Showing posts with label Braccio da Montone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Braccio da Montone. Show all posts

15 January 2024

Erasmo da Narni - condottiero

Soldier from poor origins became general commander of Venetian armies

Erasmo da Narni made a  living as a condottiero
Erasmo da Narni made a 
living as a condottiero
One of the most famous condottieri of the Renaissance, Erasmo da Narni, who had a distinguished career as a military leader, died on this day in 1443 in Padua.

Known as Gattamelata, the honey-eyed cat, Erasmo has been immortalised by Donatello’s bronze equestrian statue of him in Piazza del Santo, one of Padua’s main squares.

Born in Narni in Umbria, Erasmo went from a humble household into a military life, serving in turn the rulers of the Papal States, Rome, Florence, and Venice. Condottieri were professional soldiers who were hired by city states to lead mercenary armies on the battlefield.

With his friend, Brandolino Brandolini, he worked for the Assisi lord, Cecchino Broglia, and later, serving under another condottiero, Braccio da Montone, lord of Perugia, he played his part in the conquests of Todi, Terni, Narni, Rieti, and Spoleto and helped win the Battle of Viterbo against Muzio Attendolo Sforza in 1419.

During the War of L’Aquila, Braccio’s army was defeated and the condottiero himself was killed, so Erasmo led the remaining troops into the service of Florence.

Later, Pope Martin V hired Erasmo to recapture the lands he had lost in the battles against Braccio da Montone. 

Erasmo was also hired by the Republic of Venice to fight against Filippo Mario Visconti of Milan. In the conflict, he came up against another condottiero, Niccolò Piccinino, who defeated him in a battle in 1434 in which Erasmo was wounded.

Braccio da Montone, who fought with Erasmo
Braccio da Montone, who
fought with Erasmo
After successfully defending Brescia and Verona against the Visconti army, Erasmo was granted the title of General Commander of the Armies of the Republic of Venice. He was also made ruler of Padua in 1437. 

The following year, the Venetians lost Legnago, Soave and Verona, which led to criticism of Erasmo, but with the help of Francesco Sforza, he was able to re-enter Verona in 1439.

In 1440, while mustering a flotilla on Lake Garda, Erasmo suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. He never fully recovered from this illness and was unable to lead any further military campaigns. 

Erasmo died in 1443 and was buried in the Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padua. Donatello’s statue of Gattamelata was later placed outside the front entrance of the church as a tribute to him.

Erasmo’s daughter, Polissena Romagnola, married Tiberto Brandolini, the son of his old friend and military comrade, Brandolino, and they had two sons, Sigismondo and Leonello. Sigismondo, Erasmo’s grandson, was later considered good enough to marry into an important family in Piacenza.

The hill town of Narni is said to be close to the precise geographical centre of Italy
The hill town of Narni is said to be close to the
precise geographical centre of Italy
Travel tip:

Narni, where Erasmo was born, is a hill town in the region of Umbria that is close to the exact geographical centre of Italy and there is a stone in the town marking the precise spot. Erasmo’s birthplace is in Via Gattamelata, which has since been named after him, and there is now a plaque on the outside of the house. You can reach the birthplace from Via Garibaldi, or from the end of Vicolo degli Orti. Narni has retained its mediaeval appearance with stone buildings and narrow cobbled streets, but it is also famous for having the Ponte d’Augusto, one of the largest Roman bridges ever built. One arch of the bridge, which is still standing, is 30 metres (98 feet) high. The imaginary land of Narnia, featured in the works of author C S Lewis, is named after Narni, which was a place name he came across in an atlas that he looked at when he was a child.  

Donatello's bronze statue of Erasmo da Narni as he might have appeared on the battlefield
Donatello's bronze statue of Erasmo da Narni as
he might have appeared on the battlefield
Travel tip:

Donatello’s bronze equestrian statue of Gattamelata is to the left of the Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padua as you approach the church from the direction of Via del Santo. The statue was completed in 1453 and is believed to be the earliest Renaissance equestrian statue that still survives. It became a precedent for many later sculptures honouring military heroes. The soldier and his horse are both portrayed in life size by Donatello, instead of being larger than life as with previous, classical equestrian statues. Donatello had been commissioned by the family to create a monument in memory of the great Commander of the Armies of the Venetian Republic and the statue is mounted on a pedestal that resembles a sepulchre. Gattamelata appears in the style of a Roman emperor astride his horse. His head is uncovered and the expression on his face shows his wonderful fighting spirit. 

