History


According to tradition, the Gondi family descends from the Consorteria dei Filippi, that Dante, in the Divine Comedy, places in the eighteenth cantos of the Paradise and numbers among the most ancient inhabitants of Florence.
In 787, Braccio Filippi was invested as Knight by Charlemagne. On the Gondi armourial bearings is an arm grasping a battle mace, surmounting the coat of arms proper, which displays two battle maces and a St. Andrew’s cross above a scroll inscribed with the family motto, non sine labore. The coat of arms thus recalls the family’s warrior origins.
The founder of the family, who took the name of Gondi, was Orlando di Bellicozzo, a descendant of Braccio Filippi, who was a member of the Council of Florence in 1197.
Both the Italian and the French branch, over the centuries have played important roles both ecclesiastical and political.

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According to tradition, the Gondi family descends from the Consorteria dei Filippi, whom Dante, in the Divine Comedy, places in Paradise and numbers among the most ancient inhabitants of Florence. In 787, Braccio Filippi was invested as Knight by Charlemagne. On the Gondi armourial bearings is an arm grasping a battle mace, surmounting the coat of arms proper, which displays two battle maces and a St. Andrew’s cross above a scroll inscribed with the family motto, non sine labore. The coat of arms thus recalls the family’s warrior origins.
The founder of the family, who took the name of Gondi, was Orlando di Bellicozzo, a descendant of Braccio Filippi, who was a member of the Council of Florence in 1197. The family took its surname from one of his great-grandsons, Gondo di Ricovero, whom we find among the signers of a treaty between the Republic of Florence and Genoa in 1241.
Originating in Mugello, and more precisely at San Cresci in Val Cava, the family rose to the highest positions in Florence, with 18 priors between 1436 and 1530, and up to the supreme rank of Gonfaloniere of Justice, while in the Province they served as Mayors or Governors of Prato, Pistoia, Val d’Era, Arezzo, Pisa, Livorno, Volterra, Castelfiorentino, Scarperia and Montepulciano. Giuliano the Elder, in the early 16th century, was a merchant, banker and producer of beaten gold. On June 4, 1421, he married Maddalena Strozzi and in 1455 moved to the Santa Croce quarter. Here he purchased a house from Girolamo Giugni, later buying others adjacent to it, which he had demolished in order to build the family palace.
In 1460 he was Ambassador to Urbino. He also served King Alfonso of Naples, in the capacity of treasurer. In 1468 he received the title of High Prior of the Supreme Magistrature and Lord of the Republic.
Gondi had lent King Alfonso a large sum of money, so that the latter, unable to return the entire amount, offered him the architect Giuliano da Sangallo, who was at his service, to design and build the family’s main palace in Piazza San Firenze, in the shadow of Palazzo Vecchio. Sangallo also designed the family chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella, where Brunelleschi’s wooden Christ is still found today.
The King also granted him the title of Duke, but Giuliano refused it, agreeing only to adopt the ducal coronet in memory of this episode. Still today the family uses the ducal coronet, instead of that of a marquis. Giuliano’s son, born on January 8, 1468, was to have been brought to baptism by Alfonso d’Aragona, first-born son of Ferdinando I, King of Naples. But since Alfonso was unable to attend the ceremony, he delegated Lorenzo the Magnificent to take his place, and so Giuliano’s son was christened Alfonso Lorenzo Gondi.
During this same period, the family exchanged many letters with Girolamo Savonarola. Several of its members were favourable to him, while others were opposed.
Maddalena Gondi (1437-1503), known as “Lena”, the daughter of Simone di Salvestro Gondi, was a close relative by marriage of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and the great-grandmother of Cosimo I and Pope Leo X.
The fortunes of the family continued to thrive, and the Gondi Bank opened branches in Florence, Lyon, Naples, Lisbon, Seville, Warsaw and Constantinople.
Giuliano’s brother, Antonio di Leonardo, married Lena di Bernardo Corbinelli and died at Ferrara in 1486, leaving twelve children, eleven of them still minors. The last-born, Antonio, founded the French branch of the family after moving to Lyon, where he married Marie Caterine de Pierre-Vive. Marie Caterine was the daughter of Nicola de Pierre-Vive, Chamberlain of the French Court. Catherine de’ Medici, future queen of France, took both of them into her service, Antonio as her administrator, and then brought the Gondi into the retinue of the Duke of Anjou, her husband. Antonio retained this post later when the duke was crowned king under the name of Henri II. The Florentine sovereign, in sign of recognition, gave him the barony of Perron in Lyon.
