Showing posts with label Papal States. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Papal States. Show all posts

6 March 2020

Giovanni Battista Bugatti - executioner

An 18th century woodcut shows Mastro Titta showing off the head of a victim
An 18th century woodcut shows Mastro
Titta
showing off the head of a victim

‘Mastro Titta’ ended 516 lives in long career


Giovanni Battista Bugatti, who served as the official executioner for the Papal States from 1796 to 1864, was born on this day in 1779 in Senigallia, a port town on the Adriatic coast about 30km (19 miles) northwest of the city of Ancona.

Bugatti, who became known by the nickname Mastro Titta - a corruption of the Italian maestro di giustizia - master of justice - in Roman dialect, carried out 516 executions in his 68-year career.  He was the longest-serving executioner in the history of the Papal States.

The circumstances of him being granted such an important role in Roman life at the age of just 17 are not known.  What is documented is that while not carrying out his grim official duties he kept a shop selling painted umbrellas and other souvenirs next to his home in the Borgo district, in Vicolo del Campanile, a short distance from Castel Sant’Angelo, which served as a prison during the time of the Papal States.

It seemed an incongruous day job for someone whose very name struck a chill among Rome’s criminal fraternity. Yet he treated his responsibilities with the utmost solemnity, leaving his home early in the morning on the days an execution was to take place, dressed in his scarlet executioner’s coat, stopping off first at the church of Santa Maria in Traspontina for confession.

Bugatti would often offer the condemned man or woman a pinch of snuff
Bugatti would often offer the condemned
man or woman a pinch of snuff
For his own safety, he was not permitted to enter the central part of Rome except to carry out his official duties.  When Mastro Titta was spotted crossing the bridge it became a signal to Romans that an execution was due and crowds would gather.

Executions did not take place solely in Rome. Bugatti was required to travel to all parts of the Papal States to fulfil the terms of his service. Indeed, his first execution took place more than 150km (93 miles) north of the capital in the city of Foligno in Umbria. His first victim, on 22 March, 1796, was Nicola Gentilucci, who had been convicted of strangling and killing a priest, a coachman and of robbing two friars.

In Rome, many of the executions took place in Piazza del Popolo, in the shadow of the famous Egyptian obelisk, others on the Ponte Sant’Angelo, which links Castel Sant’Angelo with central Rome.  Both Lord Byron and Charles Dickens witnessed Bugatti’s work during visits to Rome and wrote about it for their English readers.

Bugatti himself called the executions justices and referred to the condemned as patients.  He bore no personal animosity towards his victims and would often offer them a pinch of snuff as a last experience of earthly pleasure. He was skilled in what he did, whether it was execution by hanging, beheading by axe, the administering of a fatal blow with a mallet or, latterly, with the guillotine, and prided himself on being both neat and quick.

Notices of impending executions were posted in churches, asking for prayers for the condemned, and so crowds would assemble. Fathers would bring their children so that they learned at an early age what fate might befall them as adults if they disobeyed the law.

Remarkably, Bugatti is said to have maintained his strength and the precision into his work even into old age and he was 85 when at last he agreed to retire, accepting a pension from Pope Pius IX.  He returned to Senigallia and lived a further five years.

Today, his blood-stained scarlet coat, plus a selection of axes and guillotines, are on display at Rome’s Museo Criminologico - Museum of Criminology - in Via del Gonfalone.

The Ponte Sant'Angelo, which connects Castel Sant'Angelo with the centre of Rome across the Tiber river
The Ponte Sant'Angelo, which connects Castel Sant'Angelo
with the centre of Rome across the Tiber river 
Travel tip:

Castel Sant’Angelo, the towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, on the banks of the Tiber, was originally commissioned by the Roman emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. It was later used by the popes as a fortress, castle and prison, and is now a museum. It was once the tallest building in Rome.  Hadrian also built the Pons Aelius – now Ponte Sant’Angelo – which provides a scenic approach to the mausoleum from the centre of Rome across the Tiber. Baroque statues of angels were later added, lining each side of the bridge.



