Symbols in Florence: The Medici Balls

The Medici Balls


The Medici coat of arms and the remains of the family’s rule over Florence most notably can be seen in Palazzo Vecchio. Look above and you may see the family’s coat of arms. The coat of arms is the family’s brand, it’s the sculpted emblem which includes a golden shield, adorning a crown with a number of spheres parading its centre. These balls or spheres are symbolic of the Medici reign, and in their symbolic nature are still somewhat of a mystery as to what they are all about.

Medici balls

Throughout the years in which the Medici family ruled, the exact number of balls on the coat of arms actually decreased from up to 11 to 5 and then 6 balls. Florentine crowds would yell “Palle!” (meaning “balls”) at the family to show their appreciation. Although this showed their appreciation, the reason why still remains a mystery. There are several theories which try to explain the significance behind the Medici balls.
The most clear-cut theory is that the balls simply represent gold. In those days, gold was shaped in a spherical form. Although the balls on the coat of arms are actually red, so a degree of scepticism is held towards this theory. The balls may also represent the origin of the family’s name as “Medici” is actually Italian for “doctors” whereby the balls may in this sense be pharmaceutical pills. The balls also seem to resemble coins from the Byzantine era.
All of these theories hold some weight in their own way, although we may never know the true origins behind the Medici’s mild obsession with red spherical objects.

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