Cosimo de Medici, photo and description

Florence and the dream of Cosimo de Medici

After the fall of the Roman Empire there were many attempts to revive the former glory of Italy, one was the Italian Renaissance led by the new Caesar Cosimo de Medici.

Cosimo de Medici (1389-1464), the eldest son of the banker Giovanni de Bicci, was the fortunate owner of his father’s business and a huge fortune, which made him a very influential figure. He was a talented entrepreneur and, in his own words, took more pleasure in the enterprise itself than in the profits it generated.

In the politically heterogeneous environment of Florence, Cosimo had acquaintances and connections with ecclesiastical circles, the workshops, the elite and was popular with the common people. All this helped him take power in the city, which he dreamed of transforming into a megalopolis like ancient Rome. What did he do?

To those around him, Cosimo de Medici appeared as a humble and simple man, without any political ambition or administrative influence. Florentines saw an exceptionally modest Medici – always quiet and simply dressed. But behind the scenes of city life he was the sovereign ruler. The city-state of Florence until 1513 was a republic with an elected government – the Signoria.

Medici with his almost endless possibilities bought votes and was able to appoint his men to any position.

At the same time, Cosimo’s modesty bowed to his side the sympathies of the ordinary townspeople, and therefore the old elite and the rich classes people often preferred the young energetic banker. With this support from virtually all segments of Florence’s population, Cosimo de Medici became the unofficial ruler of the city. The republic was effectively over and the Medici now had complete freedom of action.

The monumentality of Cosimo de Medici’s personality manifested itself in the appearance of Florence. At the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance, the Catholic Church preached much about the benefits of a simple and even poor life, but it did little itself.

Today it is difficult to imagine the construction of monuments, monuments, and even cathedrals as personal memorials. The structures were monumental and costly. One such costly long-building was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Florence was obsessed with the unfinished cathedral. For more than a hundred years, architects built the building’s walls in the shape of a Latin cross. However, great difficulties arose in the design and erection of the dome. The architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446), who had studied much about classical Roman architecture, took up the problem. It was from Roman architecture that he took the risky but revolutionary new design of the double dome, which was built without scaffolding by 1436.

Today, the Dome (or “Cupola”) is a trademark of Florence. And it was Cosimo de Medici who managed to convince the authorities to approve the project. The Florentine banker was also the main sponsor of this construction.

Medici turns his attention not only to cathedrals, but also to secular buildings. The Medici became the trustee of a number of building projects unparalleled in all of Tuscany and indeed all of Italy. One of these is the Palazzo Medici, built in 1460. Cosimo chose a modest but monumental project by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo (1396-1472), a close friend of the Medici family. Brunelleschi, already mentioned, also had a hand in the construction.

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The Palazzo Medici is undoubtedly the palace of a very powerful man. For its enormous size it looks unusually simple and modest. The rough brick gives the exterior a unique look, and the walls have almost no decorations. The palace building was an expression of its founder’s personality – monumental but modest. Cosimo was entirely responsible for the construction.

Palazzo Medici became the prototype for all the palaces to be built in Italy in the future, its appearance marked the birth of the Cosimo Medici style.

Medici also invested enormous sums of money in art. During his lifetime, he allocated more than 600 thousand florins to various cultural projects. This amount is six times more than the annual treasury of Florence in those years. Inside, the Palazzo Medici was richly decorated with masterpieces, such as the Chapel of the Magi, painted by Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497).

For the palace of Cosimo de’ Medici, the great Donatello created his “David.” Medici and Donatello, by the way, had a very warm personal relationship. The banker took under his wing a controversial and revolutionary artist for his time, providing Donatello all conditions for work. The statue of David was the first depiction of a nude man since antiquity, marking the return of European culture to its Roman and Greek roots.

Cosimo de Medici dreamed of Florence as a powerful political, financial, and cultural center. Under his tutelage, the city truly became the center of the Italian Renaissance: artists, architects, writers and humanists flocked here from all over Italy. Let us not exaggerate the merits of Cosimo, but as an advocate of the arts he gave a powerful impetus to the Renaissance.

