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The Pazzi were a noble Tuscan family, particularly notable in the medieval and Renaissance periods. In 1342 they gave up their titles of nobility so that members could be elected to public office. Their main trade during the 15th century was banking. Members of the family were in the Pazzi conspiracy to assassinate Giuliano de' Medici and his brother Lorenzo de' Medici on 26 April 1478. Andrea de' Pazzi was the patron of the chapter-house for the Franciscan community at the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, the Pazzi Chapel.
The family name derives from "Il Pazzo", "the madman", one of the first soldiers over the walls in the Siege of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, who brought away with him and took back to Florence a stone from the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The Pazzi family was accorded the privilege of striking a light from this stone on Holy Saturday when all fires in the city were extinguished, from which the altar light of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore was annually rekindled. On the following day, Easter Day, a dove-shaped rocket was made to slide on a wire from above the high altar to an oxcart loaded with fireworks in the piazza. From the explosion of the fireworks, the scoppio del carro, sparks were carried to the hearths of the city.
The Pazzi were involved in the conspiracy to replace the de' Medici as rulers of Florence which bears their name. On 26 April 1478 there was an attempt to assassinate Lorenzo de' Medici and his brother Giuliano de' Medici. Lorenzo was wounded but survived; Giuliano was killed. The partial failure of the plot served to strengthen the position of the de' Medici. The Pazzi were banished from Florence.
After the overthrow of Piero de' Medici in 1494, the Pazzi family, and many other political exiles, returned to Florence to participate in the popular government. A notable member of the Pazzi family after the events surrounding the conspiracy and exile was Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, who became a Carmelite nun.
The Pazzi Chapel was built under the direction of Filippo Brunelleschi in a discreet cloister of the Franciscan church of Santa Croce. The chapel was begun in 1442. It is severely restrained, made of pietra serena and white plaster, unrelieved by colour, and capped with a hemispherical dome, completed after Brunelleschi's death in accordance with his plans.
Palazzo Pazzi (Palazzo Pazzi-Quaratesi)
The main seat of the family, at canto Pazzi, where Borgo degli Albizi crosses the via del Proconsolo, was rebuilt 1462–72 for Jacopo de' Pazzi to designs by Giuliano da Maiano, the sculptor-architect favored by the family. Above its wholly traditional rusticated ground floor of the yellow-ochre sandstone Florentines call pietra forte it has a stuccoed facade in a new taste, with delicate designs round the windows in the manner associated with Brunelleschi. The central court is surrounded on three sides by round-headed arcading, with circular bosses in the spandrels.
Next to it is the smaller 16th-century three-story Palazzo Pazzi-Ammannati, rebuilt for Antonio Ramirez di Montalvo, housing Florence's small museum of natural history and host to temporary exhibitions. Its design is attributed to Bartolomeo Ammanati.
Works in Italian
Two members of the Pazzi family are placed in hell in Dante's Inferno, both in the circle of the traitors; The Divine Comedy's reference has nothing to do with the Pazzi Conspiracy, since it was written nearly 200 years earlier.
Vittorio Alfieri's drama La congiura de' Pazzi (first performance 1787, first published 1789) is a version of the story of the conspiracy as is Lorenzo Antonini's historical novel of 1877 with the same title.
Works in English
A Tabernacle for the Sun (2005), the first volume of Linda Proud's Botticelli Trilogy, tells the story of the Pazzi Conspiracy from the point of view of Tommaso de' Maffei, half-brother of one of the conspirators. After the sack of his native Volterra, Tommaso lives and works in the Palazzo de' Medici, hating Lorenzo but devoted to Giuliano. As his Roman relations begin to sound out his loyalties, Tommaso becomes embroiled in events which will tear him apart.
Thomas Harris's 1999 novel Hannibal features a character named Rinaldo Pazzi, a corrupt policeman descended from the Pazzi family. His escalating abandonment of morality ends in his death at the hands of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He is murdered and disemboweled by Lecter, and then hung from the balcony of the Palazzo della Signoria, just as his famous ancestor was. In the 2001 film adaptation, he is played by Giancarlo Giannini.
A fictionalized version of the Pazzi conspiracy was the basis for the DC Comics Elseworlds story "Black Masterpiece" in Batman Annual #18, which features a Renaissance-era Batman and Leonardo da Vinci.
The Pazzi Conspiracy is the foundation for the book I, Mona Lisa, by Jeanne Kalogridis.
Primavera, a young adult novel by Mary Jane Beaufrand, tells the story of the Pazzi Conspiracy from the point of view of the youngest Pazzi daughter, Lorenza.
The 2009 video game Assassin's Creed II features a semi-fictional version of the Pazzi family and the Pazzi conspiracy, acting as early adversaries to the main character Ezio Auditore with an important role in the plot of the game. Unlike the historical account, only Francesco de' Pazzi was killed at the time of the coup's failure: Vieri had been killed during an invasion of San Gimignano by Auditore-aligned condottiero, and the rest (Jacopo de' Pazzi, de Bagnone, di Bandino Baroncelli, Maffei and Salviati) escaped Florence only to be hunted down and killed by Ezio, the game's fictional main character, over the next two years. After the death of Jacopo de' Pazzi, the fate of any remaining Pazzi relatives is left unmentioned, though five years later Rodrigo Borgia referred to the Pazzi as "destroyed" and Lucrezia Borgia said that Lorenzo de' Medici had their titles and property taken away and either exiled or imprisoned. Also, for gameplay and technical reasons the assassination attempt was set outside the cathedral instead of inside.
Works in other languages
The Czech writer Karel Schulz depicted members of the Pazzi family in his novel Kámen a bolest (The Stone and the Pain), which describes the Pazzi conspiracy.
- Tim Parks' review of Lauro Martines, April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici: a sketch of the subtleties and contradictions in the background to the "Pazzi conspiracy"
- Italy's Medici Murder Plot Solved: discusses a recently discovered piece of evidence showing the scale of the conspiracy
- Great Buildings on-line: Pazzi Chapel
- Pazzi Chapel: Brief description, with clear and evocative photos
- Susan and Joanna Horner, Walks in Florence and Its Environs (London 1873): Chapter xvii
- Narrative account, part of an on-line history of Quattrocento Florence
- Description of the Easter assassinations and other famous murders of the period
- Marcello Simonetta, The Montefeltro Conspiracy: A Renaissance Mystery Decoded: Doubleday website with slideshow of paintings and documents related to the Pazzi Conspiracy