Showing posts with label Imola. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Imola. Show all posts

14 April 2017

Girolamo Riario - papal military leader

Assassinated after failed attempt to unseat Medici family

Girolamo Riario
Girolamo Riario
Girolamo Riario, the 15th century governor of Imola and Forlì who was part of a major plot to displace the powerful Medici family as rulers of Florence, was assassinated on this day in 1488.

Riario, a nephew of Pope Sixtus IV who had appointed him Captain General of the Church, was unpopular with his subjects as a result of imposing high taxes, but his murder was thought to be an attempt by the noble Orsi family of Forlì to seize control of the city.

Two members of the family, Checco and Ludovico, led a group of assassins armed with swords into government palace, where Riario was set upon.  Despite the presence of guards, Riario was stabbed and slashed repeatedly.  Eventually, his dead body was left in a local piazza, surrounded by a crowd celebrating his demise, as the Orsi brothers and their gang looted the palace.

A decade earlier, Riario, who had been appointed Lord of Imola by Sixtus IV, joined with Francesco Salviati, whose family were the Papal bankers in Florence, and members of the Pazzi family in a plot to assassinate the ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and his brother, Giuliano.

he Rocca di Ravaldino, a stronghold of Riario's power
The Rocca di Ravaldino, a stronghold of Riario's power
The Pazzi were another important family in Florence and like many other families were resentful of Lorenzo’s despotic rule. Although Florence flourished, and his patronage of the arts was so important to the Renaissance, he maintained his power largely through bribery, threats and strategic marriages.

Riario’s involvement was essentially on behalf of his uncle, Sixtus IV, who saw Lorenzo – also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent – as a threat to the Papal States.

It was Lorenzo’s attempt to buy Imola – a small town but important as a stronghold on the border between the Tuscan empire and the Papal States – from its owners, the Sforza family of Milan, that led to Riario being installed as governer.  Lorenzo had offered the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, a sizeable sum for but Sixtus IV gazumped him, offering a deal by which Caterina Sforza, the Duke’s illegitimate daughter, would marry Riario, thus forming a strategic alliance.  The Pazzi family had financed the purchase.

The assignation attempt took place in Florence’s Duomo on April 26, 1478, during High Mass.  Giuliano was killed but Lorenzo escaped with only minor injuries. A simultaneous attempt to seize key government buildings in Florence was foiled and most of the key figures in the plot were captured and killed.  Riario, who would have been placed in charge of a new government in Florence had the plot succeeded, managed to get away. Salviati was not so lucky and was hung within an hour of his capture.

Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Nonetheless, Riario continued to climb the ladders of power. In 1480, the pope made him Count of Forlì. He built the fortress of Rocca di Ravaldino, one of the strategically most important strongholds of the Romagna, and at the same time rebuilt much of Imola.

While his uncle remained pope, Riario and Caterina lived for the most part in Rome. As commander of the papal army, Riario wielded much power, although his wife had an increasingly strong influence over what he did. When Sixtus IV died, it was Caterina who ordered his troops to seize Castel Sant' Angelo to put pressure on the cardinals to elect a candidate who would work in accordance with the Riario interests. After 10 days of chaos in Rome, she had to be persuaded by Riario to withdraw in order for the conclave to begin.

However, the cardinals did not elect a new pope sympathetic to the Riarios, quite the contrary, going for Giovanni Battista Cybo, an old opponent, who became Pope Innocent VIII. He recognised Girolamo as Lord of Imola and Forlì and Captain-General of the papal forces but effectively allowed him no power.  It was his illegitimate son, Franceschetto, whom the Orsi family wanted to replace him.

After Girolamo’s death, Caterina was locked up, along with her children, but tricked her way out, promising to persuade the castellan, Tommaso Feo, to give up his defence of the Rocca di Ravaldino, which the Orsis had been unable to storm.

The Orsis had her children as hostages but Caterina reneged on their deal nonetheless.  From within the Rocca, she threatened dire consequences for the Orsi attackers if they dared touch the children and they fled, after which Girolamo’s son, Ottaviano, was made Lord of Forli with Caterina as his regent.

