Pazzi family

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Pazzi's coat of arms.jpg
Pazzi arms
Current region Tuscany
Place of origin Italy
Members Francesco de' Pazzi, Jacopo de' Pazzi

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.

Family name[edit]

The family name derives from "Il Pazzo", "the madman", was the first soldier 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.

Pazzi Chapel[edit]

Interior of the Pazzi Chapel
Main article: Pazzi Chapel

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.

Palaces of the Pazzi family in Florence[edit]

Palazzo Pazzi, showing the yellow-ochre sandstone pietra forte and stucco-surfaced architecture.
  1. Palazzo Pazzi (Palazzo Pazzi-Quaratesi): The main seat of the family, at canto Pazzi, where Borgo degli Albizi crosses the via del Proconsolo, was commissioned by Jacopo de' Pazzi, and built circa 1462–72 to designs by Giuliano da Maiano. Above its traditionally rusticated ground floor of the yellow-ochre sandstone, it had a then-novel a stuccoed second floor, with delicate designs in the windows influenced by Brunelleschi. The central court is surrounded on three sides by round-headed arcading, with circular bosses in the spandrels.
  2. Palazzo Pazzi-Ammannati: The smaller 16th-century palace stands next to the palace above, and was rebuilt built for Antonio Ramirez di Montalvo. It houses a section of the Museum of Natural History of Florence, and hosts temporary exhibitions. Its design is attributed to Bartolomeo Ammanati.

The Conspiracy[edit]

Main article: Pazzi conspiracy

The Pazzi were involved in the conspiracy, plotted at their property the Castello del Trebbio at Pontassieve (now a winery and tourist site), to replace the de' Medici as rulers of Florence, which bears their name. Pope Sixtus IV gave tacit but not explicit support to the conspirators. The "conspiracy room" can be visited at the Castello. 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 Magdalena de Pazzi, who became a Carmelite nun.

Cultural depictions[edit]

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.

The conspiracy is central to Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera I Medici, first performed on 9 November 1893.[1]


  1. ^ Michele Girardi. Medici, I. In: Stanley Sadie (ed.) The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed May 2015. (subscription required).

External links[edit]