The role of the Chapel of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi Florence in the Italian Renaissance. Summary. © Marella Santa Croce from 2005.
The recent BBC series called Invisible Italy, created by Alexander Armstrong and Dr Michael Scott visits the beautiful Chapel of the Magi in the Medici Palace in Florence. The programmes’ inclusion of magnetic resonance scanning of buildings, particularly those of Florence, are of great significance to Renaissance studies. The vista that such a series opens up feeds directly into my own studies on the purpose and content of the chapel.
It is my belief that this small, private place in the Medici home was consciously constructed to bring those already committed to the process of gaining higher consciousness the means of achieving it. Once in possession of the frequency needed to bring in information and understanding, the Medici went from strength to strength in the creation of one of the greatest revolutions in art and architecture in western history.
The devotional meeting place that is the Chapel was created from 1439 by Cosimo de’ Medici: his purposes were personal. We have heard much about Cosimo’s success and prowess as a banker, about the power that ensued from Medici money but what we have not heard about is the change of consciousness that created the Renaissance and which he seeded. We know that the Magi and the Epiphany were important to Cosimo, the fresco in his cell in San Marco shows the beauty and intimacy of the original connection he held both to God and to the Magi. Benozzo Gozzoli’s wonderful painting, The Adoration of the Kings, in the Elder’s cell in the convent, expresses the significance of the Star and, of course, the whole of the Chapel of the Magi continues this belief.
The Chapel and its Gozzoli fresco perfectly exemplify and encapsulate the goals, history, focus and philosophy of the Neoplatonic Academy but this ‘Neoplatonic’ umbrella was a cover for the Medici and their team whose form of faith was neither orthodox nor for the faint-hearted. Within such a faith, which upheld Platonic beliefs as part of its foundation, there is to be found the original focus and form of Christ Love, the idea of which has been so deeply ravaged by centuries of legalism in Christianity. Each part of the floor, pavement and walls of the two masonry boxes which make up the chapel, and are set deeply into the Medici home (thank you to the Armstrong team), makes both explicit and practical the devotional focus and belief held by Cosimo, his philosopher colleagues and his grandsons. Such belief is that the frequency of Love is potent, privileged, inspirational, fruitful and exacting to those who intuit it.
In 1439 Cosimo convened in Florence a meeting of the leaders of the east and west of Christendom, the Council of Florence. An Embassy came from Constantinople to meet under the hospitality of the Medici to discuss the nature and purpose of the Trinity. The reason for such a meeting may seem unimportant to us now but lack of agreement as to the meaning and significance of the Trinity had caused a serious schism between east and west and left, it was feared, a potential hole in defences that could have brought forth invasion.
One of the Embassy from the east was a certain Gemistos Plethon, or Plettone, the last known Magus from Mistra in Greece. Plettone brought with him all that he knew of the great Magi as well as their ability to focus up to a very high frequency. Anyone who has ever watched a Whirling Dervish, rotating his body at speed without a single flick of the head, merely its incline, will more easily understand that he does this through his ability to focus.
At the same time as the Council of Florence the work of Plato came into Cosimo’s hands and he quickly drew toward him the scholar Marsilio Ficino whom he commissioned to translate the scripts into Latin. The commission given to Ficino was the basis of an amazing friendship that grew between the two men and provided the second Greek ‘seed’, as it were, into the plant that blossomed into the Renaissance.
One of the most important parts of Plato’s work is his description of the Forms, or Absolutes, that exist somewhere beyond our normal levels of consciousness and which contain the perfected Ideas or moral imperatives of this planet. It is suggested that the Medici group, through their disciplined ‘contemplation’, or learned focus, became well-versed in understanding how the Forms functioned. It was this understanding and the frequency reached in order to gain it that gave the Medici their creative power.
Now, the Chapel of the Magi is dedicated to the Trinity because the latter is a contemplative symbol of the Magi or Star Brethren. Dante talks of the Brethren in Paradiso IV of the Divine Comedy, where they sit in the Rose, the heart of Love. The Medici created their Chapel of the Magi, they ruled Florence through the Compagnia dei Magi, the most powerful guild of the city and the Academia raised and run by Ficino, was to do with the acquisition of skills in focus through contemplation: an ancient skill passed down through the Magi.
One of the significant characteristics of high-frequency thinking is that it draws towards the thinker others like him, so the Renaissance grew out of a passionately fertile group of interlinked friends who brought to the public their deeply private and unusual Love of God. This Love was not to do with the established Church, or the Papacy, or what was thought to be Christianity it was, rather, a Love for the Divine within the group’s heart: they began with their heart and they became their heart, this was their earthly, spiritual journey. It is such a journey that is outlined throughout the chapel and this oneness with the heart of a deeply unorthodox God is about FREQUENCY and not religion.
The Medici, firstly Cosimo and his advisor and friend Ficino (1433-99) and then Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-94) and Cosimo’s two grandsons, Lorenzo and Giuliano, brought together and ‘brought down’ (we could say ‘downloaded’) all the information that was required to create and maintain the Renaissance. The group was a potent team and their place of convening was the Chapel. (Further explanation upon application). Ficino led his followers through learning that was exacting, the basis of which was the Love of the heart and the focus of the mind. In this way, Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola underpin the revolution in art and architecture that brought down Heaven to earth and this bringing down was about the laws of physics.
If we look summarily at the Chapel we can begin to see how it worked.