The beach at Senigallia, with its art nouveau pier and  pavilion, the Rotonda al Mare
The beach at Senigallia, with its art nouveau pier and
pavilion, the Rotonda al Mare
Travel tip:

Badly damaged in both world wars and by an earthquake in between, the Adriatic port of Senigallia has a modern look today but has a long history. It takes its name from a third century Roman settlement Sena Gallica.  Captured and recaptured many times by opposing sides during the Guelph and Ghibelline war, it was the scene of a bloodbath early in the 16th century as Cesare Borgia routed some of his disloyal supporters. It became the property of both the Medici and Della Rovere families before the Papal States took charge.  In more recent years, it has become an important holiday resort but retains some historic attractions, such as the well-preserved Gothic Rocca Roveresca, which was restored in the 15the century.

29 March 2019

Castruccio Castracani - condottiero

Castruccio Castracani was a career soldier who ruled Lucca for 12 years
Castruccio Castracani was a career
soldier who ruled Lucca for 12 years

Mercenary soldier who ruled Lucca 


Castruccio Castracani, a condottiero who ruled his home city of Lucca from 1316 to 1328, was born on this day in 1281.

His relatively short life - he died at the age of 47 - was taken up with a series of battles, some fought on behalf of others, but latterly for his own ends in the conflict between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines that dominated medieval Italy as part of the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.

Castruccio's story inspired a biography by Niccolò Machiavelli and later a novel by Mary Shelley.

Born Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli, he was from a Ghibelline family and therefore a supporter of the Holy Roman Emperor in opposition to the Guelphs. He was exiled from Lucca at an early age with his parents and others by the Guelphs, then in the ascendancy.

Orphaned at 19, he lived initially in Pisa before moving to England, where he lived for some years and displayed a skill in the use of weapons that earned him victory in some tournaments and won the favour of King Edward I.

A scene from the important Battle of Montecatini in 1315, in which Castruccio masterminded a Ghibelline victory
A scene from the important Battle of Montecatini in 1315,
in which Castruccio masterminded a Ghibelline victory
However, after committing a murder, even though it was for reasons of honour, he was forced to leave England and went to France.

There he served as a condottiero - a kind of mercenary military leader - under Philip of France in Flanders. As commander of the cavalry, he distinguished himself in the clash of Arras and in the defence of Thérouanne in the Flanders War.

After a few years he returned to Italy, where he stayed in Verona and Venice. Later, he fought for the Visconti in Lombardy, and in 1313 under the Ghibelline chief, Uguccione della Faggiuola, Lord of Pisa.

When the German king Henry VII entered Italy to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor, Castruccio supported him alongside Uguccione and in 1314 led the Ghibelline forces back to Lucca, over which Uguccione was given power.

He fought as commander of a part of the Ghibelline army at the Battle of Montecatini in 1315, in which, with the help of the emperor's soldiers, he was the main architect of the victory over the Florentine Guelph League.

A drawing of Castruccio, kept at the  Biblioteca Statale in Lucca
A drawing of Castruccio, kept at the
Biblioteca Statale in Lucca
A rivalry developed between the two leaders, however, which at one point saw Castruccio imprisoned by Uguccione, pending execution. However, following a popular uprising in Lucca and Pisa, Uguccione had to flee, Castruccio was freed and in 1316 acclaimed Captain General of the city of Lucca.

In 1320 the emperor Frederick III appointed Castruccio imperial vicar of Lucca, Versilia, and Lunigiana. When the emperor Louis IV entered Italy to be crowned in Rome, Castruccio became one of his most active advisors.

In 1325 he defeated the Florentines at Altopascio, and was appointed by the emperor Duke of Lucca, Pistoia, Volterra and Luni. Two years later he captured Pisa, of which he was also made imperial vicar. He was by now one of the most powerful men in Italy.

Louis appointed him Count of Latran, Duke of Lucca, in 1324 with rights of succession for his heirs, and a senator of Rome.

But, subsequently, his relations with Louis became less friendly and he was afterwards excommunicated by Pope John XXII in the interests of the Guelphs.

The title page from Mary Shelley's novel, published in 1923
The title page from Mary Shelley's
novel, published in 1923
Castruccio died in Lucca on September 3, 1328, stricken with a sudden malarial fever as he prepared to take up arms against Florence. His left his empire disorganized and easy prey for the Florentines, who soon recaptured most of his holdings.

The story of Castruccio is said to have inspired Machiavelli, who published his biography, entitled La vita di Castruccio Castracani da Lucca, in 1520.

Three centuries later, the English writer Mary Shelley published a novel, in 1823, called Valperga: The Life and Adventures of Castruccio, Prince of Lucca, in which the condottiere’s armies threaten the fictional fortress of Valperga, governed by Countess Euthanasia, the woman he loves, who faces a dilemma over whether to choose him or political liberty.

