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Sunday, March 27, 2005
Renaissance secret solved:

One the richest,most powerful clans in history, Italy's Medici Family came to the end of its rule in 1737, when Gian Gastone de'Medici died without an heir. The famous dynasty of merchants-turned-bankers that financed the Renaissance artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Botticelli, is still dead. It's just not buried anymore.

In May 2004, a teac of Italian and American scientists in Florence opened the first of 49 Medici graves slated for exhumation. By running tests such as CT scans and DNA analyses on the remains, the team hopes to learn how the Medici lived, and more importantly, how they died.

"There were a lot of illnesses in epidemic form at the time", says team member Arthur Aufderheide, a paleontologists at the University of Minnesota. "If we know the pattern of infectious diseases in history, perhaps we might find some clues about treating them today."

Some Medici suffered from malaria, and historical records say Grand Duke Francesco I died of the disease. But maybe he did'nt. Many historians suspect that Francesco and his wife were poisoned by his brother --- the next Grand Duke--- in 1587. The family was famous for its cut throat politics. Michiavelli wrote his cynical primer on sovereignty, The Prince, to impress a Medici, and during nearly 300 years in power, the family installed three of their own as popes and married off two daughters to become queens of France.

Now the truth about Francesco's death may finally be established. The scientists exhumed his remains in December 2004. The soon plan to test his bones for traces of arsenic.

The postmoretem exams have already solved some other mystery. Researchers have diagnosed Cosimo I,with a hereditary rheumatic disease, suggesting that his ancestor Piero I, known as Piero the Gouty, may not in fact have suffered from gout. Cosimo's wife, Eleonora di Toledo died of malaria, and testing shows she may have some additional health problems. Scientists investigating her remainds found traces of a substance once used to treat syphillis.

In Italy reaction to the Meeici exhumation has been mostly positive. The project has enjoyed the support of the Florence museum superintendent and received the blessing of a Medici descendant.

But two of the most famous Medici won't be telling any tales. Lorenzo the Magnificent and Cosimo the Elder are now scheduled to rise from their graves. Moving their fragile marble tombstomes is considered too risky. After all, they were carved by Michelangelo.

Abstracted from GEOGRAPHICA by: Scott Elder)
posted by infraternam meam @ 11:12 PM  
  • At 2:43 PM, Blogger Jtesta said…

    The author is incorrect in stating that Cosimo de' Medici (d. 1464) is buried in the Medici Chapel; his remains are in the crypt of the church of San Lorenzo. His grandson, Lorenzo il Magnifico, IS buried in the Medici Chapel, under Michelangelo's statue of the Madonna and Child. I assume the writer made a typographical error in saying the remains of these two men will "NOW" be exhumed; he probably meant to say will "NOT" be exhumed.

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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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