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season one

Episode 10: The Duke’s Wife and God’s Banker

A miniature depicting Valentina Visconti, Duchesse d’OrlĂ©ans, with the symbols of Milan and the Visconti family, from a copy of Cicero’s De natura deorum, c. 1400. Source: anne-marie.eu.

Around the dawn of the fifteenth century, two developments unfolded that would sooner or later change the future of the Medici family forever. In one, Valentina Visconti enters a miserable marriage with a French royal. In the other, Giovanni de Bicci de’ Medici takes advantage of Europe being split between two and even three rival popes by (allegedly!) bankrolling the church career of a former soldier who hobnobbed with pirates and robbers that eventually sees him become Pope.

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Categories
season one

Episode 8: Unholy War

The papal palace at Avignon. Source: about-france.com.

In a time of simmering class tensions and growing exploitation of the poor, Salvestro de’ Medici turns against his conservative comrades and declares he’s on the side of the downtrodden. On his political agenda? Backing an all-out war against the Pope.

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Categories
season zero

Episode 3: Gang War

Starting out as an ill-advised prank at a party, the feud between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines in Florence forever changed the city’s history. It would wrap Florence up in the struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, eventually toppling the city’s aristocratic republic and creating something rather new in its place, the Primo Popolo.

A map of Italy around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Source: Muir’s Historical Atlas via Fordham University’s Medieval History Sourcebook.
The Florentine Guelf flag, which became the official flag of the City of Florence.
The Bargello, formerly the Palazzo del Popolo. Source: VisitFlorence.com.

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season zero

Episode 2: From the Grand Countess to the Revolt of the Communes

Matilda of Tuscany, also known as “The Grand Countess”, helped weaken the Holy Roman Empire’s grip on northern Italy even further. However, it would be the plucky, self-governing cities of northern Italy who would ultimately give a bloody nose to one of the greatest emperors western Europe ever saw and inaugurate the age of the Italian city-states. We delve into how a European economic boom helped make all this possible, plus some juicy gossip on Matilda’s unlucky love life. 

The theme music is “La Disperata”, composed by Vincenzo Ruffo (ca. 1510-1587) and performed by Jon Sayles.

Canossa Castle, the hereditary estate of Matilda of Tuscany where Emperor Heinrich IV entreated Matilda and Pope Gregory VII.
Emperor Heinrich IV pleading with Matilda of Tuscany. From Donizo’s Life of Matilda (early 12th century).
A map detailing the members of the Lombard Leagues. From Wikipedia.
An artist’s portrayal of the Battle of Legnano (May 29, 1176). Amos Cassioli, Battaglia di Legnano (1860).
Map of northern Italy. Source unknown.

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Categories
season zero

Episode 1: A Shattered Kingdom

In our inaugural episode and the first part of our prelude season, we look at how northern Italy went from being a single kingdom to a region full of small, rival states, a cutthroat environment in which families like the Medici would nonetheless thrive in. Join us as we look at how urban prosperity, a series of invasions, and a scandalous teenage pope all played a part in making northern Italy a shattered and divided kingdom under the weak sovereignty of a faraway emperor.  

King Totila of the Ostrogoths besieging Florence during the sixth-century Gothic War. From Giovanni Villani’s Nuova Cronica (early 1300s).
Emperor Otto I accepting the submission of the just deposed King Berengar II of Italy. From The Chronicle of Bishop Otto of Freising (c. 1200)
A map of Italy circa 1154, more or less after most of the political changes discussed in this episode. Courtesy of undevicesimus whose work can be seen here.

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