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.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Leonello d’Este - Marquis of Ferrara

Ruler who spent money on the arts and education


Pisanello's 1441 portrait of Leonello d'Este, which is housed at the Accademia Carrara
Pisanello's 1441 portrait of Leonello d'Este,
which is housed at the Accademia Carrara
Leonello d’Este, who is remembered as a dedicated patron of the arts, literature and culture, died on this day in 1450 in Ferrara.

Leonello was Marquis of Ferrara and Duke of Modena and Reggio Emilia from 1441 to 1450.

An illegitimate son of Niccolo III d’Este, Leonello was favoured by his father as his successor ahead of his legitimate children.

As he was well educated and popular with the common people, he was considered by his father to be the most suitable heir.

During his rule over Ferrara, Leonello transformed the city and reformed the University of Ferrara, actions which influenced the political and artistic achievements of his successors.

Leonello was tutored by Guarino Veronese, who instructed him on the traits of a desirable ruler and how to govern. Veronese was later appointed as a professor at the University of Ferrara.

Because of his strong academic background, Leonello made economic, political and cultural changes to Ferrara as soon as he took over. He was responsible for the building of the first hospital in Ferrara.

Pisanello's coin The Singing Lion, which commemorated the life of Leonello d'Este
Pisanello's coin The Singing Lion, which commemorated
the life of Leonello d'Este
Artists such as Pisanello, Bellini, Mantegna and Della Francesca worked for him in Ferrara and he also encouraged musicians and writers.

He commissioned Pisanello to design a series of coins and medals bearing his image, including one that was known as The Little Lion of Ferrara and another called The Singing Lion, playing on his name. The reverse side of The Singing Lion depicted a lion with angels, to reflect the qualities of Leonello and his court.

Under Leonello’s rule, the University of Ferrara became a fully operational university with enough professors to teach the major subjects of canon law, logic, philosophy and medicine and he contributed financially to keep it running.

Leonello died suddenly of unknown causes on 1 October 1450. He was succeeded by his brother, Borso d’Este.

The magnificent Castello Estense in the heart of Ferrara
Travel tip:

Ferrara is a city in Emilia-Romagna, about 50 kilometres to the north east of Bologna. It was ruled by the Este family between 1240 and 1598. Building work on the magnificent Este Castle in the centre of the city began in 1385 and it was added to and improved by successive rulers of Ferrara until the end of the Este line.

The Faculty of Liberal Arts at the University of Ferrara
The Faculty of Liberal Arts at the University of Ferrara
Travel tip:

The University of Ferrara was established in 1391 by Alberto V d’Este, but 1442 – one year into the reign of Leonello d’Este – is considered its true founding date because it grew in size and became fully operational then. By the end of Leonello’s reign in 1450 it had 12 law professors and 13 arts professors and had brought prestige to Ferrara just as he had hoped. Today the University has about 16,000 students and a teaching staff of 600.


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