Medici was like his palace – simple on the outside and enthusiastic, impulsive and active on the inside, and no wonder he was called Pater Patriae – father of the nation – after his death.

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Today tens of thousands of tourists flock to Florence to experience the history, splendor and cultural richness of the city. Whether Florence would be like this without Cosimo de Medici is a big question.

Cosimo de Medici

The biography of Cosimo de Medici, Duke of Tuscany, is as full as that of the other members of this famous family. A member of the younger branch of the family that ruled Florence, he was a descendant of Cosimo the Elder’s brother, Lorenzo. He was made a duke at the age of 17.

Childhood and Youth

Cosimo the First was born on June 12, 1519. His father was the great-grandson of Lorenzo the Elder, Giovanni de Bande Neri, descended from a separated branch of the family. The famous military leader died of a fatal wound at the age of 28 years. Cosimo’s mother, Maria, was the granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Cosimo de Medici in his youth

Cosimo de Medici in his youth

The young man was shielded from participation in public affairs and kept away from Florence. Together with his mother Cosimo lived in a country villa, under constant guardianship. Maria did her best to ensure that the ruling upper classes had no interest in the boy’s existence. He was brought up with Catherine de Medici and always maintained a friendly relationship with her afterwards.

The young man ascended the ducal throne early. The youth of the leader of the city’s aristocracy was planned to be used for their own purposes. The strategy was to impose decisions and pursue advantageous policies.

Career and family

Medici became grand duke of Florence and immediately after acquiring the title entered into good relations with the emperor, enlisting the support of the ambassador. The influence of Charles V played into the Medici’s hands. He abolished the Council of 48, getting rid of the pressure of the aristocrats, and began to build a path to his goal, the exaltation of Tuscany.

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The republicans were unwilling to tolerate the state of affairs and rallied to attack. In July 1537, led by Filippo Strozzi, there was an attack on Florence. The ducal forces, led by Alessandro Vitelli, fought back and drove the rebels into the castle. It was a credit to the veterans who kept the memory of Cosimo’s father.

The prisoners were ransomed from the soldiers for presentation to the tribunal of the Council of 48. Within four days some of the condemned were executed in the Piazza della Signoria. The people murmured in horror. Cosimo imprisoned the remaining prisoners, among whom was the son of Niccolò Machiavelli, in the fortresses of Volterra, Pisa, and Livorno. A month later they were executed as well. The austere and ruthless duke had no mercy on his enemies. Captured by Alessandro Vitelli, Filippo Strozzi remained in the casemates and was kept in good conditions thanks to the warlord’s decency.

Portrait of Cosimo de Medici

Portrait of Cosimo de Medici

Having secured the emperor’s support, Cosimo ransomed the prisoner. On the day of his release, Strozzi slit his own throat.

Cosimo I had the talent of a politician, but he was perceived as a tyrant. The ruler saw his main task as uniting Tuscany into a single state and elevating himself to the status of monarch. Catholic reaction became a convenient tool in the hands of the duke. Opponents and rivals he eliminated with the help of the Inquisition, as happened to Pietro Carnesecchi. By introducing the tradition of confiscation and organizing monopolies, the calculating leader raised the finances to build a fleet, with which he seized Siena. The duke did his best to rally a powerful army of mercenaries.

Cosimo de Medici

Cosimo de Medici

Under Cosimo the state institutions lost their independence. All elected positions became appointments, and the Duke had the last word. Contrary to tradition, the ruler was guided by his own will. The equality of Florentines before the law was trampled upon. Positions at court and in the army were given to aristocrats. The Order of San Stefano, which bestowed titles, was set up especially for the appointees.

