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.

Prominent family members[edit]

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 and commissioned construction of the Pazzi Chapel.

Magdalena de Pazzi (1566-1607) was a Carmelite nun and mystic; she was canonized as a saint in 1669.

Family name[edit]

The family name derives from "Il Pazzo", "the madman", who was the first soldier over the walls during the Siege of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. He returned to Florence with a stone-flint, putatively from the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Every Holy Saturday, the Pazzi family was accorded the privilege of striking a flame from these flints when all fires in the city were extinguished. And from this flame, the altar light of the Duomo was rekindled. On the following day, Easter, a dove-shaped rocket was made to slide along a wire from above the high altar to an oxcart loaded with fireworks,the scoppio del carro, standing in the piazza. From the explosion of the fireworks, an annual ceremony, sparks were carried to the hearths of the city.

Pazzi Chapel[edit]

Interior of the Pazzi Chapel
Main article: Pazzi Chapel

The Pazzi Chapel, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, and construction began in 1442 in a cloister of the Franciscan church of Santa Croce. The High-Renaissance design is restrained and sober, using pietra serena and white plaster in geometric designs, generally unrelieved by color, and capped with a hemispherical dome, completed after Brunelleschi's death according to 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 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 conspiracy plotted at their property the Castello del Trebbio at Pontassieve, and aimed replace the Medici as rulers of Florence. Pope Sixtus IV gave tacit but not explicit support to the conspirators. On 26 April 1478, while they attended a service in the Cathedral of Florence, the conspirators were able to assassinate Giuliano de' Medici, failed to kill his brother Lorenzo de' Medici. This latter event and the conspirator's failure to take over the Palazzo Vecchio, led to the collapse of the plot, and ultimately strengthened 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 briefly to Florence to participate in restored republic.

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).