Post-Middle Age Italy was afflicted by medieval wars and the bubonic plague. It needed a change to restore the vision of what Italy could become. This change revealed itself within the Medici family, who helped return glory and influence to Florence. The Medici family saw the value in contributing to the advancement of the greatest minds of the period. This was evident in their patronage of leading artists such as Michelangelo and of renowned teachers such as Galileo. The sphere of influence the Medicis enjoyed also extended to the political arena, which happened to be heavily influenced by the Catholic Church at the time. The Medicis capitalized on the power of the Church. Through this influence and the use of “amici degli amici,” or mutual favors from “friends of friends,” the Medici family ushered in a new Italian era: the Renaissance (Birth).
While not the only wealthy and ambitious family in Florence, the Medicis were driven in their pursuits and were largely successful (Kent 177). Giovanni di Bicci de’Medici, the Patriarch of the Medici Dynasty, founded and controlled one of the most influential businesses in Italy: the Medici Bank. Giovanni’s development of the limited liability concept and the establishment of a franchise system, wherein the Medici Bank expanded into branches of banks where managers became part owners, helped to make the Medici Bank a leader amongst the competitors of the time (Kent 71). However, a key factor in the success of Giovanni’s business was a gamble that the papacy would return to Rome, which he won. In return for his financial assistance, the Pope installed him as the papal banker (Kent 82). With the Medicis holding the Pope’s personal bank accounts and financing the Vatican library, the Medici Bank was the most profitable business in Europe (Birth). In the Florentine republic, where economic power was almost synonymous with political power, achieving this financial feat made way for social distinction (Helden).
With Giovanni’s death in 1429, some saw an oppurtunity to capitalize on the event by attempting to displace the Medici family from its high place in the social and political landscape of the time. One such opportunity was taken by a wealthy rival, the Albizzi family, who put in motion a plot to have Giovanni’s son, Cosimo de Medici, arrested on accusations of treason and banished to Venice (Kent 177). This did not happen without consequences. With Cosimo’s exile he took with him a large source of Florentine capital, the Medici Bank. The Pope intervened and restored the Medicis to power (Birth). Thus began Cosimo’s restoration of Florentine pride and his support of great artists that many still admire today.
An example of the effects of the Medicis’ support of artists involves the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. The dome of this chapel was built so large that that no architect knew how to complete the rooftop structure which made it a humiliating point in Florentine history. A contest to see who...