Showing posts with label Ferdinando. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ferdinando. Show all posts

23 May 2018

Ferdinando II de’ Medici – Grand Duke of Tuscany

Technology fan who supported scientist Galileo

Ferdinando II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, portrayed by Flemish painter Justus Sustermans
Ferdinando II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany,
portrayed by Flemish painter Justus Sustermans
Inventor and patron of science Ferdinando II de’ Medici died on this day in 1670 in Florence.

Like his grandmother, the dowager Grand Duchess Christina, Ferdinando II was a loyal friend to Galileo and he welcomed the scientist back to Florence after the prison sentence imposed on him for ‘vehement suspicion of heresy’ was commuted to house arrest.

Ferdinando II was reputed to be obsessed with new technology and had hygrometers, barometers, thermometers and telescopes installed at his home in the Pitti Palace.

He has also been credited with the invention of the sealed glass thermometer in 1654.

Ferdinando II was born in 1610, the eldest son of Cosimo II de’ Medici and Maria Maddalena of Austria.

He became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1621 when he was just 10 years old after the death of his father.

His mother, Maddalena, and paternal grandmother, Christina, acted as joint regents for him. Christina is said to have been the power behind the throne until her death in 1636.

Ferdinando II and his wife, Vittoria della Rovere
Ferdinando II and his wife, Vittoria della Rovere
Ferdinando II was patron and friend to Galileo, who dedicated his work, Dialogue Concerning the two Chief World Systems to him. This work led to Galileo’s second set of hearings before the Inquisition. Ferdinando II kept Galileo safely in Florence until the Inquisitors threatened to bring him to Rome in chains if he would not come voluntarily.

When plague swept through Florence in 1630 it killed 10 per cent of the population. Unlike other members of the Tuscan nobility, Ferdinando II and his brothers stayed in Florence to try to help the suffering people.

To combat the economic depression, Ferdinando II instigated a public works programme. This included the building of an aqueduct and new public fountains as well as improvement to Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens.

Architects and artists were also employed to develop the Cappella dei Principi at the Basilica di San Lorenzo.

The Grand Duke married Vittoria della Rovere, the granddaughter of the Duke of Urbino, in 1633 and they had four sons, although only two lived to become adults.

Ferdinando II was a loyal friend and supporter  of the scientist and philosopher Galileo
Ferdinando II was a loyal friend and supporter
 of the scientist and philosopher Galileo
Influenced by Galileo, Ferdinando II invented the sealed-glass thermometer by sealing the glass lip of a tube containing coloured alcohol. Glass bubbles filled with air changed position as the temperature rose or fell. Marked off with 360 degrees it became known as a spirit thermometer or Florentine thermometer.

Ferdinando II also used a type of artificial incubator to hatch chicks in his greenhouses in the Boboli Gardens, which was regulated according to the temperature shown on a thermometer placed under the hen.

Tuscany was victorious in a military conflict against the forces of Pope Urban VIII in 1643 but the Treasury was nearly empty after the mercenaries had been paid and interest rates had to be lowered.

Ferdinando II died in the Pitti Palace on May 23, 1670 of apoplexy and dropsy and was interred in the Basilica di San Lorenzo.

Visitors to the Pitti Palace in Florence can also explore  the beautiful Boboli Gardens
Visitors to the Pitti Palace in Florence can also explore
 the beautiful Boboli Gardens
Travel tip:

The Pitti Palace - Palazzo Pitti - in Florence, where Ferdinando II was born and died, was originally built for the banker Luca Pitti in 1457 to try to outshine the Medici family. They bought it from his bankrupt heirs and made it their main residence in 1550. Today visitors can look round the richly decorated rooms and see treasures from the Medici collections. The beautiful Boboli Gardens behind the palace are 16th century formal Italian gardens filled with statues and fountains.

The Basilica di San Lorenzo, where Ferdinando II is buried, is one of Florence's largest churches
The Basilica di San Lorenzo, where Ferdinando II is
buried, is one of Florence's largest churches
Travel tip:

The Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the largest churches in Florence, situated in the middle of the market district in Piazza di San Lorenzo. It is the burial place of the principal members of the Medici family. Brunelleschi was commissioned to design a new building in 1419 to replace the original 11th century Romanesque church on the site but the new church was not completed until after his death. It is considered one of the greatest examples of Renaissance architecture. Ferdinando II is interred in the Cappella dei Principi, which is surmounted by a tall dome, along with five other Grand Dukes of Tuscany. 

Also on this day:

1498: The execution of 'Bonfire of the Vanities' preacher Girolamo Savonarola

1933: The birth of Sergio Gonella, the first Italian to referee a World Cup final


25 March 2017

Francesco I - Grand Duke of Tuscany

Florentine ruler at heart of Medici murder mystery

A portrait of Francesco I by Agnolo di Cosimo, the Florentine artist better known as Bronzino
A portrait of Francesco I by Agnolo di Cosimo,
the Florentine artist better known as Bronzino.
Francesco I, the Medici Grand Duke whose death at the age of 46 became the subject of a murder mystery still unsolved 430 years later, was born on this day in 1541 in Florence.

