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Under Pope Sixtus IV, builder of the Sistine Chapel, the nepotism of the Renaissance papacy reached its worst. The Vatican bustled with his 16 nephews, two brothers, and three sisters who continually injected themselves into Italian and church affairs. They became the leading figures of Rome. They traveled with vast retinues, feasted at banquets, dressed in pearl-embroidered clothes, and slept with endless partners in luxuriant beds.
But they soon clashed with their rivals in pleasure and power, the Medici family, based in Florence. The Medici banking firm had been the traditional Vatican bankers. But when conflicts arose, Sixtus transferred the vast papal fortunes to another family of bankers, the Pazzi. The Medici counterattacked, tempers flared, and in 1478, with the pope’s knowledge, his nephews and bankers hatched a plan to murder Lorenzo and Julian Medici.
On Sunday, April 26, 1478, the two Medici brothers entered the cathedral in Florence for Easter Mass. They were, according to their custom, unarmed and unguarded. The service began. Suddenly, as the priest lifted the bread of the Eucharist into the air, Julian felt a stabbing pain pierce his chest. The dagger was withdrawn, then thrust again and again. He died quickly. Lorenzo was attacked at the same instant. He instinctively flung his cape around his arm, forming a shield, and fought off his attackers.
His rage was unquenchable. He tracked down the conspirators and had them hung or thrown from palace windows. Their ears and noses were cut off, and they were hacked to pieces, dragged through the streets, and thrown into the Arno.
Sixtus retaliated by excommunicating Lorenzo, suspending all religious services in Florence, and launching a futile two-year war against the city. The two men remained enemies till 1484 when Sixtus died. Lorenzo the Magnificent, as he was called, lived eight years longer, then died at age 43 after drinking a mixture of jewels prescribed by physicians for his stomach pains.
We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That’s why we must give our lives for each other. (1 John 3.16)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Apr. 26.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
865 – Death of Paschasius Radbertus, who wrote an influential book affirming that the Eucharist contains the true, historical body of Jesus Christ.
1630 – George Herbert was appointed by the Earl of Pembroke to the parishes of Fugglestone St Peter and Bemerton St Andrew, near Salisbury. There he wrote notable Christian poetry and preached sermons comprehensible to a rural audience.
1865 – German missionary Ernst Faber arrived in Hong Kong where he helped create Chinese-Christian literature by having Chinese associates write their own books in consultation with him. He also worked with Chinese officials to import and apply European technology in China.
1877 – Residents of Minnesota observed a statewide day of prayer, set by Governor John Sargent Pillsbury, imploring deliverance from a plague of grasshoppers that had been ravaging their crops. Many families were on the verge of starvation. In the next two days, warm weather caused millions of larvae to wiggle to life and skeptics scoffed; but a plunge in temperature on the fourth day froze and killed them. A chapel was built at Cold Spring to commemorate the miracle.
1969 – Emmanuel Oladele Agboola was unanimously elected to chair the 56th annual session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention in acknowledgment of his hard work and zeal for souls. His contemporaries recognized him as one of Nigeria’s greatest indigenous pastors and educators as well as a humble and kind man.
Accessed ChristianHistoryInstitute.org 04 April 2022.