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Florence, Italy: Lorenzo il Magnifico- The Story Behind the Name

Updated on August 29, 2016

Pallas and the Centaur by Botticelli


Learn more about the Pazzi Conspiracy, the Medici, and the Florentine Renaissance...

Bust of Lorenzo de' Medici

"il Magnifico"

Many people have probably heard the term il Magnifico (the Magnificent) in reference to Florence's 15th century ruler, Lorenzo de' Medici, but they are most likely unaware of its origin.

Last month, I wrote a short article entitled: Murder in the Duomo. It describes the infamous Pazzi Conspiracy, which took place on Easter Sunday 1478. This article is the sequel, and reveals what happened afterward.

Pope Sixtus IV excommunicated Lorenzo for his bloody vendetta against the Pazzi family, their supporters, and Archbishop Salviati. In addition to this, the Signoria was ordered by papal decree to surrender Lorenzo so he could be judged and punished. Of course, they refused. The Tuscan Church supported the Signoria’s decision, which eventually led to its excommunication as well.

Such open rebellion against the Vatican only served to create more enemies for Florence. Lorenzo was soon faced with political threats from Milan, Urbino, and Siena, but the most serious threat came from Ferdinand, King of Naples. In order to solidify Florence’s position and keep peace in Tuscany, Lorenzo set off on several campaigns to secure political alliances.

He departed- alone- from Pisa to Naples on December 14, 1479, and did not return to Florence until March of the following year. He had risked his life for the peace and well-being of Florence, and the risk had paid off. Not only had he managed to successfully negotiate with the King of Naples but also with the pope, thus avoiding war. In short, he made his position in Florence stronger than ever before, and (although he never held political office within the Republic) the European rulers officially recognized him as the Head of Florence.

The Florentines, grateful that their ruler had successfully thwarted war, bestowed upon him the title: il Magnifico.

Pallas and the Centaur, which hangs in the Uffizi, was painted by Botticelli in celebration of Lorenzo's political victory in Naples. Pallas (Peace) wears a flowing gown flaunting Lorenzo's personal symbol- the diamond (semper or forever) and three interlaced rings (Renaissance symbol of the arts). The Centaur (War) is being tamed by reason and logic, which Pallas possesses in abundance. The background is most likely the bay of Naples, and the composition is enriched by olive tree branches (the universal symbol of peace).

As always, thank you for reading!

C. De Melo
Author & Artist


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    • CYong74 profile image

      Kuan Leong Yong 

      2 years ago from Singapore

      Very informative write-up! Great for those soon to visit Firenze.


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