The Magi Chapel and the 1439 Council of Florence
Among the treasures of Florence there is certainly the Chapel of the Magi in Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the big mansion that Michelozzo was building for Cosimo the Elder since 1444.
The chapel is by definition a private, devotional space, that here the Medici family created around 1459.
The scene represents the Cavalcade of the Three Kings that is to say the procession that the Magi did to go to worship the newborn Jesus.
In reality the scene represents the political success of the Medici during the Council of Florence in 1439.
Having a council was an advertising campaign of a very high level that could today be compared with echo and shine only with being the seat of the Olympics.
In addition, this council was particularly important because it should have brought together the representatives of the East (the Patriarch) and the Western Church (the Pope).
Cosimo played his cards very well and managed to convince the participants that Ferrara had unhealthy air (the council was originally to take place there) and he invited everybody to Florence, at his complete expense.
10 years after Benozzo Gozzoli celebrated for the Medici on the walls of their chapel, the days of that council. The frescoes completely cover the walls of the chapel, you dive into them. You have the impression to admire an uninterrupted parade and watching carefully you recognize many people including the Medici (Cosimo, Piero, Lorenzo, Giuliano), the Lord of Rimini, Sigismondo Malatesta and of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza and among them all the Emperor of Byzantium, John Palaeologusand the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Joseph. But what is especially noticeable is the richness and exoticism of Byzantine dignitaries who so impressed the Florentines that saw them lavishly dressed, wearing turbans and having long beards going through their city on their way to Santa Maria Novella, seat of the Council.
They had met both to find an agreement about whom should be head of the church, but especially because Constantinople was asking for help from the Pope against the Turks. The Council of Florence was not a success because the church stayed divided into West and East and especially because the Eastern Roman Empire was conquered by the Turks in 1453.
Only for Florence it was a success because the council made the city famous abroad and because the Florentine got to see unknown, exotic, different worlds. From this council we still have two things left, that are now very typically and eagerly Florentine: Arista and Vin Santo!
Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Closed on Wednesdays.
Open dayly from 9 am till 7 pm