It was taken at the time to be a love story but was later recognised as a sophisticated commentary on the right of autonomously governed communities to political liberty in the face of imperialistic encroachment.

More than four kilometres of walls, upon which work began in 1513, surround the city of Lucca
More than four kilometres of walls, upon which work
began in 1513, surround the city of Lucca
Travel tip:

Lucca is situated in western Tuscany, just 30km (19 miles) inland from Viareggio on the coast and barely 20km (12 miles) from Pisa, with its international airport.  It is often overlooked by travellers to the area in favour of Pisa’s Leaning Tower and the art treasures of Florence, 80km (50 miles) to the east, yet has much to recommend within its majestic walls, where visitors can stroll along narrow cobbled streets into a number of beautiful squares, with lots of cafes and restaurants for those content to soak up the ambiance, but also a wealth of churches, museums and galleries for those seeking a fix of history and culture.   The Renaissance walls, still intact, are an attraction in their own right, providing a complete 4.2km (2.6 miles) circuit of the city popular with walkers and cyclists.


The Rocca Ariostesca at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana in Tuscany, about 50km (31 miles) north of Lucca
The Rocca Ariostesca at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana in
Tuscany, about 50km (31 miles) north of Lucca 
Travel tip:

Today, there remain many historical relics, especially fortifications and castles, that are linked with Castruccio Castracani. These include the Rocca Ariostesca at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana in the Lunigiana area, which Castruccio had substantially enlarged in the early 14th century, the fortress at Serravalle Pistoiese, the fortress of Sarzanello, near Sarzana, the Tower and Arch of Castruccio Castracani at Montopoli in Val d’Arno and the Rocca Arrighina, named after his son Arrigo, in Pietrasanta. The Augusta Fortress he built in Lucca in 1322, which had 29 towers and four access gates, with one side attached to the city walls, was demolished in 1370 on the orders of the Council of Elders. The Palazzo degli Anziani was built in its place.

More reading:

Federico da Montefeltro - the art-loving condottiero

Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, last of the great condottieri

How the Battle of Meloria sparked the decline of Pisa

Also on this day:

1825: The birth of the blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno, advocate for poor

1888: The birth of aviation pioneer Enea Bossi

1939: The birth of actor Terence Hill, star of hit TV show Don Matteo

(Picture credit: Rocca Ariostesca by Sailko; via Wikimedia Commons)


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13 December 2018

Pope Sixtus V

Pontiff who cleaned up and rebuilt Rome and reformed church


Pope Sixtus V introduced a programme of measures to tackle Rome's problems
Pope Sixtus V introduced a programme of
measures to tackle Rome's problems
Pope Sixtus V, whose five-year reign was one of the most effective of any pontiff in history, was born Felice Peretti on this day in 1521 in Grottammare, a coastal resort in the Marche region that was then part of the Papal States.

Succeeding Pope Gregory XIII in 1585, Sixtus V inherited an administration that was riddled with corruption and a city of Rome that to a large extent fallen into the hands of thieves and criminal gangs.

He responded with a series of measures that brought about profound change with far-reaching consequences for the city and the wider country, making his mark on a scale that few pontiffs had matched before or since.

As well as tackling crime with brutal ruthlessness, he introduced significant reforms in the administration of the Catholic Church and commissioned lavish building projects that changed Rome from a medieval city to a one of Baroque grandeur.

The son of a poor farm hand in Grottammare, the future pope entered a monastery when he was nine years old and joined the Order of Friars Minor three years later. His familiarity with adversity made him resourceful and strong.

After being ordained, he impressed many with his preaching and was a popular choice as pope, attaining office at the age of 64 following Gregory XIII’s death.

Pope Gregory XIII left Rome's finances in a parlous state, while crime gripped the city
Pope Gregory XIII left Rome's finances in a
parlous state, while crime gripped the city
He was determined from the start to be remembered as a pope who left Rome and the Church in a much better state than the one he inherited.

The brigands and criminal gangs who held the city in their grip were his first targets, and he used the full strength of his papal forces to crush them, beginning a clampdown that would eventually see as many as 27,000 criminals and their mob bosses rounded up an executed.

As a deterrent to others, Sixtus V would regularly have the heads of executed brigands placed on top of stakes around the city.

