At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Bartolomeo Colleoni

Death of an ‘honourable’ Italian military leader


Bergamo soldier Bartolomeo Colleoni, who became known for using his wealth to benefit people, died on this day in 1475.


Colleoni spent most of his life in the pay of the republic of Venice defending the city of Bergamo against invaders.


Statue of Colleoni in Venice
But he is remembered as one of the most decent condottieri of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements in Bergamo and the surrounding area when he was not involved in military campaigns.


Condottieri were the leaders of troops, who worked for the powerful ruling factions, often for high payments. 


Bergamo’s Bartolomeo Colleoni was unusual because he remained steadfast to one employer, the republic of Venice, for most of his career.


During a period of peace between Venice and Milan he worked briefly for Milan but the rulers never fully trusted him and eventually he was arrested and imprisoned. On his release, he returned to work for Venice and subsequently stayed faithful to them.


Towards the end of his life he lived with his family at his castle in Malpaga, to the south of Bergamo and turned his attention to designing a building to house his own tomb. 


This has given Bergamo’s upper town its most ornate and celebrated building, the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel).

Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo
Bartolomeo Colleoni left money to Venice in his will with a request that a statue of himself be erected in Piazza San Marco after his death. As there was a rule that no monuments were allowed in the Piazza, the statue, made by Andrea del Verrocchio, was eventually placed opposite the Scuola di San Marco in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Travel tip:


Visit Bergamo to see one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy.


Cappella Colleoni was designed by architect Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the adjacent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, using pink and white marble to match the colours of the doorway of the basilica. Inside the chapel there is an elaborate two tier sarcophagus surmounted by a golden statue of Colleoni on horseback. The military leader’s body was placed in the lower sarcophagus, according to his instructions, where it still lies today. Above his tomb there are frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo.

Travel tip:


November 2 is All Souls Day, or the Day of the Dead, in Italy, when people visit the graves of their loved ones. Many areas observe their own rituals and have special foods, such as the slightly macabre ossi dei morti (bones of the dead), which are traditional biscuits eaten on All Souls Day in the Veneto region.


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