Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici (1360 – 1429) was an Italian banker who founded the Medici Bank which initiated the Medici’s rise to power. Unlike his family who came after him, Giovanni was not born into wealth. His father, Averardo de’ Medici, and his mother, Jacopa Spini, had five sons including Giovanni. After his father’s death, not much money was left to the family.
Giovanni got his start in bank management by working alongside Vieri di Cambio de’ Medici, an Italian banker who owned his own bank chain in Europe from 1348 until his retirement in 1392. Vieri taught Giovanni everything he knew about banking and in 1385 Giovanni ran the Rome branch of Vieri’s bank. He bought shares of the Rome branch and after Vieri’s retirement, Giovanni took over the business and founded the Medici Bank in 1397, transferring the headquarters to Florence while retaining the branch in Rome.
Rise to Power and Family
By March 25, 1402 there were three Medici Bank branches in Florence, Rome and Venice. Also in that same year, the Medici expanded their horizons when Giovanni opened a wool factory in Florence. In 1408, he opened a second factory, not just for the production of wool but also for the purpose of trading spices, olive oil, silk, jewelry, silver and other goods. By then, there was a fourth Medici Bank branch open in Naples and Gaeta.
Giovanni was a member of two guilds: Arte della Lana, the wool guild of Florence and Arte del Cambio, the banker’s guild of Florence. He served as Prior for the Florence government in 1402, 1408 and 1411. In 1421, he also served as Gonfaloniere of Justice, a government position during the medieval and Renaissance period. However, he disliked being involved in politics and if the chance came, he preferred to pay the fine instead of concerning himself in politics that were outside of his own family and business life.
In 1386, he married Piccarda Bueri and in 1389, his son Cosimo di Giovanni de’ Medici was born followed by his second son, Lorenzo, in 1395. When Giovanni died in 1429, the Medici Bank was flourishing and Giovanni’s fortune was worth about 180,000 gold florins. His sons inherited the patrimony and eventually the Medici Bank expanded and founded branches in Bruges, London, Pisa, Avignon, Milan and Lyon.
Giovanni’s son, Cosimo, continued his legacy and became the founder of the Medici Dynasty and the Father of the Renaissance. Found out why by reading the biography of Cosimo the Elder.
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Post by Tessa Cole