Visiting Florence without knowing who the Medicis were is like visiting New York City and not knowing that it has a subway system. Both the Medici’s and NYCs subways are a crucial aspect of understanding the city as a whole.
So who were the Medici’s anyway? The Medicis first made their way into the history books in the 13th century when they are mentioned in a document pertaining to an agricultural area north of Florence. Fast forward, and by 1397 this family had founded the Medici Bank of Florence. Giovanni, who founded the bank in Florence, never held a political office but he was one of the wealthiest men in the city. He also became exceedingly powerful and popular among the citizens because he introduced a proportionate taxation system, meaning the rich are taxed more, and the poor are taxed less. He was the sweetheart of Florence and his three future generations continued to reap the rewards of his popularity.
The Medici family enjoyed what was arguably their greatest success throughout the 15th century, especially through the leadership of the still famous today, Lorenzo de Medici aka Lorenzo il Magnifico – the magnificent. He would eventually be the downfall of the Medici bank, as he focused more on growing his power, and the arts, but his artistic patrimony is for sure his greatest gift to Italy. The Medici family can be almost single handedly credited with bringing about the Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance changed art from the status quo that had existed for about a thousand years. Under the Medici tutelage artists such as Donatello, Michelangelo, Masaccio, Botticelli, Da Vicini, Brunelleschi and more, were able to grow into the famous artists we know and love today. And art, as a concept, was born again in this time period. Before the medici driven renaissance, the last time art was created just to be art, was in ancient greece and rome.
For these reasons, the medici family is often still considered the most important family in Florentine history. If it weren’t for them, we likely wouldn’t have had the renaissance, and Florence wouldn’t be the city that we know and love today.