Latest from Livescience on events that changed the world examines the role of the Florentine Medici family. The fabulously wealthy merchant and banking family played a leading role in the Medieval Renaissance, sponsoring numerous building projects and patronizing influential artists like de Vinci and Michaelangelo.
"Like a medieval ATM, one family bankrolled the cultural movement that dragged Europe out of the Dark Ages and into modernity. With their love for art, science and culture, the Medici of Florence catalyzed the Renaissance that began in the 14th century, making household names of da Vinci, Michelangelo and Galileo in the process. The revival of learning, rationality and the arts patronized by the Medici in Italy spread throughout Europe, sped along by the invention of the printing press, and forever transformed the Western world."