Italian noble family in the Middle Ages

The Pazzi were a noble Florentine family. 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; the family name and coat-of-arms were permanently suppressed by order of the Signoria.


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 [it] in the mid-nineteenth century.[1]

The first apparently historical figure in the family is the Jacopo de' Pazzi il Vecchio [it] 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 [it], causing the standard to fall.[3] His son Pazzino di Jacopo de' Pazzi [it] was a Black Guelph and a follower of Charles de Valois.[3]

Andrea di Guglielmo de' Pazzi (1372–1445) was a banker and merchant. In 1429 he commissioned construction of the Pazzi Chapel in the Franciscan church of Santa Croce in Florence.[4] 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 [it], the sixth of their sixteen children, became archbishop of Florence in 1508.[5]

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 [it] was a condottiere; he died at the Battle of Ravenna in 1512.[6]

Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (1566–1607) was a Carmelite nun and mystic;[7]: 218  she was canonised in 1669.[8]: 149 

Pazzi conspiracy

Early in 1477, Francesco de' Pazzi, manager in Rome of the Pazzi bank, plotted with Girolamo Riario, nephew and protégé 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.[9]: 254  The assassination attempt was made during mass in the Florence Cathedral on 26 April 1478. Giuliano was killed; Lorenzo was wounded but escaped.[9]: 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. 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.[5] The family name and coat-of-arms were perpetually suppressed by decree of the Signoria. The name was erased from public registers, and all buildings and streets carrying it were renamed. Their shield with its dolphins was obliterated.[2]: 142  Anyone named Pazzi had to take a new name;[9]: 256  any man married to a Pazzi was barred from public office.[2]: 142  Customs and traditions of the family were suppressed, among them the Easter Saturday ritual involving the flint from Jerusalem.[2]: 142 

After the overthrow of Piero de' Medici in 1494, members of the Pazzi family were able to return to Florence.[5]


Interior of the Pazzi Chapel

The Pazzi Chapel in the Franciscan church of Santa Croce in Florence was commissioned by Andrea di Guglielmo de' Pazzi in 1429.[4] It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.[10][a] Construction began in 1442 in a cloister of the church, and continued after the death of the patron in 1445 and the architect in 1446; work was interrupted by the Pazzi plot and the chapel was never completed.[11]: 107 [4]

Palazzo Pazzi, showing the yellow-ochre pietra forte [it] sandstone and stuccoed architecture.

Palazzo Pazzi or Palazzo Pazzi-Quaratesi was the main seat of the family in the "Canto dei Pazzi", at the intersection of Borgo degli Albizi [it] and via del Proconsolo [it]. It was commissioned by Jacopo de' Pazzi, and built circa 1462–1472 to designs by Giuliano da Maiano. Above its traditionally rusticated ground floor of 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.[citation needed]

Palazzo Pazzi Ammannati [it] (or Palazzo Pazzi dell'Accademia Colombaria) is 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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ It has been suggested that it was designed not by Brunelleschi but by Michelozzo.[12][13][14]


  1. ^ a b Arnaldo D'Addario (1970). Pazzi (in Italian). Enciclopedia Dantesca. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Christopher Hibbert (1979 [1974]). The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin. ISBN 0140050906.
  3. ^ a b c Claudia Tripodi (2015). Pazzi, Guglielmo de' (in Italian). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, volume 82. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved October 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Maria Elisa Soldani (2015). Pazzi, Andrea di Guglielmo de' (in Italian). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, volume 82. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved October 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Vanna Arrighi (2015). Pazzi, Cosimo de' (in Italian). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, volume 82. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved April 2018.
  6. ^ Pazzi, Raffaele de' (in Italian). Encliclopedie on line. Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. Retrieved April 2018.
  7. ^ Clare Copeland (2016). Maria Maddalena De' Pazzi: The Making of a Counter-Reformation Saint. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198785385.
  8. ^ Hammond, Joseph (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.
  9. ^ a b c Vincent Cronin (1992 [1967]). The Florentine Renaissance. London: Pimlico. ISBN 0712698744.
  10. ^ James Taylor-Foster (19 November 2014). A Renaissance Gem in Need of Restoration. ArchDaily. ISSN 0719-8884. Accessed December 2021
  11. ^ Fred S. Kleiner (2009). Gardner's Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective, volume 2. Boston, Massachusetts: Wadsworth/Cengage. ISBN 9780495573647.
  12. ^ Amanda Lillie (2003). Pazzi family. Grove Art Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T065910. (subscription required).
  13. ^ Marvin Trachtenberg (June 1996). Why the Pazzi Chapel Is Not by Brunelleschi. Casabella. 60 (635): 58–77.
  14. ^ Marvin Trachtenberg (February 1997). Michelozzo and the Pazzi Chapel. Casabella. 61 (642): 56–75.

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