Aug 5, 2015


Who are the Medici?  Like really, who are they?  Do they still exist?  Or did their clan die out years ago, same as other once powerful clans have eventually died out?  I know what their seal looks like (or at least think I know, to be quite frank I'm not convinced that it's not the seal of the Vatican.  10th generation Lutherans are really quite ignorant about these sorts of things).

Let me tell you what I have learned about the Medici in the intervening hours since I arrived in Florence 10 hours ago.  There were 6 ruling Medici 'kings' (or 7?).  They are buried in a grand, Michelangelo designed and (mostly) built crypt of sorts in the middle of Florence.*  I say "of sorts" because the crypt is entirely above ground; it is reminiscent of a chapel.  In the main cryptic part, there are 6 sarcophagi, one for each of the Medici kings.  The room of Sarcophagi is large, rotundular, and covered from top to magnificent bottom in the most wonderful colors of granite and precious stones.  There is more lapis lazuli inlaid in the tilework of the sides of the sculphercher than I have ever seen in one place. The gorgeous blue literally robbed me of breath.

I learned that Michelangelo was the put in the Medici's care as a youngster (teens, maybe younger?).

Things unrelated to the Medicis (or maybe tangentially related) that I know now: I now know what marble looks like when carved.  I know that most Renaissance carvers were kind of shit at women's, erm,topography.  (If I *see* another man thigh on a woman, ech.  Or maybe women were more manly 500 years ago... yeah right.)  I know what poor quality carved marble looks like.

Back to the Medicis: I know that there were (at the very least) 3 Cosimos, 2 Ferdinandos and 1 Francesco (all of whom are grandly entombed at the family crypt).  Their crest is of 5 ugly red globules topped by a 6 ugly globule, except in lapis lazuli that contains within itself 3 golden florets.  The Medici were patrons for a shit ton of art.  They paid for the glitzy, multi'colored Duomo church (3rd largest in Christendom, if Rick Steves is to be believed) and matching baptistry, and matching bell tower.  And probably also paid for a large number of the galleries and carved marble sculptures that literally litter the streets of Florence.

I also know this: the Medici are dead.  They have been for centuries.  But people (self included) still pay good dollars to see the detritus that they left behind.  Years ago.  The wealth and gardens and such of the Medicis was such that it exists.  Still, today, largely preserved by, what I can only imagine, is the people of Florence and, in a more basic sense, the morbid curiosity of people such as myself who pay into this system, and buy into the grand history that is, and continues to be, the Medici.  Because the Medicis, may they rest in peace, are probably one of the richest dead families in the world.  The gold and precious stones and man hours and carved marble that makes up their physical kingdom is unreproducible.  No one can buy it.  And there may not be enough lapis lazuli left, untouched in the world to populate yet another dead man's crypt.

All this to say that I can't help but think of a passage from Finite and Infinite Games where to the player of the finite game, the victor plays the game such that the game cannot be played again.  The victor wants the game to end, for the only game that has been played to be the one that he has won.  Then the trophy that he has won will be his forever; his role shifts from that of a game player to one that makes sure that no one else can win the game such as he has won it.

If, in some sense, riches were a game, I would say that the Medici, may God let their soles rest easy in their marble tombs, have come fairly close to holding their trophy, even into death.

* Michelangelo ran off to Rome at some point, presumably after one of his patron saint Medicis died.  Or maybe he went with their blessing.  At any rate, he left for Rome, leaving in his wake several unfinished sculptures, most notably, in my mind at any rate, the faces of Day and Night, on two of the alters of the Medici crypt.

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