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Rome Reports

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History of the Medici popes as seen from their palace in Rome


For three centuries, the Medici family, known by this logo, was one of the most powerful in Italy. Coming from Florence, some of them eventually moved to Rome and had four men become pope in between the years of 1513 to 1605.

During their reign of power, they lived at Palazzo Medici, now the Italian Senate, in the middle of Rome. The current Parliamentary Councilor explains their story.

GIADA GUERCI
Consigliere Parlamentare
“The palace became the residence of Margaret of Austria and was home to two very important popes, Leo X and Clement VII. The palace was bought by Giovanni di Medici, before he was elected pope. From Florence, he moved his father's library to Palazzo Madama in Rome. Giovanni was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Thanks to his presence, the building becomes a very important cultural center for the times.” :

Apart from books, the Medici family also brought with them art, architecture and a rich culture. Interesting pieces can be found all around from this ostrich, dedicated to Margaret. It is a play on words between the French translations of Austria and ostrich. It also symbolizes speed, strength, steadiness and love.

There are another eight rooms, however, dedicated to the four Medici popes. Each pope had two rooms dedicated to him, with frescoes representing his pontificate. 

GIADA GUERCI
Consigliere Parlamentare
"The Medici family was an important family. It was a wealthy family especially in trade and in bank management. As was the custom of the rich and powerful families at the time. They managed to have houses in other areas. It was a symbol of power. Most of all, religious power.”

Giovanni de Medici was the first one to become pope, taking the name Leo X. He is known for the indulgence controversy, which ultimately let to the Lutheran Reformation. The palace has Garibaldi Hall dedicated to him. The room was originally divided into two, but has now been joined with lions represented in the frescoes, a staple Medici symbol. 

Leo X's cousin, Giulio de Medici became Pope Clement VII in 1523. He is depicted in the Hall of the Ostrich and Risorgimento Hall. 

The third pope, Pius IV, is remembered in Marconi Hall and Anteroom of the Balustrade. Pius IV, was born in Milan, not related to the Medici's from Florence. He is known for presiding over the final session of the Council of Trent.

The fourth Medici had a pontificate 27 days long due to an illness that took his life. Leo XI has a painting of him in bed, being asked by his confessor to name his nephew a cardinal. He extends his arm, clearly saying “no” right before his death.  

GIADA GUERCI
Consigliere Parlamentare
"Grand Duke Gian Gastone was the last Medici in the 1700s. He was the last representative of the Medici family to live in Palazzo Madama, because the Grand Duke of Tuscany then changed from the Medici Family to Francis of Lorraine and this completely changes the history of the palace from then on."

That's why today, there are still these small paintings and memories of the Medici Family, the famous bankers and traders of Florence who transferred to Rome and are forever remembered in the history of the Catholic Church.