respected republican traditions and never adopted a formal title, he governed Florence with the splendor of a typical Italian Renaissance prince. His lavish entertainments made him popular and his manipulation of Florentine institutions gave him nearautocratic power. He arranged noble marriages for his family and procured a cardinal’s hat for his son Giovanni, later Pope LEO X. Lorenzo integrated the administration of Florence with Tuscany and tightened his control through the Council of Seventy and the balia (committee of magistrates). He clashed with Pope SIXTUS IV, whose nephew organized the PAZZI CONSPIRACY (1478), in which Lorenzo’s brother was murdered at Mass. Lorenzo ended the war with the papacy that followed (1478-79) by persuading the pope’s ally, Naples, to make peace.

Lorenzo supported artists and scholars such as POLITIAN, PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA, BOTTICELLI, and VERROCCHIO. Despite SAVONAROLA’s denunciations of Florence’s pagan pleasures and loss of republican freedoms from 1489, Lorenzo admired and tolerated the preacher. A massive project to publish all Lorenzo’s correspondence (Lettere, ed. Riccardo Fubini et al, 1977- ) throws light on his abilities as a ruler and exponent of realpolitik and on the means by which he asserted his ascendancy over Florence.

Medici family

A dynasty powerful in Florence and Tuscany from the 13th to the 18th century and renowned for its statesmanship and for its patronage of letters, music, and the visual arts. The family included four popes (LEO X, CLEMENT VII, PIUS IV, Leo XI) and two queens of France (CATHERINE and MARIE DE’ MEDICI). The first prominent Medici, Chiarissimo, served on Florence’s council (1201), and his descendants joined Florence’s elite. After the exile of Salvestro, who supported the CIOMPI in 1378, another branch of the family headed by the banker Giovanni (died 1429) became dominant. Giovanni’s son, Cosimo de’ MEDICI (1389-1464), established the family’s political power; Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo de’ MEDICI (1449-92), ruled Florence without any formal designation other than the courtesy title of “il Magnifico.” Lorenzo’s son, Piero, was expelled from Florence (1494), but the family was restored in 1512. After the second expulsion of the Medici (1527-30) Pope Clement VII installed Alessandro (died 1537), the illegitimate son of his second cousin Lorenzo (died 1519), as duke of Florence. After Alessandro’s assassination a junior branch of the family, headed by COSIMO I (1519- 74), established a dynasty of grand dukes of Tuscany (ruled 1569-1737).

Pazzi conspiracy (1478)

A plot by Francesco and Jacopo Pazzi, of the Florentine banking family who were longtime rivals to the MEDICI, to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother Giuliano. Their fellow-conspirators included the archbishop of Pisa, and the plot had the tacit support of Pope Sixtus IV (whose nephew, Girolamo Riaro, was among the plotters) because of Lorenzo’s efforts to thwart consolidation of papal rule over the Romagna. The Medici brothers were to be killed in the cathedral in Florence after Mass on Easter Day (April 26); in the event, Giuliano was killed, but Lorenzo escaped with only slight injuries. Simultaneous attempts to raise the populace against the Medici met with no support. Subsequent executions (including that of the archbishop of Pisa) and exiles broke the influence of the Pazzi family and strengthened the Medici hold on Florence.

Sixtus IV (1414-1484) Pope (1471-84)

Born Francesco della Rovere of a poor family near Savona, he became a Franciscan friar and teacher. He was made minister-general of the Franciscans (1464) and cardinal (1467). As pope, Sixtus initially campaigned unsuccessfully for a crusade against the Turks, but later concentrated more on Italian politics and the aggrandizement of the DELLA ROVERE FAMILY. Like other Italian princes he ruled his domains firmly and became involved in Italian quarrels, notably wars against Florence (1478-79) and Venice (1482-84).

In foreign affairs, relations with France were strained over the Pragmatic Sanction of BOURGES, in which the French Church claimed the right to regulate its own affairs; somewhat inconsistently, he allowed FERDINAND (II) AND ISABELLA I of Spain to establish the SPANISH INQUISITION (1478) and to make ecclesiastical appointments in Spain and the New World. Although a great nepotist who made five nephews and one grand-nephew cardinals (one of them was later Pope JULIUS II), Sixtus IV administered the church and its domains well. He was personally devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and instituted (1476) the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. As a patron of letters and the arts, Sixtus IV repaired Roman churches, had the SISTINE CHAPEL built, established the Sistine choir, commissioned BOTTICELLI and POLLAIUOLO, and opened the Vatican Library to scholars.

Further reading: Melissa Meriam Bullard, Lorenzo il Magnifico: Image and Anxiety, Politics and Finance (Florence, Italy: Olschki, 1994); Lauro Martines, April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici (London: Cape and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). Janet Cox-Rearick, Dynasty and Destiny in Medici Art: Pontormo, Leo X and the two Cosimos (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1984); Richard Fremantle, God and Money, Florence and the Medici in the Renaissance (Florence, Italy: Olschki, 1992); John R. Hale, Florence and the Medici: The Pattern of Control (London: Thames & Hudson, 1977); Christopher Hibbert, The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974; new ed. Perennial, 1999); Nicolai Rubinstein, The Government of Florence under the Medici (1434 to 1494) (Oxford, U. K.: Clarendon Press, 1966). Lauro Martines, April Blood: Florence and the Plot against the Medici (London: Cape and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).


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