Antonio is also famous for having financed Giovanni da Verrazzano’s first voyage, in which the navigator, “Captain of the Armada for India”, discovered the Bay of New York and Florida. For this reason, Giovanni da Verrazzano and his brother Gerolamo dedicated a reef at the entrance to the bay to Antonio Gondi’s wife, Marie Caterine de Pierre-vive, christening it “Pietra Viva”, as they reported to King Francois I in a letter dated July 8, 1524.
Antonio’s wife instead accompanied Catherine de’ Medici, advising her and assisting her in creating “Italian gardens” such as the Jardin des Tuileries. A son, Alberto, was born to Antonio and Marie Caterine in Florence on November 4, 1522. On September 4, 1565 he married Claude-Catherine de Clermont Dampierre, lady-in-waiting to Catherine de’ Medici, and widow of Jean de Annabou, Duke of Retz. This marriage brought the Gondi wealth and titles, and Alberto became the owner of the Chateau of Noisy. Much of the land on which the Royal Palace of Versailles was built was donated to King Louis XIII by Alberto.
The family thus acquired a leading role in French society, and King Charles IX chose Alberto to represent him in his marriage by proxy to Elizabeth of Austria, the daughter of Emperor Maximilian II. On July 10, 1573 the sovereign bestowed on him the title of Marshall of France. Alberto also became Privy Counsellor to the King and First Gentleman of the Palace. The Valois sovereigns offered the Florentine merchant-bankers high administrative posts and great honours, in tangible recognition of their total fidelity to no less than five kings: Henri II, Francois II, Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV. Alberto’s brother was Piero Gondi, first Archbishop of Paris. The family’s funerary monuments are in the Gondi Chapel in the apse of Notre Dame de Paris. Alberto’s son was Filippo Emanuele, Count of Joigny, “Captain of the Galleys”, that is, Minister of the Navy, who took as his children’s preceptor the man who was then to become St. Vincenzo di Paoli. Filippo’s son, Gian Francesco Paolo Gondi, was appointed Archbishop of Paris, and then Cardinal by Pope Innocent X, but is recalled mainly for having organized, together with the Prince of Condè, the Fronde against Cardinal Mazarin, as well as for his book of Memoirs. Another member of the French branch of the family was Girolamo Gondi, who in 1543 enlarged the Hotel d’Aulnay, turning it into a chateau with an enormous Italian garden covering six hundred hectares, which he named Saint-Cloud. Girolamo also ordered the enlargement of the tower of Santa Maria Maggiore in Via dei Pecori, Florence, which became a great palace. For this reason the Palace, now Orlandini del Beccuto, was called “Palazzo dei Gondi di Francia”.
The French branch of the family, famous in the history of France in the 16th and 17th centuries for having given a Counsellor to the King, a Prime Minister of the State, a Generalissimo of all the armies, seven Knights of the Holy Spirit, a General of the Galleys, two Ambassadors, three Cardinals and four Bishops of Paris, was considered second in importance only to the reigning dynasty and was related by marriage to the Orleans. The following titles were conferred on the family: Peers of France, Dukes of Retz and of Beaupreaux, Marquis of Bellisle, Marquis de la Garnache, Marquis de la Tour, Counts of Joigny, Barons of Peron, Barons of Beauvoix, Barons of Codun, Barons of Toissay, Barons of Monmirel, Barons of Dampierre, Barons of Villepreux, Barons of Mortagne, Barons de la Hardouinaye, Barons of Montelon, Barons of Longueron, Barons of Armantieres, Barons of Commercy, Barons d’Euville, etc. This branch of the family died out in the late 17th century.
In Italy instead the family has continued to occupy a leading role in Florentine society, and is related by marriage to the most prominent families in Italy, including the Savoia, the Medici, the Albizi, the Antinori, and the Strozzi, and has been decorated with the Caval. Aurato, in Spain.