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Medici Archive Project | Lecture Series

The archival collection of the Medici Grand Dukes, curated and published online by the Medici Archive Project (Florence, Italy), comprises over 6000 volumes, containing some three to four million letters from the Medici dynasty (see: bia.medici.org). These documents reveal every aspect of public and private life at the Tuscan court as well as other courts in major European centers.

Although the Medici administration was based in Florence, its network of functionaries, agents and correspondents extended throughout Italy, Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Correspondence from their many ambassadors contains information ranging from the most urgent events to the most trivial gossip.

Through these letters and documents, spanning from 1537 to 1743, scholars can reconstruct a great number of hitherto unexplored aspects pertaining to the social, economic and cultural life of Renaissance Jews.

LECTURE SCHEDULE:

NOVEMBER 17, 2016
LETTERS IN CIPHER AND CODED LANGUAGE: THE MEDICI AND THEIR JEWS

Alessio Assonitis (The Medici Archive Project) & Gabriele Mancuso (The Medici Archive Project)

Cosimo I deí Medici was just seventeen when, on January 9, 1537, he became duke of an impoverished Florentine state. Over the course of almost forty years, he restored this city to its former artistic and cultural glory. Correspondence from that time highlights the duke’s relations with Florentine and European Jews.  This lecture will shed light on how Jews were perceived and represented by the Medici.

DECEMBER 15, 2016
THE NEW JERUSALEM: FLORENCE, THE MEDICI, AND THE JEWS DURING THE RENAISSANCE

Dr. Lisa Kaborycha (University of California – EAP)

Florence in the fifteenth century was the birthplace of the Renaissance, a time of spectacular developments in the arts, literature, and philosophy inspired by rediscovery of the ancient world. It was also, however, a period of intense political conflict and questioning of moral values, which led to a backlash from the Dominican reformer and prophet Fra Girolamo Savonarola. Throughout all this, the wealthy and powerful Medici family maintained a unique relationship with the Jewish community. In this lecture we will look at the interaction of these social forces and examine the impact of Renaissance cultural developments on the lives of Florentine Jews.

FEBRUARY 16, 2017
ASTROLOGERS, SPIES, MERCHANTS AND TRAVELERS: RENAISSANCE JEWS FROM GHETTOS TO COURTS

Gabriele Mancuso (The Medici Archive Project), Shaul Bassi (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) & Flora Cassen (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill)

In spite of anti-Jewish state and church legislation and the institution of the ghettos, Jews played crucial roles in Italian courtly life. Jewish travelers and merchants settled in all major Mediterranean centers, eventually giving birth to one of the most efficient commercial and information networks. Thanks to these international connections, some of these traders eventually became informers and spies at the service of virtually all European courts, including that of Duke Cosimo I deí Medici.

MARCH 16, 2017
HIDDEN MYSTERIES AND MAGIC: KABBALAH AND JEWISH MYSTICISM IN RENAISSANCE FLORENCE

Gabriele Mancuso (The Medici Archive Project), Fabrizio Lelli (Universitia del Salento) &Vadim Putzu (Missouri State University)

During the Renaissance and until the mid-seventeenth century, Italy was one of the most important centers for the study of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Kabbalistic works largely relied on the ones produced by Italian Jewish thinkers. During the Middle Ages, Italian rabbis, Bible commentators and Talmudic scholars plunged themselves into the study of Jewish magic, a topic that fascinated the Medici. This lecture will address the breadth and depth of Kabbalistic culture in Italy.

APRIL 6, 2017
RECONSTRUCTING THE GHETTO IN FLORENCE

Alessio Assonitis (The Medici Archive Project), Francesco Benelli (University di Bologna) & Lorenzo Vigotti (Columbia University)

The Florentine ghetto, established by Duke Cosimo I deí Medici in 1571, was completely demolished in 1888. Recently discovered archival documents ó as well as photographs, blueprints and watercolors ó permit scholars to paint a remarkable picture of what this lost neighborhood of Florence looked like during the era of the Medici grand dukes. This lecture will present ñ for the first time ñ the results of this research as well as the digital reconstruction of the Florentine ghetto.

MAY 11, 2017
LIKE THE MEDICI: JEWISH DYNASTIES IN RENAISSANCE FLORENCE

Alessio Assonitis (The Medici Archive Project) & Gabriele Mancuso (The Medici Archive Project)

The longevity, wealth and stability of the Jewish ghetto in Florence can be evinced by the history of one of its most important dynasties, the Abrabanel family. The Abrabanels played a leading role in early modern European geopolitics, but their name is overshadowed by later, more famous dynasties. This lecture will trace the rise and fall of this family, the aristocracy of the Jewish ghetto in Florence.

 

 

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