The active interest of the Medici Grand Dukes in Santa Maria del Fiore was part of the centuries-long effort these princes made to equip Florence for its role as capital of a dynastic state; their generosity should be understood in light of the family’s relationship with the Church, stronger than that of other European ruling houses. The Medici, made princes in 1530 by Pope Clement VII, son of that Giuliano de’ Medici assassinated in 1478, almost always had at least one cardinal among the family’s younger sons. For them, as for other princes in the age of absolutism, the solemn ceremonies exalting their dignity – coronations, marriages, baptisms, state funerals – all took place in the city’s churches, which even more than the family’s palaces and villas were showplaces of regal status. That fact explains the care this family had to enhance the Cathedral’s splendour with the great works still visible in the Duomo and in the museum: the new choir enclosure and high altar, the pictorial decoration of the dome, the large niches with statues of the apostles, and above all the projects for a new façade.


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