Showing posts with label 1630. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1630. Show all posts

17 September 2018

Ranuccio II Farnese – Duke of Parma

Feuding with the Popes led to the destruction of a city

A portrait of Ranuccio II Farnese by the Flemish Baroque painter Jacob Denys
A portrait of Ranuccio II Farnese by the Flemish
Baroque painter Jacob Denys
Ranuccio II Farnese, who angered Innocent X so much that the Pope had part of his territory razed to the ground, was born on this day in 1630 in Parma.

Ranuccio II was the eldest son of Odoardo Farnese, the fifth sovereign duke of Parma, and his wife, Margherita de’ Medici.

Odoardo died while Ranuccio was still a minor and, although he succeeded him as Duke of Parma, he had to rule for the first two years of his reign under the regency of both his uncle, Francesco Maria Farnese, and his mother.

The House of Farnese had been founded by Ranuccio’s paternal ancestor, Alessandro Farnese, who became Pope Paul III. The Farnese family had been ruling Parma and Piacenza ever since Paul III gave it to his illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese. He also made Pier Luigi the Duke of Castro.

While Odoardo had been Duke of Parma he had become involved in a power struggle with Pope Urban VIII, who was a member of the Barberini family. The Barberini family were keen to acquire Castro, which was north of Rome in the Papal States.

When Odoardo found himself unable to pay his debts, Urban VIII responded to the creditors’ pleas for help, by sending troops to occupy Castro.

How Castro may have looked before it was destroyed by the army of Innocent X
How Castro may have looked before it was destroyed by
the army of Innocent X
One of the Pope’s Cardinals negotiated a truce, but then the Pope’s military leaders discovered that Odoardo was building up his own troops in case the discussions had come to nothing. What became known as the First War of Castro ensued and the Papal forces were defeated.

However, Ranuccio II refused to pay the debts incurred by his father, despite the fact Oduardo had signed a peace treaty agreeing to do so. He also refused to recognise the new Bishop of Castro, appointed by Urban VIII’s successor, Innocent X.

In 1649, the new bishop, Cardinal Cristoforo Giarda, was murdered on his way to Castro. Innocent X accused Ranuccio of ordering the murder and in retaliation sent troops to besiege Castro and then raze it to the ground.

Later the same year, Ranuccio’s troops were crushed in another battle, leaving him with no means of winning back his lost territory, but in 1672 he bought Bardi and Compiano, small towns near Parma, to increase the size of the Duchy.

Ranuccio II was married three times and had 14 children, of whom only six lived to become adults.

He died in Parma in 1694 at the age of 64 and was succeeded as Duke of Parma by his eldest surviving son, Francesco.

Ranuccio II is buried in the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma.

The Ducal Palace in modern Ischia di Castro
The Ducal Palace in modern Ischia di Castro
Travel tip:

Castro in Lazio was a fortified city on a cliff, near the border between Tuscany and Lazio. The city and surrounding area was created a Duchy in 1537 by Pope Paul III, who made his illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese, its duke, to be followed by his first born male heirs. The Duchy stretched from the Tyrrhenian Sea to Lago di Bolsena. Ranuccio II Farnese, the last Duke of Castro, was forced to cede the land back to Pope Innocent X. The present day comune, Ischia di Castro, in the province of Viterbo, takes its name from the ancient city of Castro destroyed by papal forces. Ischia di Castro still has a Ducal Palace, where members of the Farnese family used to live.

The Renaissance church of Santa Maria della Steccata in the centre of Parma, where Ranuccio II was buried
The Renaissance church of Santa Maria della Steccata
in the centre of Parma, where Ranuccio II was buried
Travel tip:

The Shrine of Santa Maria della Steccata, where Ranuccio II was buried, is a Renaissance church in the centre of Parma. The name derives from the fence, or steccata, used to contain the many pilgrims who came to visit the image of a Nursing Madonna enshrined within the church. The crypt of the church contains the tombs of 26 members of the Farnese family, including that of Ranuccio II.

