The Pazzi were a noble Florentine family in the Middle Ages. Their main trade during the fifteenth century was banking. In the aftermath of the Pazzi conspiracy in 1478, members of the family were banished from Florence and their property was confiscated; anyone named Pazzi had to take a new name.

Current regionTuscany
Place of originRepublic of Florence

History of the family

The traditional story is that the family was founded by Pazzo di Ranieri, first man over the walls during the Siege of Jerusalem of 1099, during the First Crusade, who returned to Florence with flints supposedly from the Holy Sepulchre, which were kept at Santi Apostoli and used on Holy Saturday to re-kindle fire in the city.[1][2]:131 The historical basis of this legend has been in question since the work of Luigi Passerini Orsini de' Rilli in the mid-nineteenth century.[1]

The first apparently historical figure in the family is the Jacopo de' Pazzi il Vecchio who was a captain of the Florentine (Guelph) cavalry at the battle of Montaperti on 4 September 1260, and whose hand was treacherously severed by Bocca degli Abati, causing the standard to fall.[3] His son Pazzino di Jacopo de' Pazzi was a Black Guelph and a follower of Charles de Valois.[3]

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.

His son Jacopo de' Pazzi became head of the family in 1464.[2]:131

Guglielmo di Antonio de' Pazzi married Bianca de' Medici, sister of Lorenzo de' Medici, in 1460;[3] Cosimo de' Pazzi, the sixth of their sixteen children, became archbishop of Florence in 1508.[4]

Francesco de' Pazzi was one of the instigators of the Pazzi Conspiracy in 1477–78. He, Jacopo de' Pazzi and Jacopo's brother Renato de' Pazzi were executed after the plot failed.[2]:141

Raffaele de' Pazzi was a condottiere; he died at the Battle of Ravenna in 1512.[5]

Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (1566–1607) was a Carmelite nun and mystic;[6]:218 she was canonised in 1669.[7]:149

Pazzi Chapel

The Pazzi Chapel was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.[8] Construction began in 1442 in a cloister of the Franciscan church of Santa Croce.[9] The High-Renaissance design is restrained and sober, using pietra serena and white plaster in geometric designs, generally unrelieved by colour, and capped with a hemispherical dome, completed after Brunelleschi's death according to his plans.

Palaces in Florence

  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 stuccoed first and 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: a smaller palace in the Borgo degli Albizi, between Palazzo Ramirez de Montalvo and the Palazzo Nonfinito. It houses a section of the Museum of Natural History of Florence, and hosts temporary exhibitions. The façade is attributed to Bartolomeo Ammannati.

Pazzi conspiracy

Early in 1477 Francesco de' Pazzi, manager in Rome of the Pazzi bank, plotted with Girolamo Riario, nephew and protegé of the pope, Sixtus IV, and with Francesco Salviati, whom Sixtus had made archbishop of Pisa, to assassinate Lorenzo de' Medici and his brother Giuliano to oust the Medici family as rulers of Florence.[2]:131 Sixtus gave tacit support to the conspirators.[10]:254 The assassination attempt was made during mass in the Duomo of Florence on 26 April 1478. Giuliano was killed; Lorenzo was wounded but escaped.[10]:254–255 Salviati, with mercenaries from Perugia, tried but failed to take over the Palazzo della Signoria.[2]:138 Most of the conspirators were soon caught and summarily executed; five, including Francesco de' Pazzi, were hanged from the windows of the Palazzo della Signoria.[2]: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.[2]:141

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 obliterated. Anyone named Pazzi had to take a new name; anyone married to a Pazzi was barred from public office.[2]:142 Guglielmo de' Pazzi, husband of Lorenzo's sister Bianca, was placed under house arrest,[2]:141 and later forbidden to enter the city; he went to live at Torre a Decima, near Pontassieve.[4]

After the overthrow of Piero de' Medici in 1494, members of the Pazzi family were able to return to Florence.[4]


  1. Arnaldo D'Addario (1970). Pazzi (in Italian). Enciclopedia Dantesca. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved October 2015.
  2. Christopher Hibbert (1979 [1974]). The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin. ISBN 0140050906.
  3. Claudia Tripodi (2015). Pazzi, Guglielmo de' (in Italian). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, volume 82. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved October 2015.
  4. Vanna Arrighi (2015). Pazzi, Cosimo de' (in Italian). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, volume 82. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved April 2018.
  5. Pazzi, Raffaele de' (in Italian). Encliclopedie on line. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved April 2018.
  6. Clare Copeland (2016). Maria Maddalena De' Pazzi: The Making of a Counter-Reformation Saint. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198785385.
  7. Joseph Hammond (2012). An Old Altarpiece for a New Saint: The Canonization of Santa Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi and the Decoration of Santa Maria dei Carmini in Venice. Explorations in Renaissance Culture 38 (1–2): 149–169. doi:10.1163/23526963-90000431. ISSN 0098-2474. (subscription required).
  8. Taylor-Foster, James (19 November 2014). "A Renaissance Gem in Need of Restoration". ArchDaily. ISSN 0719-8884. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  9. Kleiner, Fred S. (7 January 2009). Gardner's Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective. 2. Cengage Learning. p. 107. ISBN 9780495573647.
  10. Vincent Cronin (1992 [1967]). The Florentine Renaissance. London: Pimlico. ISBN 0712698744.
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