The second to be given the title Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco was the son of Cosimo I de' Medici, the first to hold the title, and Eleonor of Toledo.

Like his father, Francesco was often a despotic leader, but while Cosimo's purpose was to maintain Florence's independence, Francesco's loyalties were not so clear. He taxed his subjects heavily but diverted large sums to the empires of Austria and Spain.

He continued his father's patronage of the arts, supporting artists and building the Medici Theatre as well as founding the Accademia della Crusca and the Uffizi Gallery. He was also interested in chemistry and alchemy and spent many hours in his private laboratory.

It was his personal life that he is remembered for, beginning with an unhappy marriage to Joanna of Austria, youngest daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and Anne of Bohemia and Hungary.  Joanna was reportedly homesick for her native Austria, and Francesco was unfaithful from the start. Joanna died in 1578, at the age of 31.

Soon after Joanna's death, Francesco married his Venetian mistress, Bianca Cappello, who had already borne him a son, Antonio. Because of the quick remarriage following Joanna's sudden death, rumours spread that Francesco and Bianca had poisoned her, the atmosphere of suspicion not helped by reports that Francesco's younger brother Pietro had extricated himself from a similarly unhappy marriage by killing his wife.

Bianca Capello, as portrayed by the artist Allori
 Alessandro in a portrait now in the Pitti Palace
Francesco was besotted with Bianca, for whom he built and decorated the Villa di Pratolino in Vaglia, 12km north of Florence on the way to Bologna. But she was not popular among Florentines.

They had no legitimate children, but after the death of Francesco's legitimate son Philip de' Medici, Antonio was proclaimed heir.

The two died 12 hours apart in October, 1587, at the Medici family villa in Poggio a Caiano.  The death certificates stated malaria as the cause, but it has been widely speculated since that the couple was poisoned, possibly by Francesco's brother, Ferdinando, who feared being excluded from the line of succession after Francesco announced Antonio as his heir.

Ferdinando had visited the couple at the villa shortly before they fell ill and when he heard of their plight returned immediately, taking charge of bulletins sent to the Holy See, which allegedly blamed his brother's illness on his poor eating habits and Bianca's on worry about her husband's condition.

Ferdinando also ordered the autopsies on the bodies, which led to the conclusion that malaria was to blame.

It was when the bodies were exhumed, two and a half centuries later in 1857, in order to be reburied in the basement of the Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo that reports of unusually well preserved bodies gave rise to theories that they were poisoned with arsenic, which slows down the putrefaction process.

The bodies were exhumed again in 2005 by a team from the Universities of Florence and Pisa, following which the parasite plasmodium falciparum, which causes malaria, was found in the skeletal remains of Francesco I, bolstering the credibility of the official documents.  Analysis of Francesco's facial hair detected low levels of arsenic, which seemed to rule out chronic exposure to the substance.

The Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence, to which are attached the Medici family chapels
The Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence, to which are
attached the Medici family chapels
When Bianca's remains were found in some broken terracotta jars buried under the crypt in the Church of Santa Maria a Bonistallo, near Francesco's villa, however, testing supported the theory of arsenic poisoning. The same findings were detected in organs from Francesco.

This suggested Francesco and Bianca were given small doses of arsenic for several days until it killed them, the doses too small and administered over a too short period of time to be detected in Francesco's facial hair.  The symptoms, such as fever, stomach-cramps and vomiting, could have been misinterpreted as an infection.

However, Gino Fornaciari, professor of forensic anthropology and director of the Pathology Museum at the University of Pisa, said that it was much more likely that malaria was the cause of death.

Travel tip:

Bunelleschi's Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence is the site of two Medici Chapels, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Sagrestia Nuova, (New Sacristy), was designed by Michelangelo. The larger Cappella dei Principi, (Chapel of the Princes), though proposed in the 16th century, was not begun until the early 17th century.  The octagonal Cappella dei Principi, commissioned by Ferdinand I and notable for its 59m (194ft) dome, is the distinguishing feature of the Basilica when seen from a distance.

Florence hotels by

The beautiful Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano
The beautiful Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano
Travel tip:

The Villa Medici at Poggio a Caiano is one of the most famous Medici villas, located about 9km (six miles) south of Prato. Today it is a public building comprising the historic apartments where the Medici stayed and a museum. The villa is perhaps the best example of architecture commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent, in this case designed by Giuliano da Sangallo in around 1480.

More reading:

Cosimo de' Medici - the banker who founded the Medici dynasty

Gian Gastone - the last Medici to rule Florence

Why Cosimo II gave his support to Galileo