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Monday, 14 May 2018

Battle of Agnadello

The day Venice lost most of its territory


The French painter Pierre-Jules Jollivet's depiction of the Battle of Agnadello
The French painter Pierre-Jules Jollivet's
depiction of the Battle of Agnadello
Venetian forces were defeated by troops fighting on behalf of France, Spain and the Pope on this day in 1509 at Agnadello in Lombardy.

As a result, the Republic of Venice was forced to withdraw from much of its territory on the mainland of Italy. The writer Niccolò Machiavelli later wrote in his book, The Prince, that in one day the Venetians had ‘lost what it had taken them 800 years of exertion to conquer.’

Louis XII of France, the Emperor Maximilian, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Pope Julius II had formed the League of Cambrai with the aim of dismantling the mainland empire of Venice as they all had their own claims to areas held by the Venetians.

The French army left Milan on April 15 and invaded Venetian territory. Venice had organised a mercenary army near Bergamo commanded by the Orsini cousins, Bartolomeo d’Alviano and Niccolò di Pitigliano, who had been ordered to avoid direct confrontation with the advancing French but just to engage them in light skirmishes.

By May 9 Louis had crossed the Adda river at Cassano d’Adda and the Orsini cousins decided to move south towards the River Po in search of better positions.

On May 14, as the Venetian army was making its move, the section commanded by Alviano was attacked by a French detachment commanded by Charles II d’Amboise, who had massed his troops around the village of Agnadello.

Bartlomeo d'Alviano's troops suffered  a heavy defeat, losing 4,000 men
Bartlomeo d'Alviano's troops suffered
a heavy defeat, losing 4,000 men
Pitigliano was several miles ahead when the French began their attack and, in reply to Alviano’s request for help, sent a note suggesting that a pitched battle should be avoided and continued his move south.

Louis reached Agnadello with the rest of the French army who surrounded Alviano on three sides and proceeded to attack his troops. Alviano was wounded and captured and more than 4,000 of his men were killed.

When news of the battle reached the rest of the Venetian army, many soldiers deserted. Pitigliano retreated to Treviso and Louis then occupied the rest of Lombardy.

Venice rapidly withdrew from Bergamo, Brescia, Crema and Cremona, all of which were taken by the French. Their possessions in the Romagna were taken over by the Pope and Verona, Vicenza and Padua were allowed to surrender to representatives of the Emperor Maximilian.

The Santuario of Santa Maria delle Grazie  is a 17th century church in Crema
The Santuario of Santa Maria delle Grazie
is a 17th century church in Crema
Travel tip:

Agnadello, where the battle took place, is a village in the province of Cremona in Lombardy. It is close to the historic town of Crema, where there are many beautiful old buildings and churches to see. In Via delle Grazie is the 17th century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which was built to house an ancient painting of the Madonna and a short distance away in Via XX Settembre is the beautiful baroque church of Santa Trinita. The Duomo was completed in 1341 on the site of an earlier church and although changes were made over the years, it has been restored back to its original Gothic design and still contains some 14th century frescoes.

The Borromeo Castle at Cassano d'Adda
The Borromeo Castle at Cassano d'Adda
Travel tip:

Cassano d’Adda, where Louis XII crossed into Venetian territory before the battle, lies between Milan and Bergamo. Due to its strategic position at a crossing of the River Adda it has been the site of many historic battles over the centuries. The most important sight in the town is the Borromeo Castle which was built in about 1000 AD but was expanded and redesigned in the 15th century by Bartolomeo Gadio, who also worked on Milan’s Cathedral and Sforza Castle.

Also on this day:

1916: The birth of architect and designer Marco Zanuso

1934: The birth of '60s football star Aurelio Milani

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