Thursday Doors: What is a Medici Door?

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!

A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

What about the Medici Coat of Arms? What did it represent? There are 5 theories….

Medici Coat of Arms
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. In times of danger Medicean supporters were rallied with calls of Palle! Palle! Palle, a reference to the balls on their armor!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

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 Door, Florence, Italy

A Medici Palle!

A Medici Ball Florence, Italy

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!

Not A Medici Door, Florence, Italy

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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Thursday Doors

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Sheree says:

    Fabulous door


  2. restlessjo says:

    They were pretty full of themselves, those Medicis, weren’t they? Thanks for the history and the fab photos 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And rich and powerful!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. restlessjo says:

        Same thing…pretty much! There is a newspaper on my side table with a front page photo of one of our venerable leaders. Ugh! Was politics always skulduggery? 😦


  3. Dan Antion says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I love learning about history. I knew a tiny amount about this famed family but I learned a lot today. Great job, and lovely doors and photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I LOVE History, even if it is just a little story here and there!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. lolaWi says:

    lovely gallery of doors and thank you for the history! now i’m going to look at the photographs i took in Florence and see if i have some Medici doors! 🙂 🙂


  5. Great post, well if I ever travel to Italy, I will keep an eye out for the balls


    1. Yes, be sure to look for them all over Tuscany!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great collection of doors, and I love, love, love the doors in Italiy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are some of the best doors in the world I think!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Junie-Jesh says:

    Oops, somehow I clicked back to Thurs. Doors, before saving my comment here. I know the Medici from art history. They had quite an influence in Italy. You think European when including their coat of arms! I love the face on top of that pillar. Your comment with that tiny door makes me think that we lost a lot of good things of he past. Here it shows “noblesse oblige” (being of nobility has its responsibilities – some of that was not forgetting about the poor!) Love your post, Jesh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I learned the concept of noblesse oblige from my Daddy, a long tradition in his family lineage, although we were not nobility at all.


    2. I think it is also true that the rich have soooooooo much and give so little in comparison to their wealth and then want a tax break for it………It is the “regular” folks that take care of their neighbor…..

      Liked by 1 person

  8. maristravels says:

    Essential bit of history lightly told and beautifully illustrated. Thank you. Great balls.


    1. Thanks Mari! Short and to the point!


  9. I always looked forward to your “Thursday Doors” series. This one is full of Italian history that I used to read about, especially the Medici influence throughout Europe. Fascinating stories!


    1. I have read a lot about the Medici Family and the women that married the French Kings too. Very rich and powerful!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Loved the doors and enjoyed the history. As for the balls, I was reminded of a scene from one of the Pink Panther movies where Clouseau was in the store of the Great Balls, Balls being the last name of the owner. The owner says to him, “When duty calls, you’ve got balls.” Makes me laugh just to think about it.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Fascinating! I did not know about the balls and I can’t believe that I never associated Medici with medicine before. One of the many things that are so obvious once you know.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! It’s so fascinating to me to see how words have evolved and where they came from and meant in the past. AND we are still using the same words!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Christie says:

    So much history on a single door, really impressive!


  13. I never realized that the Medici name was associated with medicine or anything medicinal — but it’s obvious, isn’t it?


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