On the morning of Sunday, April 26th, 1478, an event took place in the Duomo which could have dramatically changed the course of Florentine history. During the celebration of mass an attempt was made to assassinate Lorenzo ‘il Magnifico’, head of the ruling Medici family, and his younger brother Giuliano.
The plot to kill the brothers had been set in motion by Francesco de’ Pazzi, who was keen to oust power from the ruling Medici dynasty. Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini dei Baroncelli were to stab Giuliano, while two priests, Antonio Maffei and Stefano di Bagnone, were to kill Lorenzo. Pazzi and Bandini were successful and Guiliano was fatally stabbed through the chest, but the priests hesitated an instant, long enough for Lorenzo to escape with nothing more than a flesh wound. The Pazzi plot had failed and the Medici family’s retaliation was merciless. The conspirators, and all those complicit in the plot, were hunted out, caught and killed. The ringleaders, with ropes around their necks, were thrown out of the windows of the Palazzo Vecchio and left to dangle to their deaths.
At least 80 people were killed in the immediate aftermath and the Palazzo Pazzi, which lies a short distance from the Duomo, was confiscated. The palazzo passed through several owners before being bought in 1796 by the Quaratesi family. The Palazzo Pazzi-Quaratesi is also known as the Palazzo della Congiura (Palace of the Conspiracy).
The coat of arms of the Pazzi family takes the form of two dolphins. Had their plot succeeded, we might now be seeing Pazzi dolphins rather than Medici balls all over the city.