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season three

Episode 42: The Orphan

A new Medici is born amidst tragedy, Pope Leo struggles with the threats posed by France, Spain, and the Holy Roman and Ottoman empires and a deadly conspiracy close to home, and an obscure monk and university lecturer in Germany starts to inspire a bit of controversy. 

A portrait possibly of Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne, the mother of Catherine de’ Medici and wife of Lorenzo “the Younger.” Date unknown. Source: Uffizi Gallery.

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season three

Episode 41: The Prince

Pope Leo X goes through his own “annus mirabilis.” Meanwhile the next generation of Medici men come into their own: the wannabe aristocrat, Lorenzo “the Younger”, and the juvenile delinquent turned freelance mercenary, Giovanni of the Black Bands. 

A portrait of Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, by Raphael (1518). Note the ostentatious dress in the style of a French nobleman in contrast to the more modest patrician clothing worn by his grandfather Lorenzo the Magnificent and his uncle Giuliano. Source: Private collection.
A portrait depicting Giovanni “of the Black Bands” painted after his death by Francesco de’ Rossi (1548). Source: Soprintendenza Speciale Per Il Polo Museale Fiorentino.

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season three

Episode 39: The Lion of God

The unlikely partnership between the bookish, affable Giovanni de’ Medici and the rough-and-tumble Pope Julius II will finally bring the Medici back to power and set the stage for Giovanni’s turn as Pope Leo X, which would prove to be one of the most consequential papal reigns in history for reasons no one could have predicted.

A contemporaneous portrait of Giuliano della Rovere, Pope Julius II, by Raphael (1511). Despite their very different personalities, Pope Julius was Giovanni de’ Medici’s mentor and biggest benefactor, playing an essential role in the Medici’s restoration. Source: The National Gallery, London.

Raphael’s portrait of Pope Leo X with his cousins, Giulio de’ Medici (the future Pope Clement VII) and Luigi de’ Rossi, who were both cardinals (1518). Source: Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Sketches of Hanno the Elephant by Giulio Romano (c. 1515). Hanno proved to be the most popular attraction at Leo X’s coronation and essentially became the Pope’s pet.

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season three

Episode 38: Mother Church

The Catholic Church was once the most important, omnipresent institution in Europe. Before we meet the Medici Popes, we’ll delve into what exactly the Church did for the people, from providing early nursing homes to giving people one of the few shots at social mobility, and how powerful the Popes really were.

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season three

Episode 34: The Borgia Vs. The Prophet

Savonarola may be enjoying the peak of his influence over Florence, but he’s made a relentless enemy who just so happens to be a pope and, worse, a Borgia. Meanwhile, Piero and his supporters spin plots for a Medici restoration. 

A portrait of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) by Pedro Berruguete (c. 1492). Source: Vatican Museums.

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season one

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

A miniature depicting Valentina Visconti, Duchesse d’Orléans, 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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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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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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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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