|Native name||Congiura dei Pazzi|
|Date||26 April 1478|
|Location||Duomo of Florence|
|Also known as||Pazzi Plot|
|Giuliano de' Medici, killed|
|Francesco Nori, killed|
|Non-fatal injuries||Lorenzo de' Medici, wounded|
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 failure of the plot served to strengthen the position of the Medici. The Pazzi were banished from Florence.
The Pazzi family were not the only instigators of the plot. The Salviati, Papal bankers in Florence, were at the centre of the conspiracy. They again were influenced by Pope Sixtus IV, who was an enemy of the Medici.
Francesco della Rovere, who came from a poor family in Liguria, was elected pope in 1471. As Sixtus IV he was both wealthy and powerful, and at once set about giving power and wealth to his nephews of the della Rovere and Riario families. Within months of his election, he had made Giuliano della Rovere (the future pope Julius II) and Pietro Riario both cardinals and bishops; four other nephews were also made cardinals.:252:128 He made Giovanni della Rovere, who was not a priest, prefect of Rome, and arranged for him to marry into the da Montefeltro family, dukes of Urbino. For Girolamo Riario, also a layman – and who may in fact have been his son rather than his nephew – he arranged to buy Imola, a small town in Romagna, with the aim of establishing a new papal state in that area.:252:128 Imola lay on the trade route between Florence and Venice. Lorenzo de' Medici had arranged in May 1473 to buy it from Galeazzo Maria Sforza, the duke of Milan, for 100,000 fiorini d'oro, but Sforza subsequently agreed to sell it instead to Sixtus for 40,000 ducats, provided that his illegitimate daughter Caterina Sforza was married to Girolamo Riario.:253
The purchase was financed by the Pazzi bank, even though Francesco de' Pazzi had promised Lorenzo they would not aid the Pope. As a reward, Sixtus IV assigned to the Pazzi bank lucrative rights to manage Papal revenues. Sixtus IV appointed his nephew Riario as the new governor of Imola, and Francesco Salviati as archbishop of Pisa, a city that was a former commercial rival but now subject to Florence. Lorenzo had refused to permit Salviati to enter Pisa because of the challenge such an ecclesiastical position offered to his own government in Florence.
Girolamo Riario, Francesco Salviati and Francesco de' Pazzi put together a plan to assassinate Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici. Pope Sixtus was approached for his support. He made a very carefully worded statement in which he said that in the terms of his holy office he was unable to sanction killing. He made it clear that it would be of great benefit to the papacy to have the Medici removed from their position of power in Florence, and that he would deal kindly with anyone who did this. He instructed the men to do what they deemed necessary to achieve this aim, and said that he would give them whatever support he could.:254 An encrypted letter in the archives of the Ubaldini family, discovered and decoded in 2004, reveals that Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, a renowned humanist and condottiere for the Papacy, was deeply embroiled in the conspiracy and had committed to position 600 troops outside Florence, waiting for the right moment.
The Medici brothers were assaulted on Sunday, 26 April 1478, during High Mass at the Duomo before a crowd of 10,000. Giuliano de' Medici was stabbed 19 times and a sword wound to the head by Bernardo Bandini dei Baroncelli and Francesco de' Pazzi. As Giuliano bled to death on the cathedral floor, his brother Lorenzo escaped with serious, but not life-threatening, wounds. Lorenzo was locked safely in the sacristy by Angelo Poliziano. A coordinated attempt to capture the Gonfaloniere and Signoria was thwarted when the archbishop and head of the Salviati clan were trapped in a room where the doors were held by a hidden latch. The coup d'état had failed.
Most of the conspirators were soon caught and summarily executed; five, including Francesco de' Pazzi and Salviati, were hanged from the windows of the Palazzo della Signoria.:140 Jacopo de' Pazzi, head of the family, escaped from Florence but was caught and brought back. He was tortured, then hanged from the Palazzo della Signoria next to the decomposing corpse of Salviati. He was buried at Santa Croce, but the body was dug up and thrown into a ditch. It was then dragged through the streets and propped up at the door of Palazzo Pazzi, where the rotting head was mockingly used as a door-knocker. From there it was thrown into the Arno; children fished it out and hung it from a willow tree, flogged it, and then threw it back into the river.:141 Although Lorenzo appealed to the crowd not to exact summary justice, many of the conspirators, as well as many people accused of being conspirators, were killed. Lorenzo did manage to save the nephew of Sixtus IV, Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who was almost certainly an innocent dupe of the conspirators, as well as two relatives of the conspirators. The main conspirators were hunted down throughout Italy. Between 26 April, the day of the attack, and 20 October 1478, a total of eighty people were executed.:456 Bandini dei Baroncelli, who had escaped to Constantinople, was arrested and returned in fetters by the Sultan, Mehmed II, and – still in Turkish clothing – was hanged from a window of the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo on 29 December 1479.:142 There were three further executions on 6 June 1481.:456
The Pazzi were banished from Florence, and their lands and property confiscated. Their name and their coat of arms were perpetually suppressed. The name was erased from public registers, and all buildings and streets carrying it were renamed. Their shield with its dolphins was everywhere obliterated. Anyone named Pazzi had to take a new name; anyone married to a Pazzi was barred from public office.:142 Guglielmo de' Pazzi, husband of Lorenzo's sister Bianca, was placed under house arrest,:141 and later forbidden to enter the city; he went to live at Torre a Decima, near Pontassieve.
In the aftermath of the "Pazzi" conspiracy, Pope Sixtus IV placed Florence under interdict, forbidding Mass and communion, for the execution of Archbishop Salviati. Sixtus enlisted the traditional Papal military arm, the King of Naples, Ferdinand I (also called Don Ferrante), to attack Florence. With no help coming from Florence's traditional allies in Bologna and Milan, Lorenzo was faced with dire prospects and adopted an unorthodox course of action: he sailed to Naples and put himself in the hands of the King Don Ferrante, in whose custody he remained for three months. Lorenzo's courage and charisma convinced Ferrante to support Lorenzo's attempts at brokering a peace and intercede, albeit ineffectually, with Sixtus IV. The events of the Pazzi conspiracy affected the developments of the Medici regime in two ways: they convinced the supporters of the Medici that a greater concentration of political power was desirable and they strengthened the hand of Lorenzo de' Medici, who had demonstrated his keen ability in conducting the foreign affairs of the city. Emboldened, the Medicean party carried out new reforms.:223
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.
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- Media related to Pazzi conspiracy at Wikimedia Commons