The Medici Family is one of the wealthiest clans in the history of the world with a strong influence over various modern practices we follow today. Let me take you through the emergence and decline of the Medici Family and their influence over the renaissance and banking.
The origin of the Medici family can be traced back to the 12th Century AD. The Medici Family migrated from Tuscan village of Cafaggiolo in Florence, Italy. This great dynasty was begun by Salvestro di Alamanno de’ Medici (1331 – 1388), who was the Gonfaloniere of Justice of the city of Florence. However, the family lost fame for about a generation since Salvestro was sent on an exile and he succumbed to the same. Later, Salvestro’s grandson and Averardo de’ Medici’s son Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici brought fame to the entire Medici Family the details of which we will cover in the latter part of the article.
The entire Medici Family was involved in reviving the art and culture of not just Italy but of the whole of Europe and made renaissance flourish during their period while also inventing and introducing the system of banking and commerce to the entire world. Besides, they also ventured into politics by ruling Florence for a brief period and introduced the religion of Christianity by producing various Popes.
The Emergence and Decline:
The emergence of the Medici’s started with the regime of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici. Giovanni was left with very less property since the Medici property was shared among his four brothers. He started his banking career in Florentine Banking Centre of his uncle Viere’ di Medici and went on to become a junior partner of the bank in Rome. Viere’ di Medici retired from banking and handed over the bank to Giovanni in 1393. Under his control, this bank also took over the accounts of the Official Church of Florence. He started his own bank “Medici Family Bank” in the year 1397. The bank soon had branches all across the states of Italy which are seen as one of the foremost structures similar to that of the present-day MNCs.
Giovanni also funded the construction of various churches and museums while also owning two tools workshops and was a member of the tool two guilds Arte della Lana and the Arte del Cambio. Giovanni supported several famous artists Brunelleschi and Donatelle. He made the Medici family the most favourite among the population of Florence by making the entire medici family dress up as the common people to ensure the welfare of citizens. His legacy is illuminated in his words which go as follows;
“Strive to keep the people at peace, and the strong places well cared for. Engage in no legal complications, for he who impedes the law shall perish by the law. Do not draw public attention to yourselves yet keep free from blemish as I leave you.”
After the life of Giovanni ended, the power passed on to the hands of his elder son Cosimo de’ Medici under whose period most of the renaissance activities took place. Medici was a great supporter of art and literature besides being a politician and banker. He also initiated political innovation through bringing in the balance of power in Italy by distributing the power between Florence, Venice, Milan and Naples. He was the founder of the first public library in Florence in 1444 and established the Platonic Academic in 1445 which led to the major humanitarian movements during the renaissance. Cosimo came out as a practical person through his reforms and it is evident through his words:
“Be inoffensive to the rich and strong, while being consistently charitable to the poor and weak.”
Due to the prosperity of Florence during Cosimo’s period, Cosimo was named “Pater Patriae” which means Father of the Fatherland. After the period of Cosimo, there were several ups and downs and internal disturbances in the House of Medici’s. It gained some popularity during the days of Cosimo II, who also supported the scientist and mathematician Galileo Galilei. The Medici Family then came to an end in 1737 when Gian Gastone the last Grand Duke of Medici Family died without a male heir.
Impact and Influences in Modern Day Life:
The revival of Art: The period after Black Death in Europe was known as Renaissance (Re-Birth) and the Medici Family is the one to be greatly attributed. Besides amassing their wealth, the Medicis also cultivated culture by providing patronage to the renaissance makers from the 14th to 17th century. They provided patronage to some of the major artists like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael and Brunelleschi whose fame and legacy exists till today. Besides they also made the culture of Papacy a permanent one.
Branch Banking: The structure of the present-day banking system is majorly influenced by the Medicis.
The Medicis introduced branches to their banks in almost all the major European cities not only to increase their wealth and profits but also to increase their reach and influence all over the continent. They also introduced the idea of a holding company through their way of the banking system. They used to partner with various banks and held majority shares in them to possess ownership and to protect Medici wealth just in case any bank encountered financial difficulty.
Double-Entry System: The flooding cash inflows in the Medici Bank created a need for them to simplify the process of book-keeping to know their financial position easily. The Medici’s started adopting the Double-Entry System of Book-Keeping in their banks and made it a globally adopted method. Though it wasn’t the Medicis who invented this, they pioneered and popularized this technique of book-keeping.
The Medici Effect: It also led to the innovation of the famous term Medici Effect. The meaning of the term is adopted from the book “The Medici Effect”. It means an effect/phenomenon where a pool of talented, created and diverse people come together to create effective changes or innovations. The reasoning behind the same is because of the revival of art and literature under the rule of Medicis.
Probably a Medici Effect is all that we need to overcome these tough times of pandemic with strength and make our own renaissance!
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Raised in the land of idly,living in the land of kulcha,Meena is currently pursuing B.Com(Hons.) and multi-tasking at SRCC.She has a head for realism,heart full of candour and a hand to pen down her boundless thoughts and another to hold the coffee mug(always).Perky enough,she exerts to explore all her potentiality,ranging from music to research.