The result was that within two years Rome was the safest city in Europe, the countryside was free of bandits and the economy prospered.

Sixtus tackled his reforms of the central administration of the church with similar zeal. By a papal bull - edict - issued in 1586,  he redefined the Sacred College of Cardinals by setting the number of cardinals at no more than 70, a limit that stayed in place until the pontificate of John XXIII (1958–63).

In 1588 he overhauled the Curia - the government of the Catholic Church - in its entirety, establishing 15 congregations - departments - in a structure that also remained substantially unchanged until the 1960s.

Pope Sixtus V had an estimated 27,000 criminals put to death in a ruthless purge
Pope Sixtus V had an estimated 27,000
criminals put to death in a ruthless purge
In his crackdown on waste and corruption, he introduced harsh financial policies, which included the sale of offices, the creation of new loans, regulation of prices and the imposition of new taxes.

Sixtus V was determined to refill the treasury, although he could hardly be accused of sitting on the new wealth he created.

Turning his attention to the urban plan of Rome, he ordered the creation of broad new streets that were the beginnings of how the map of the city looks today. The Porta del Popolo, where he placed an obelisk in the piazza, the Via Sistina and Via delle Quattro Fontane all owe their existence to Sixtus V.

The Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed after he ordered the architect Giacomo della Porta to finish what had been a ten-year plan of works inside 24 months.  Sixtus V also built the loggia of Sixtus in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano and the chapel of the Praesepe in Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as commissioning repairs to the Quirinal, Lateran and Vatican palaces.

He restored Rome’s four Egyptian obelisks, including that in St Peter's Square.

Sixtus V restored the aqueduct of Septimus Severus - called the Acqua Felice after his baptismal name - in addition to the Acqua Vergine, which flows into the Trevi Fountain, with the purpose of bringing clean water into a less inhabited area and encouraging people to live there. The Palazzo Barberini and the Triton fountain were later made possible thanks to Sixtus V’s aqueduct.

Sixtus V placed a statue of St Paul atop the Column of Marcus Aurelius, built in 193AD
Sixtus V placed a statue of St Paul atop the
Column of Marcus Aurelius, built in 193AD
Not everything he did was popular. He displaced many residents by razing buildings to make way for his new streets and showed little appreciation for antiquities. He envisioned converting the Colosseum into a wool factory with homes for its workers, and turned the Column of Marcus Aurelius and Trajan’s column into pedestals for statues of St. Peter and Paul.

In his foreign policies, Sixtus V proposed the conquest of Egypt and supported King Philip II of Spain in his planned invasion of England, with ambitions to excommunicate Elizabeth I, although in the event none of those things happened.

Sixtus V died on August 27, 1590, the last pope to have used the name Sixtus.  He was disliked by many of his subjects but history has recognized him as a significant figure in the Counter Reformation, and a pope who took on great enterprises and made significant achievements. He also left five million crowns in the coffers of what had been a bankrupt treasury.

The remains of the 16th century fortress stand over the
coastal resort of Grottammare, where Pope Sixtus V was born
Travel tip:

Grottammare is one of the beach resorts that make up the Marche region’s Riviera delle Palme, a stretch of coastline around the larger town of San Benedetto del Tronto. It is notable for a fine, sandy beach but also for the well preserved remains of a fortress overlooking the town that was built following the sacking of Grottammare by the Montenegran Princes of Dulcigno in 1525.  The centre of the older part of the town is Piazza Peretti, a square enclosed by the Church of San Giovanni Battista, the Town Hall, Municipal Tower and Teatro dell'Arancio.  Grottammare takes pleasure in celebrating its geographical position on the 43º parallel, the line of latitude that also passes through the cities of Assisi (Italy), Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Lourdes (France), Medjugorje (Bosnia), Vladivostok (Russia), Sapporo (Japan), Buffalo and Milwaukee (United States).


The Fountain of Moses at the end of the Aqua Felice aqueduct into Rome
The Fountain of Moses at the end of the Aqua
Felice aqueduct into Rome
Travel tip:

The Aqua Felice was the first aqueduct built during the Roman Renaissance, more than 1,000 years after the ancient aqueducts in Rome had been cut by invading Goths. Sixtus V commissioned his favourite architect, Domenico Fontana, who came up with the Fountain of Moses which also serves as the terminus of the Aqua Felice. Although the fountain, sometimes known as ‘Fat Moses’, has never been particularly well-liked, it is seen as representative of the great urban renewal that took place in Rome during the Renaissance, particularly under Sixtus V.