Imola's Rocca Sforzesca
Imola's Rocca Sforzesca

Travel tip:

The city of Imola of today is part of the large metropolitan area of Bologna, in the Emilia-Romagna region. The castle, the Rocca Sforzesca, is well preserved, and is nowadays the home of an internationally respected piano academy and the Cinema d’Este, which shows films in July and August. The city is best known today for its motor racing circuit, which used to host the Grand Prix of San Marino on behalf of the nearby independent republic.

The Abbey of San Mercuriale in Forlì
The Abbey of San Mercuriale in Forlì

Travel tip:

With a population of almost 120,000, Forlì is a prosperous agricultural and industrial city with a beautiful central square, Piazza Saffi, which is named after Aurelio Saffi, a radical republican who was a prominent figure in the Risorgimento. Its major attractions include the Abbey of San Mercuriale and the Rocca di Ravaldino, the strategic fortress built by Girolamo Riario and sometimes known as the Rocca di Caterina Sforza.

More reading:

How Caterina's son, Giovanni, became the last of the great condottieri

Cosimo - the Florentine banker who founded the Medici dynasty

Priest Girolamo Savonarola's war on Renaissance 'excesses'

Also on this day:

1920: The birth of Lamberto dalla Costa, Italy's first Olympic bobsleigh champion

(Picture credits: Rocca di Ravaldino by AC2BR3L; Rocca Sforzesca by Ruben alexander; Abbey of San Mercuriale by Perkele; all via Wikimedia Commons)


2 February 2016

Antonio Maria Valsalva – anatomist

Work by brilliant professor benefits astronauts today

A line engraving of Antonio Maria Valsava by Romuald Ceracchi
A line engraving of Antonio Maria Valsalva
by Romuald Ceracchi
Antonio Maria Valsalva, a much respected anatomist, died on this day in 1723 in Bologna.

Valsalva’s research focused on the anatomy of the ear and his discoveries were so important that a piece of equipment used by astronauts today is named after him.

The Valsalva device in spacesuits allows astronauts to equalise the pressure in their ears by performing the Valsalva manoeuvre inside the suit without using their hands to block their nose. It has also been used for other purposes, such as to remove moisture from the face.

Valsalva was born in Imola in 1666. He received an education in humanities, mathematics and natural sciences before going on to study medicine and philosophy at Bologna University. He later became Professor of Anatomy at Bologna University.

His main interest was the middle and inner ear and it was Valsalva who coined the term Eustachian tube for a part within the ear. It was named after the 16th century anatomist Bartolomeo Eustachi who had described the tube in his written work.

The Valsalva manoeuvre, the forcible exhalation against a closed airway, often practised by people to equalise pressure between the ears when on an aeroplane, is still used by doctors today to help them with diagnosis in certain situations.

Valsalva’s most substantial contribution to the field of medicine was his detailed, illustrated work about the anatomy, physiology and pathology of the ear, published in 1704.

Valsalva died after a stroke in 1723 and was buried in the church of San Giovanni in Monte in Bologna.

Imola's well-preserved Rocca Sforzesca dates back to the 14th century, when control was disputed by powerful families
Imola's well-preserved Rocca Sforzesca dates back to the 14th
century, when control was disputed by powerful families
Travel tip:

Imola, where Antonio Valsalva was born, is a City in the province of Bologna in Emilia-Romagna. It dates back to Roman times and there are many fascinating historic buildings to see in the centre. The castle, the Rocca Sforzesca, is well preserved, and is nowadays the home of an internationally respected piano academy and the Cinema d’Este, which shows films in July and August. Imola is also home to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, a famous automobile racing circuit. 

Bologna's historic university, founded in 1088, is the oldest in the world
Bologna's historic university, founded in 1088, is the
oldest in the world
Travel tip:

Bologna University was founded in 1088 and is the oldest in the world. There is a portrait of Valsalva in the university’s oldest surviving building, the Archiginnasio, which is now a library. It is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and on Saturdays from 9am to 2pm and is just a short walk from Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica di San Petronio in the centre of the city.

More reading:

The founding father of Italian psychiatry, Andrea Verga

The professor who turned pathology into a science

Samantha Cristoforetti, Italy's firsy female astronaut

Also on this day:

1891: The birth of Sardinia's first prime minister of Italy, Antonio Segni

1925: The birth of Olympic showjumper Raimondo D’Inzeo 

(Picture credits: Sforza Castle at Imola by Ruben Alexander via Creative Commons)