In April 1478, a plot to murder the two heads of the powerful Medici family miscarried dramatically in the cathedral of Florence. The younger of the two brothers was killed, but Lorenzo the Magnificent, the brilliant poet and connoisseur escaped.
A bloodbath followed in reprisal. All Italy was at once affected, as it emerged that the Pope, the King of Naples, and the Duke of Urbino were deeply implicated in the plot, and that binding treaties required Milan and Venice to assist Florence.
A tangle of Florentine interests now came to light, revealing a dangerous archbishop, a cosseted papal nephew, and the Pazzi - an ambitious family of bankers with lofty connections abroad. The Pazzi were the foremost social and financial rivals of the Medici, but they were forced - like all other leading families in Florence - to pay political obeisance to them, in a play of attitudes that was stifling public discussion and subverting the Florentine republic.
Against the high abstract shadows of power politics and the menace to political debate, the Pazzi Conspiracy was driven by bankers, priests, politicians, and mercenaries, caught up in a tangle of passion and armed violence.