Cosimo de’Medici: Businessman, Politician, Patron
Cosimo took his first steps along with his brother Lorenzo. His father, a very well-informed man, wanted his son to study the classics with the awareness that he would find in them indications of value for tuckling public life.
To understand better the situation that awaited the young Cosimo when he entered politics we have to go back to 1393, four years after his birth. Florence was de facto ruled by the Albizzi family, that immediately sized the occasion to get rid of the Alberti and, shortly afterward, also of three members of the Medici. For the moment Cosimo’s branch did not come into conflict with the new regime owing to the renewed wisdom of Giovanni di Bicci, Cosimo’s father, who at that times was only concerned with increasing the volume of his business, setting up the bank that was to provide the economic support for the ascendent of his family to power and glory.
In spite of this, in those very years, the Medici began to nurse political ambitions as they grew increasingly aware of their economic power. His marriage with Lotta dei Bardi di Vernio, known to everyone as “Contessina”, also marked a turning point, an attempt to strength his own position on the political scene with the aid of one of teh most powerful Florentine factions. From this marriage were born Piero in 1416 and Giovanni in 1421. Other ties were forged by Cosimo, by engaging members of families on the social and economic rise in the agencies of the Banco Medici (Martelli, Ginori, Pucci, Portinari,…) .In 1433 a new Signoria (governament) ruled by the Albizzi faction was elected, that was unfavorable to the Medici party. Cosimo was actually imprisoned. Now the time seemed to have been completely ripe: in 1434 the banishment against the Medici was cancelled and the Albizzi expulsed together other anti-Medici families, like the Brancacci, the Strozzi, the Peruzzi, etc. Without great changes in in the city’s institutions, what the historians have defined the Medicean “crypto-rule” commenced. Making good use of his wealth, of the extensive network of patronage that he had built up personally and of his undoubted political ability, Cosimo was able to manipulate teh electoral system of the Republican State to ensure that the majority of teh candidates belonged to the ranks of his supporters.
In support of his political action and with the aim of boosting his prestige, Cosimo embarked on an intense program of construction and artistic patronage: the rebuilding of the Convent of San Marco, the construction of the Palazzo Medici by Michelozzo, the painting of the Medici Chapel by Benozzo Gozzoli, the patronage on the Church of San Lorenzo, the foundation of the Confraternity of the Twelve Good Men. When he died at the age of 70 years old, he was buried in the main pillar of the Church of San Lorenzo, receiving the merit title of Pater Patriae (Father of the Nation).