Instituted by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1541, for almost two hundred years the German Guard – the ‘Guardia de’ Lanzi’ in Florentine jargon – was a constant and high-profile presence at the very heart of the Medici court, watching over the safety of the grand dukes and their immediate families. Coming with their families from an area that stretched from the Low Countries to South Tirol, in the course of two centuries the soldiers of the German Guard left a profound mark upon Florence’s history and culture. By the time the new ruling dynasty – the Lorraine – replaced them with a Swiss Guard, the Lanzi had evolved into a crucial crossroads of diplomatic, cultural and social interchange between Tuscany and the German world. Still, since they were foreigners and a symbol of a regime that Italian Risorgimento and nationalist historiography branded as tyrannical and decadent, the Lanzi are today largely forgotten.
To rescue the ‘Lanzi della Loggia’ from their historiographical oblivion, the Medici Archive Project established in 2016 the ‘The 100 Initiative’, an interdisciplinary network of scholars that takes its name from the size of the German Guard (always a hundred men strong). The network promotes further studies on the history of the Lanzi and its impact on the social and cultural life in Florence, from the foundation of the Guard under Duke Cosimo I to the extinction of the Medici dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century.
For further information, contact Maurizio Arfaioli.