Also on this day:

1728: The birth of opera composer Niccolò Piccinni

1749: The birth of playwright and poet Count Vittorio Alfieri

1910: The birth of poet and psychiatrist Mario Tobino

1941: The birth of controversial archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

1957: The death of conductor Arturo Toscanini

1998: The death of interior and set designer Renzo Mongiardino


5 June 2021

Braccio da Montone – condottiero

Soldier of fortune briefly ruled Perugia

Braccio da Montone is considered one of the greatest of all condottieri
Braccio da Montone is considered
one of the greatest of all condottieri
Military leader Braccio da Montone, who is considered one of the greatest of the Italian condottieri who fought in the 14th and 15th centuries, died on this day in 1424.

He had a lifelong rivalry with another condottiero, Muzio Attendolo Sforza, and during the first quarter of the 15th century all the major Italian cities either hired Braccio or Sforza to carry out their military action.

The rapid movements of Braccio’s troops became legendary and he founded a military school, which became known as ‘the Braccesca’. This had a major impact on Italian warfare. Braccio’s men employed tactics such as speed, shock and the rapid rotation of small units on the battlefield.

Braccio was born Andrea Fortebraccio into a wealthy family in Perugia in 1368. He began his military career as a page, but after his family were exiled from Perugia and they lost the castle of Montone, he entered the company of the condottiero Alberico da Barbiano, which was where he first encountered Muzio Attendolo Sforza.

He fought for the Malatesta and Montefeltro families in Romagna and was injured during the siege of the castle of Fossombrone in 1391. In 1394 he was taken prisoner and held briefly in the Rocca of Umbertide, but he was released after a ransom was paid.

In 1398, Braccio was hired by Pope Boniface IX to fight in the war against Perugia. In 1406 he was fighting against Perugia again, along with other exiles who had joined his army and helped him ravage the Umbrian countryside. In 1407 the citizens of Rocca Contrada gave him the seigniory of the town in exchange for his support against the marquess of Fermo.

Braccio da Montone's great rival,  Muzio Attendolo Sforza
Braccio da Montone's great rival, 
Muzio Attendolo Sforza
The Antipope John XXIII assigned Braccio the fiefdom of Montone and the governorship of Bologna. He invaded and conquered most of Umbria with his sights set on the town of his birth, Perugia. At the battle of Sant’Egidio in 1416, his troops were victorious and Perugia was finally forced to open its gates to Braccio da Montone. Other Umbrian states then named him as their lord.

His conquest was legitimised by Pope Martin V in 1420, who granted him the title of papal vicar. He was then finally able to rule Perugia, the city that had exiled him and his family years before.

Braccio married Elisabetta Ermanni with whom he had three daughters. After her death in 1419, he married Niccolina Varano, who bore his first son, Carlo, in 1421. He later had a son out of wedlock, Oddo, who also became a condottiero.

In the 1420s, Braccio and Sforza found themselves on opposite sides again. Queen Joan II of Naples and King Alfonso V of Aragon were fighting against the Pope’s chosen ruler, Louis III of Anjou. Braccio was fighting for Queen Joan, who gave him the fiefdoms of Capua and Foggia, while Sforza headed the Angevin army.

The rival condottieri died within a few weeks of each other in 1424 during a campaign in Abruzzo. First Sforza drowned and then Braccio died a few days later after being wounded in the neck in battle against Sforza’s son, Francesco, who was to go on to become a famous condottiero and Duke of Milan.

The Pope had Braccio buried in unconsecrated ground because he had died while excommunicated, having chosen to fight for Queen Joan. But In 1432, Braccio’s nephew, Niccolò Fortebraccio, had his body moved to the Church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia. After Braccio’s death, the ownership of Umbria reverted to the papacy.

From its hilltop location, Montone offers some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside
From its hilltop location, Montone offers some
spectacular views of the surrounding countryside
Travel tip:

The village of Montone in Umbria, from which Braccio da Montone derived his name, is on top of a hill, about 40km (25 miles) from Perugia. Montone was named ‘uno dei 100 borghi piu belli d’Italia’, one of the 100 most beautiful villages in Italy. The Rocca di Braccio, Braccio’s castle, was restored after its destruction in 1478 by Pope Sixtus IV. The village was at the height of its splendour in the early part of the 15th century, when Braccio made it his fiefdom.

The Church of San Francesco al Prato, where Braccio da Montone is buried
The Church of San Francesco al Prato,
where Braccio da Montone is buried
Travel tip:

The Church of San Francesco al Prato, where Braccio da Montone was finally laid to rest, is in Piazza San Francesco at the end of Via dei Priori in Perugia. It was founded by Franciscans in the 13th century and was built in the shape of the upper Basilica of St Francis in Assisi. It became known as ‘the Pantheon of Perugia’ because it received the remains of the city’s most famous people, whose families commissioned works from such great artists as Perugino, Pinturicchio and Raffaello.

Also on this day:

1412: The birth of Ludovico III Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua

1830: The birth of soldier and brigand Carmine Crocco

1898: The birth of shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo

(Picture credit: Montone view by trolvag; Church of San Francesco al Prato by Demincob via Wikimedia Commons)