The Pazzi family in Florence launched their unsuccessful plot to overthrow the Medici family with an assassination attempt against the brothers Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici.
The Pazzis had been a powerful and influential family since the 13th century. Yet by the early 1400s their successful banking network, and the status that came with it, had been overshadowed by that of the Medici family who had grown to dominate Florentine political and economic life. The Pazzi Conspiracy saw family members conspire with other opponents of the Medicis including the Pope’s nephew, Girolamo Riario, and the archbishop of Pisa, Francesco Salviati. Although Pope Sixtus IV lent his support to the plot, he was very careful not to sanction killing.
The assassins struck during High Mass on the morning of 26 April 1478. Having gathered with a crowd of up to 10,000 other worshippers at the Duomo, Bernardo Bandini dei Baroncelli and Francesco de’ Pazzi stabbed Giuliano de’ Medici 19 times. His brother Lorenzo was wounded but managed to escape with the help of his friend Angelo Poliziano.
Over the next few months the people of Florence pursued the conspirators and killed at least 80 people associated with the plot by 20 October. Francesco de’ Pazzi and Salviati were hanged from the windows of the Palazzo della Signoria while other plotters were thrown from windows to be set upon by the angry crowds below.
The failure of the conspiracy resulted in the opposite situation to what had been intended. Lorenzo de’ Medici was able to strengthen his hold on Florentine politics despite Pope Sixtus IV placing the city under interdict, while the Pazzi family were banished and their lands and property confiscated.