More reading:

Urban VIII, the pope whose extravagance led to disgrace

Pius V, the pope for excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I of England for heresy

The kidnapping of Pope Boniface VIII

Also on this day:

The Festa di Santa Lucia

1466: The death of Renaissance sculptor Donatello

1720: The birth of playwright Carlo Gozzi


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15 November 2018

The murder of Pellegrino Rossi

Political assassination opened way to creation of Roman Republic


A magazine illustration depicting the murder of  Pellegrino Rossi at the Palazzo della Cancelleria
A magazine illustration depicting the murder of
Pellegrino Rossi at the Palazzo della Cancelleria
One of the key events during the revolutionary upheaval of 1848 in Italy took place on this day in that year when the politician Count Pellegrino Rossi was murdered at the Palazzo della Cancelleria, the seat of the government of the Papal States in Rome.

The event precipitated turmoil in Rome and led eventually to the formation of the short-lived Roman Republic.

Rossi was the Minister of the Interior in the government of Pope Pius IX and as such was responsible for a programme of unpopular reforms, underpinned by his conservative liberal stance, which gave only the well-off the right to vote and did nothing to address the economic and social disruption created by industrialisation.

Street violence, stirred up by secret societies such as Giuseppe Mazzini’s Young Italy movement, had been going on for weeks in Rome and Rossi had been declared an enemy of the people in meetings as far away as Turin and Florence.

Rossi's reforms had failed to address the social and economic problems besetting Rome
Rossi's reforms had failed to address the social
and economic problems besetting Rome
There was also anger in Rome at Pius IX’s decision to withdraw the support of the Papal Army from the First Italian War of Independence, being fought between the the Kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont) and the Austrian Empire.

On November 15, 1848, Rossi arrived at the Palazzo della Cancelleria to present his plan for a new constitutional order to the legislative assembly. He was warned ahead of the meeting that an attempt would be made on his life but he defied the threat with the words: “I defend the cause of the pope, and the cause of the pope is the cause of God. I must and will go.”

However, as he climbed the stairs leading to the assembly hall, an individual stepped forward and struck him with a cane. Rossi turned towards his attacker and as he did so was set upon by another assailant, who drove a dagger into his neck.

The murderer was said to be Luigi Brunetti, the elder son of Angelo Brunetti, a fervent democrat, acting on the instigation of Pietro Sterbini, a journalist and revolutionary who was a friend of Mazzini. Though members of the Civic Guard were in the courtyard when the attack took place, no one attempted to arrest the count’s killer and when crowds gathered later at the house of Rossi's widow, they chanted ‘Blessed is the hand that stabbed Rossi’.

Giuseppe Mazzini was one of the leaders of the Roman Republic
Giuseppe Mazzini was one of the
leaders of the Roman Republic
The murder spurred the secret societies to foment an uprising against the papal government. The following day, Pius IX was besieged inside the Palazzo del Quirinale by an unruly mob. The pope’s Swiss Guard was able to hold back the mob for a time but when it seemed the crowd was about to disperse, up to 1,000 members of the Civic Guard, the police, and other soldiers marched into the palace’s piazza and opened fire on the palace, including with cannons. Knowing resistance was useless, Pius IX agreed to negotiate with revolutionaries.

Demands were made for a democratic government, social reforms and a declaration of war against the Empire of Austria.  Pius IX had little option but to appoint a liberal ministry, but he refused to abdicate and forbade the government to pass any laws in his name.

In the event, on the evening of November 24, with the help of close allies and his personal attendant, Pius IX escaped from the Palazzo del Quirinale disguised as an ordinary priest, slipping through one of the gates of the city and boarding a carriage that was to take him to Gaeta, a city 120km (75 miles) south of Rome, where the King of the Two Sicilies had promised him a refuge.

Rossi was commemorated with a statue in his native Carrara in Tuscany
Rossi was commemorated with a statue
in his native Carrara in Tuscany
It meant that, for the first time in history, Rome was without a government. Into the void stepped Mazzini, his supporter Aurelio Saffi and the popular Roman activist Carlo Armellini, who formed a triumvirate at the head of a Roman Republic, which was declared officially on February 9, 1849.

