Who were the Medici?
The Medici, or de Medici were a powerful family in Florence Italy at the time of the Renaissance. They made their fortune in the wool industry; but soon built a powerful banking empire, so powerful that they were bankers for the Pope, and collected fees from all church transactions.
The Medici, though powerful, had a keen sense of community spirit, and believed that the family's honor was enhanced by contributing to the arts. They were comfortable with their income and did not constantly crave more and more. Among their contributions was to patronize such Renaissance artists as Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Fillipi Lipo. A famous renaissance painting, Venus Rising from the Sea was originally painted on the headboard of Lorenzo de Medici. They Medici were thus of vital importance in the success of the Italian Renaissance.
Aside from their business success and patronage of the arts, the Medici were exceptionally powerful in political affairs. Two members of the family became Pope: Leo X and Clement VII. Leo X was the last non priest to become Pope, and reportedly said "God has given us the papacy, now let us enjoy it." It was he who Martin Luther called the "Whore of Rome;" and who authorized the sale of indulgences which led to Luther's issuance of his ninety five theses, thus precipitating the Lutheran Reformation. It was Clement VII who refused to annul Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and thus precipitated the English Reformation. Another Medici, Catherine, became the husband of Henry II of France, and later regent for Charles IX and Henry III. Thus the influence of the Medici on history cannot be underestimated.