More reading:

How a war against Parma backfired on Pope Urban VIII

The legacy of the great Parma painter known as Parmigianino

Innocent X - a pope dominated by his sister-in-law

Also on this day:

1688: The birth of Maria Luisa of Savoy, who ruled Spain as a teenager

1944: The birth of climber Reinhold Messner


18 November 2016

Eleonora Gonzaga – Holy Roman Empress

Pious princess who promoted the arts and education

Eleonora Gonzaga: a portrait by Frans Luycx, the Flemish artist
Eleonora Gonzaga: a portrait by
 Frans Luycx, the Flemish artist
Eleonora Gonzaga, Princess of Mantua, Nevers and Rethel, was born on this day in 1630 in Mantua.

She grew up to marry the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, and established a reputation as one of the most educated and virtuous women of her time.

Eleonora became fascinated by religious poetry, founded a literary academy and was a patron of musical theatre.

As Holy Roman Empress she developed the cultural and spiritual life at the Imperial Court in Vienna, continuing the work of her great aunt, also called Eleonora, who had introduced opera to Vienna in the early part of the 17th century.

Vienna subsequently became recognised as the music capital of Europe.

Eleonora was the second child of Charles Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers, who was heir to the Duchy of Mantua, and Maria Gonzaga, who was heiress to the Duchy of Montferrat.

She was given a good education, became fluent in French, Spanish and Italian and learnt about literature, music and art.

Having become interested in poetry, she composed religious and philosophical poems herself.

Ferdinand III, as depicted by Jan van den Hoecke
Ferdinand III, as depicted by Jan van den Hoecke
A marriage was arranged for her with the Holy Roman Emperor, who imposed the condition that the Duchy of Mantua had to remain loyal to the Empire. It was agreed that Mantua would stay loyal to the empire provided it didn’t have negative consequences for the Duchy.

It was the third marriage for Ferdinand, who had children from both his previous marriages.

But after the wedding in April 1651 at Wiener Neustadt, he became happy with Eleonora and she established good relationships with all her stepchildren.

She learned German and Ferdinand learned Italian. They were both interested in literature and music and enjoyed going to the theatre and hunting together.

They founded a literary academy and encouraged the development of science.

Italians became more influential at the Imperial Court and Italian became the most used language among the German aristocracy.

They had four children between 1652 and 1657, but Ferdinand died two months after the birth of his first son by Eleonora, Ferdinand Joseph Alois, who himself died just over a year later.

But under Ferdinand’s will, Eleonora assumed guardianship of all his children and she supported her stepson, Leopold I, when he became the new Emperor.

She tried to improve the standard of education for girls by inviting the Ursuline nuns to Vienna, where they established a monastery, church and school. She also established the Order of Virtuosity and the Order of the Starry Cross for women.

After Eleonora’s death in Vienna in 1686 she was buried in the Imperial Crypt.

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Mantua
The Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Mantua
Travel tip:

Mantua, where Eleonora Gonzaga was born, is an atmospheric old city in Lombardy, to the south east of Milan. In the Renaissance heart of Mantua is Piazza Mantegna, where the 15th century Basilica of Sant’Andrea houses the tomb of the artist, Andrea Mantegna. The church was originally built to accommodate the large number of pilgrims who came to Mantua to see a precious relic, an ampoule containing what were believed to be drops of Christ’s blood mixed with earth. This was claimed to have been collected at the site of his crucifixion by a Roman soldier.

Hotels in Mantua by

Travel tip:

Mantua is famous for its Renaissance Palazzo Ducale, the seat of the Gonzaga family between 1328 and 1707. The Camera degli Sposi is decorated with frescoes by Andrea Mantegna, depicting the life of Eleonora’s ancestor, Ludovico Gonzaga and his family in the 15th century. The beautiful backgrounds of imaginary cities and ruins reflect Mantegna’s love of classical architecture.

More reading:

Monteverdi's l'Orfeo, the oldest opera still regularly performed, makes its debut in Mantua

Claudio Monteverdi - the viola player at the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga who became the first great opera composer

How Andrea Mantegna from Mantua used perspective to break new ground in painting

Also on this day:

1626: The consecration of St Peter's Basilica in Rome

(Picture of Basilica di Sant'Andrea in Mantua by Vitold Muratov via Wikimedia Commons)