The republic put forward some progressive ideas, including religious tolerance and an end to capital punishment, but in the event it was a short-lived revolution. Ironically, it was crushed by a former ally, Napoleon III of France, who had once participated in an uprising against the Papal States but who now, under pressure from the Catholic Church in France, felt compelled to send an army to restore Pius XI to power.

The Romans put up a fight, aided by a Republican army led by Garibaldi, but the city fell in late June and with it the Republic.


The Palazzo della Cancelleria, built between 1489 and 1513, is thought to be the oldest Renaissance palace in Rome
The Palazzo della Cancelleria, built between 1489 and
1513, is thought to be the oldest Renaissance palace in Rome


Travel tip:

The Palazzo della Cancelleria, which is situated between Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Campo de' Fiori, is a Renaissance palace, probably the earliest Renaissance palace to be built in Rome. It is the work of the architect Donato Bramante between 1489 and 1513, initially as a residence for Cardinal Raffaele Riario, who was the Camerlengo - treasurer - of the Holy Roman Church under Pope Sixtus V. It evolved as the seat of the Chancellery of the Papal States.  The Roman Republic used it as their parliament building.

Rome hotels by Booking.com

The Palazzo del Quirinale has been the residence in Rome of 30 popes, four kings and 12 presidents
The Palazzo del Quirinale has been the residence in Rome
of 30 popes, four kings and 12 presidents
Travel tip:

The Palazzo del Quirinale was built in 1583 by Pope Gregory XIII as a summer residence and served both as a papal residence and the offices responsible for the civil government of the Papal States until 1870. When, in 1871, Rome became the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy, the palace became the official residence of the kings of Italy, although some monarchs, notably King Victor Emmanuel III (1900–1946), lived in a private residence elsewhere. When the monarchy was abolished in 1946, the Palazzo del Quirinale became the official residence and workplace for the presidents of the Italian Republic. So far, it has housed 30 popes, four kings and 12 presidents.

3 August 2018

Antonio da Sangallo the Younger - Architect

Talented Florentine was commissioned by the Popes


The Church of Santa Maria de Loreto in Rome was Sangallo's first major commission
The Church of Santa Maria de Loreto in
Rome was Sangallo's first major commission
Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who left his mark on Rome during the Renaissance, died on this day in 1546 in Terni in Umbria.

Sangallo was the chief architect on St Peter’s Basilica from 1520 onwards and built many other beautiful churches and palaces in the city and throughout the Papal States.

He was born Antonio Cordiani in Florence in 1484. His grandfather had been a woodworker and his uncles, Giuliano and Antonio da Sangallo, were architects.

The young man followed his uncles to Rome to pursue a career in architecture and ended up taking the name Sangallo himself.

He became an assistant to Donato Bramante and started by preparing sketches for his master.

Recognising his talent, Bramante gave Sangallo projects to complete with no more than an outline of the design and motifs.

Sangallo’s first major commission was for the Church of Santa Maria di Loreto in 1507.

He came to the attention of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III, and was commissioned to design the Farnese Palace in Piazza Farnese and a palace and church in the Cardinal’s home town of Gradoli.

Sangallo designed the Palazzo Farnese on behalf of the future Pope Paul III
Sangallo designed the Palazzo Farnese
on behalf of the future Pope Paul III
Sangallo designed the Palazzo Baldassini for Melchiore Baldassini and was responsible for the final design of the Villa Madama for Cardinal Giulio de' Medici.

Having acquired a reputation in Rome as a master architect, he was appointed by Pope Leo X to oversee the construction of St Peter’s Basilica.

He was also responsible for some inspired engineering feats, such as building the foundations for the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini on the banks of the Tiber, following Jacopo Sansovino’s design, which called for the church to extend into the river.

He shored up the foundations for the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto and did similar work on the Vatican loggias. His reinforcements are still standing today.

His last engineering project was the draining of the Rieti Valley. Because of the marshy environment he was working in, Sangallo contracted malaria and died before finishing the task.

When Cardinal Farnese became Pope Paul III in 1534 he asked for the Palazzo Farnese design to be expanded. In 1546 during the construction he became dissatisfied with Sangallo’s original design for the cornice and held a competition for a new design, which was won by Michelangelo.

At the time it was said that Sangallo had died from shame soon afterwards, but his biographer, Giorgio Vasari, later wrote that he was an excellent architect whose achievements deserved to be celebrated. Antonio Sangallo the Younger was buried in St Peter’s Basilica.