Dottore Cristina Acidini Luchinat, the instigator and overseer of renovation to the chapel in the Nineties, has recorded her work[i]; so good are the illustrations of the book that it is possible to see the higher parts of the chapel in a detail that are not easily seen in situ. Acidini notes that the chapel is a masonry box but since the Armstrong team’s wonderful, 3D investigation we see, miraculously, that the chapel is two masonry boxes, deeply and specifically set into the heart of the Palazzo Medici. Created without direct sunlight, the space allows for focussed meditation without intrusion: one of the most significant elements of Ficino’s work was ‘contemplation’ or ‘going up’. Acidini notes that the original stone altar was inscribed with the word saghiata, it was red, strigillated Maremma marble, ‘lost’ in 1494 when the Medici property was confiscated by the state. Struck by the original altar engraving ‘saghiata’, from the Mugello dialect of Florence, Acidini suggests that the g sound be transposed into a gl, the resulting word sagliata now relating to the archaic saglire ‘to rise up’. When Signora Dottore wrote her book she did not understand the significance of the word at the altar foot, below Lippi’s painting to the Trinity. Here, however, is the very point of the chapel, that the mysterious union of heaven and earth in the Heart of God, in the heart of people, is part of ‘going up’ to find again the Higher Self and to bring back down what is needed for an evolutionary leap.
We know from Signora Acidini [ii] that the masonry box was built most specifically. This specificity outlines the long-term, stringent requirement of the Academia for constantly acquired, personal and disciplined focus. Such a practice of learned focus allowed Cosimo, Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, to gain instruction from their heart links with the Godhead and from their sacred philosophers Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. In teaching Lorenzo, particularly, about the essential nature of Love and, most importantly, its embodiment, Ficino had before him the idea of Plato’s Philosopher-King. Ficino’s demanding, Christo-Platonic, ‘Way’ reached the interior beauty of the men that practised it: rescued and re-aligned, the pilgrim re-establishes the fire in his heart, indeed, the truthfulness in and of the heart itself.
The chapel is dedicated to ‘Heart, word and work’ a salutation indicative of another requirement of the Academia that heart consciousness be found and then lived. Here Michelle Feo’s view that the Medici faithful must sacrifice with ‘heart, word and work’, the great dedication of this chapel, is so pertinent because she sees the word sacrifice in its original reading as ‘sacred’[iii]. The making sacred of one’s heart, that which one says, does and thinks (The eleventh century, Sarum Primer prayer ‘…God be in my heart and in my thinking’) is a very sound way of making Love real.
The learning of the Academy was demanding, a life practice that was paradoxically available to everyone whilst being, at the same time, only for those prepared to walk a difficult, often dangerous and arduous path. The warning at the doorway to the chapel explains the severity of such a pilgrimage, a road more gruelling than anyone may at the outset have been aware:
‘Do not set foot here, O profane crowd’.
The journey was/is one of precise intention, endurance, tenacity and focus. Why? Because the real difficulty is carrying the high-level frequency necessary to ‘bring down’ information. When Van Gogh came into this domain he painted an astonishing number of paintings in a very short time but he became more and more anguished and famously cut off his ear as a consequence: the thresholds of higher intelligent consciousness are demanding.
It is not without significance that the origins in the process of laying down the Chapel were to do with the Holy Trinity, the importance of the Holy Three in the foundation of the experiencing of higher consciousness is profound. One of the principal fillips of the Brethren is that everyone is part of a great whole and this Oneness is delivered from the higher realms, (where Plato’s Absolutes find their source) through the Sacred Trinity. Pico della Mirandola is pertinent on this head:
…whatever is in any of the world is at the same time
contained in each, and there is no one of them in which
is not found whatever is in each of the others.[iv]
Two is the number of creation, whilst three lends strength and support, uniting with other threes to form a network of geometric shapes that hold together the universe, we know this factually, mathematically. The symbol of the ‘Davidic’ star works to embody the essence of Trinitisation: the triangle pointing down speaks of energy which is descending from above into the earth and the one pointing up speaks of matter ascending to heaven from earth. The concept of Triangulation or Trinitisation was used by the greatest Egyptians to bring into being their grandest creations.
Pico della Mirandola was brilliant in his grasp and understanding of the perfect flow between heaven and earth once one had the keys; he knew the great frequency of the Cabbala, a frequency so potentially alarming that it brought the persecution and almost the end of the great Magi instructed in its gifts.
Gemisthos Plethon or Plettone, the Greek Magus of the embassy which initiated the creating of the Chapel and Pico who, uniting the roots of Judaism, Egypt (through Moses) and the occluded work of Jesus Christ, together justified the great Christly principle of Divine Frequency. In allowing himself to understand what he knew already in his heart, Pico found the way home again, like Dante, into following one’s desirous heart, to go ‘up’ and ‘bring down’ some of Heaven’s knowledge. It is perfectly possible then, that what is in heaven may be on earth: and the procedure was Trinitisation, its result the glorious Italian Renaissance.
The Chapel, then, is startling in its all-encompassing design because it portrays, besides much more, the union of Egypt with Israel under the ceiling of Love. The Sun symbol in the Christ monogram in the upper ceiling, the Rose motifs in precise design in the lower ceiling, the entry into the high altar through the two pillars inspired by Joachim and Boaz in the Temple of Soloman and the design of the Godhead in the Golden Section before the altar, show the complex composite of the chapel, beyond the scope of this summary.
©Marella Santa Croce pubd. August 27th 2017, written from 2005.
VIEW THE VIDEOS ABOUT THE CHAPEL – CLICK HEREi Cristina Acidini Luchinat (ed) The Chapel of the Magi:Benozzo Gozzoli’s Frescoes in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, trans. E.Daunt and D. Kunzelman (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993).