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Cosimo did not shrink from the love of the people and did not seek it, hating some and despising others. His subjects nicknamed him Tiberius of Florence for his cruelty and ferocity. The ruler saw in everything a calculation and the means to achieve his own ends. He reconciled himself to Giai-Giacomo Medichini, not preventing his ascent to the papal throne. Pius IV’s most famous achievement was the creation of the Council of Trent as a response to the Reformation on the part of the church.

Duke Cosimo de Medici

Duke Cosimo de Medici.

In 1569 Pius V gave Cosimo I the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany. The pope granted it as a reward for military action in the rivalry with France and for opposing Turkish pirates. Cosimo the First became ruler of Tuscany. A year later, with the easy hand of Catherine de Medici, he was also recognized in France. As an equal rival Tuscany in Europe was not considered. Limited sovereignty and the need to maneuver, cooperating with the French and Spaniards played a role.

Understanding the importance of the influence of his family, Cosimo I worked to continue the dynasty. He maintained relations with Ottaviano de’ Medici, despite belonging to a different family. He married Eleonora of Toledo out of political advantage, although the couple loved each other. Their union produced eleven children. Eleanor did not manage to meet old age. She passed away, barely living to adulthood.

Monument to Cosimo de Medici

Monument to Cosimo de Medici

Seeking to make Tuscany the principal state in Italy and to form a kingdom out of it, in 1565 Cosimo married his son Francesco to the daughter of Ferdinand I, Johanna of Austria. To his son Giovanni, his father had intended the title of cardinal, but the young man died, as did his siblings Pedro, Anna and Antonio. Maria, promised to the Duke of Ferrara Alfonso d’Este, betrayed her fiancé, and Lucrezia took her place. The first sister is rumored to have died at the hands of her father, and the second died of tuberculosis. Alfonso of Ferrara married Lucrezia Borgia.

Four of the tyrant’s children survived him: Isabella, Fernando, Pietro and Francesco. The latter ruled under his father, who still held the title of Grand Duke. At the age of 48, Cosimo retired from business, preferring the peace shared with his young wife Camilla.

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Personal life

Eleanor of Toledo, Cosimo’s first wife, was a member of a noble and wealthy Spanish family. The wedding was preceded by the engagement of the groom to the bride’s older sister. Isabella was inferior in appearance, so the girls father agreed to marry Cosimo’s younger sister. The marriage took place on March 22, 1539.

Eleanor of Toledo

Eleanor of Toledo

The duchess did not immediately succeed in winning the favor of the Florentines. Attractiveness, upbringing, and opulent toilets did not buy their trust. Eleanor found her way to their hearts through the patronage of the poetess Tulia d’Aragona and her philosophical academy. For his beloved wife, the duke equipped Palazzo Vecchio, and the painter Bronzino decorated it with frescoes.

The beauty’s health was undermined by frequent pregnancies and childbirth. Eleanor died in 1562 at the age of 40 from marsh fever, which she contracted on a journey to Pisa. The illness was aggravated by tuberculosis and suffering due to the deaths from malaria of her sons Giovanni and Garcia.

Camilla Martelli

Camilla Martelli

After the death of his wife, Cosimo was not selective in his liaisons. In union with Eleonora Albizzi he conceived two daughters, who soon died, and a son. Marriage to an aristocrat was contrary to Cosimo, and he married the woman to Carlo Panchiatichio. Himself tied personal life with Camilla Martelli. With her Cosimo had a daughter Virginia. The woman could not long tolerate the love affairs of the ruler. By order of Pius V, Cosimo married his beloved. She became his monarchical consort.


Camilla became a caring nurse for the 48-year-old Cosimo, who had retired. The woman spent the last years of his life with him. In 1574, at the age of 54, he passed away. Research showed that Cosimo the First suffered from osteoarthritis and skeletal hyperostosis. This is a pathology in which the ligaments of the spine fuse together to form bone. People with diabetes and overweight are prone to this condition.

The Tomb of Cosimo de Medici

The Tomb of Cosimo de Medici

The tomb of Cosimo the First is in Florence, in the Medici Chapel. The corresponding inscription is on the tombstone of the Italian duke.

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