Sangallo's construction of St Patrick's Well in Orvieto is considered one of his most accomplished engineering feats
Sangallo's construction of St Patrick's Well in Orvieto is
considered one of his most accomplished engineering feats
Travel tip:

One of Sangallo’s amazing engineering feats was St Patrick’s Well in Orvieto, built for Pope Clement VII. Ramps around a central open shaft allowed oxen carrying water to do down one of the ramps and up the other without having to turn round. Despite the depth of the well, the ramps were well lit through windows cut into the centre section.

The Scala Regia was built by Sangallo and later restored by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
The Scala Regia was built by Sangallo and later restored
by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Travel tip:

Sangallo was capomaestro in charge of the day-to-day construction of St Peter’s Basilica from 1513 until about 1536. A wooden model of his design for the basilica is still in existence. He also worked on the Vatican apartments, building the Pauline Chapel and the Scala Regia, the main staircase to the Apostolic Chapel. Therefore it was fitting that the architect was allowed to be buried in St Peter’s.

More reading:

The Renaissance pope who turned Rome into the cultural heart of Europe

How Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted Rome

The story of La Pietà - Michelangelo's ultimate masterpiece

Also on this day:

1486: The birth of Imperia Cognati - courtesan

1778: Milan's Teatro alla Scala opens for business

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9 April 2018

Treaty of Lodi

When the battles stopped (briefly) in northern Italy


The Peace of Lodi required the map of 15th century Italy to be redrawn
The Peace of Lodi required the map of
15th century Italy to be redrawn
The Treaty of Lodi, which brought peace between rival states in the north of Italy for 40 years, was signed on this day in 1454 at Lodi in Lombardy.

Also known as the Peace of Lodi, it established a balance of power among Venice, Milan, Naples, Florence and the Papal States.

Venice had been faced with a threat to its commercial empire from the Ottoman Turks and was eager for peace and Francesco Sforza, who had been proclaimed Duke by the people of Milan, was also keen for an end to the costly battles.

By the terms of the peace, Sforza was recognised as ruler of Milan and Venice regained its territory in northern Italy, including Bergamo and Brescia in Lombardy.

The treaty was signed at the Convent of San Domenico in Via Tito Fanfulla in Lodi, where a plaque today marks the building, no longer a convent.

Milan’s allies, Florence, Mantua and Genoa, and Venice’s allies, Naples, Savoy and Montferrat, had no choice but to agree.

A plaque marks the building in Lodi where the treaty was signed
A 25-year mutual defensive pact was agreed to maintain existing boundaries and an Italian league, Lega Italica, was set up.

The states promised to defend one another in the event of an attack and to support a contingent of soldiers to provide military aid. The league was soon accepted by almost all the Italian states.

It was not entirely effective and individual states continued to pursue their own interests against others, but the peace lasted until the French invaded the Italian peninsula in 1494, initiating the Italian Wars.

Lodi's main square, Piazza della Vittoria
Lodi's main square, Piazza della Vittoria
Travel tip:

Lodi, where the treaty was signed, is a city in Lombardy, to the south of Milan and on the right bank of the River Adda. The main square, Piazza della Vittoria, has been listed by the Touring Club of Italy as among the most beautiful squares in Italy with its porticoes on all four sides. Nearby Piazza Broletto has a 14th century marble baptismal font from Verona.


The imposing walls of Bergamo's Citta Alta are a legacy of  the city's time under Venetian rule
The imposing walls of Bergamo's Citta Alta are a
legacy of  the city's time under Venetian rule 
Travel tip:

Bergamo in Lombardy, which was handed over to Venice under the terms of the Treaty of Lodi, is a fascinating, historic city with two distinct centres. The Città Alta (upper town) is a beautiful walled city with buildings that date back to medieval times. The elegant Città Bassa (lower town) still has some buildings that date back to the 15th century, but more imposing and elaborate architecture was added in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Città Alta’s magnificent walls were built by the Venetians between 1561 and 1588 to make it a fortified city and to protect their trade routes. Bergamo continued to be ruled by the Venetians until the 18th century when the French took over after the Napoleonic Wars.


More reading:

The devastating 1527 Sack of Rome in the Italian Wars

The end of the Venetian republic

How Lorenzo the Magnificent helped preserve the Peace of Lodi

Also on this day:

1933: The birth of Gian Maria Volonté

1948: The birth of '60s pop star Patty Pravo


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