The Medici Family was an Italian banking family, and political dynasty that produced three Popes of the Catholic Church, and two Queens of France. The family ruled Tuscany from 1513 until 1737. We find their symbols, (balls) first displayed on their crest, then prominently displayed on buildings all over Florence and Tuscany, which were financed by Medici money. Some say the balls represented coins, others say medicinal pills that recalled the family’s origins as doctors or apothecaries. This door, in Florence, represents everything that the Medici family represented: the Popes, the Queens, The Dynasty! Balls, balls, and more balls!
What about the Medici Coat of Arms? What did it represent? There are 5 theories….
- The most romantic (and far fetched) explanation of the origin of the palle is that the balls are actually dents in a shield inflicted by the fearsome giant Mugello on one of Charlemagne’s knights, Averardo, (who the family claims they are descended from) When Averardo killed the giant, Charlemagne permitted him to use the image of the battered shield as his coat of arms to mark his victory.
- Others conclude that the palle were pawnbrokers’ coins, medicinal pills or cupping glasses that recalled the family’s origins as doctors (medici) or apothecaries. Others claim they are bezants, Byzantine coins inspired by the Coat of Arms of Arte del Cambio (the Guild of the Moneychangers or banker’s organization that the Medici’s belonged to) Or some say, that the balls represent gold bars, representing their profession as bankers, as seen by many frescoes and works of art in Florence, that depict gold bars in their original form as gold balls.
- In times of danger Medicean supporters were rallied with calls of Palle! Palle! Palle, a reference to the balls on their armor!
- Originally there were 12 balls on the shield. In Cosimo dé Medici’s time it was 7 and the ceiling of San Lorenzo’s Sagrestia Vecchi has 8. Cosimo I’s tomb in the Cappelle Medicee has 5, and Ferdinando’s I’s coat of arms has 6. So the number of balls has changed over the years, but 6 has been the stable number after 1465.
- The BLUE ball has the symbol of the Kings of France in it- three gold lilies. It was said that King Louis XI had a debt with the Medici family and in order to reduce his debts, he allowed the bank owned by the Medici’s to use his symbol, giving the bank more clout with the people.
This little door in the wall is a Medici door also. It was a door that the homeless or poor peasants could go to daily to receive scraps left over from the Medici meals………
A Medici Palle!
Ok, This is not a Medici door, but I wanted to show you how thick the walls can be in Italy and the oval at the top reminded me of the Medici Palle! And I liked this door!
I hope you have enjoyed my doors today and learning how important the Medici Family was in their day and how the word medici (medicine, medical, meds, MD’s, pills ) is still with us today! I have many more doors from Italy! See you next time!
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