The Life and Contributions of Cosimo I de’ Medici

Cosimo I de' Medici. Photo found on kleio.org

Cosimo I de’ Medici. Photo found on kleio.org

Cosimo I de’ Medici, or more simply, Cosimo de’ Medici, was born on June 12th 1519 to Lodovico de’ Medici and Maria Salviati. Historically, he is famously known as the second Duke of Florence and the first Grand Duke of Tuscany. However, he has also made many architectural and artistic contributions to the city of Florence.

Cosimo was a member of a second branch of the Medici family. His great-great-grandfather was Lorenzo the Elder, son of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici and brother of Cosimo the Elder. Alessandro de’ Medici a.k.a. The Moor, was the cousin of Cosimo’s mother, Maria, and the Duke of Florence from 1532 until his assassination in 1537. Alessandro’s son, being an illegitimate heir, did not succeed his father and Cosimo, with the help of family connections, was elected head of the Florence republic. The election was approved by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to whom Cosimo became a faithful ally.

Cosimo is more commonly known for the construction of the Uffizi, which was at that time the magistrate offices of the Florence republic. Today it’s a famous museum that holds one of the largest and most magnificent art collections in the world. When he moved to Pitti Palace, he commissioned Giorgio Vasari to build the Vasari Corridor, the secret passageway that connects Pitti Palace to the Uffizi. He expanded on the structure of the Pitti Palace as well as the gardens behind the palace walls which are known today as the Boboli Gardens.

Eleonora de Toledo. Photo found on wikipedia.org

Eleonora de Toledo. Photo found on wikipedia.org

In 1539, Cosimo married Eleonora de Toledo, daughter to the Spanish viceroy of Naples, and together they had eleven children – seven sons and four daughters. Unfortunately, Eleonora and two of their sons, Giovanni and Garzia, died of malaria in 1562. This weighed heavily on Cosimo and two years later, in 1564, he stepped down from his government post and gave his son and succeeding heir, Francesco I, reins over Florence.

In 1569, Pope Pius V crowned Cosimo as the Grand Duke of Tuscany at the Vatican in the Sala Regia in Rome. In 1570, he married his mistress, Camilla Martelli, with whom he had a daughter, Virginia de’ Medici. In April of 1574, Cosimo I died and his body was laid to rest in the Chapel of the Princes at the Basilica of San Lorenzo.

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Post by Tessa Cole