BECK index

Milan and Venice 1400-1517

by Sanderson Beck

Milan and the Sforzas
Venice 1400-53
Venice and the Turks 1453-95
Venice and Wars 1495-1517
Genoa, Pisa, and Siena 1400-1517
Bernardino of Siena

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Milan and the Sforzas

Milan and the Visconti 1250-1400

While marching to Rome to be crowned emperor, Ruprecht III of the Palatinate was defeated so badly at Brescia on October 21, 1401 by the Milanese that he returned to Germany. Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti defeated Bologna on June 26, 1402, and he attacked Florence; but he died of the plague on August 13. Gian was succeeded by his 14-year-old son Gian Maria Visconti. Filippo Maria was count of Pavia, and the illegitimate Gabriello Maria governed Crema and Pisa. People believed that the Duchess Caterina was Count Francesco Barbavara’s lover, and they appointed a new council. She summoned them, had one or two decapitated, and imprisoned the rest. Anarchy spread in the duchy of Milan, and she hanged malcontents. Gian Maria organized a Ghibelline council and made war against his mother Caterina. In August 1404 she was put under arrest in her own castle, and she was alleged to have been poisoned in October.

The state was falling apart. Filippo Maria Visconti lost Pavia to the Beccaria; Facino Cane ruled Alessandria; Georgio Benzoni held Crema; the Colonni governed Trezzo; Cavalcabo ruled Cremona; Rusca was despot in Como; and Lodi was ruled by the son of a butcher. Generals captured cities and let their men plunder them. Lombardy was so ruined that Filippo was able to reconquer it fairly easily. Duke Gian Maria was busy punishing rebels. Facino Cane extended his rule to Pavia on behalf of Filippo and became regent of Milan. Facino became ill in 1412. On May 16 Gian Maria was killed by Milanese nobles on the way to church a few hours before Facino died.

Duke Filippo Maria Visconti (r. 1412-47) overcame a conspiracy, executed his brother’s assassins, and married Facino’s widow Beatrice Lascaris, who was twice his age. In 1418 he accused her of adultery and had her and the suspected lover executed. He put Francesco Bussone da Carmagnola in command, and he subdued Lombardy, expelling all the inhabitants of Piacenza. Genoa submitted in 1421 as did several cities the next year. However, at the St. Gothard pass 3,000 Swiss peasants defended their freedom against an invasion by 80,000 Italians. Venice and Florence could not be conquered either. Francesco Sforza led the Milanese army against Venice in 1431, and the next year he was betrothed to Filippo’s 6-year-old daughter Bianca, whom he married on October 24, 1441. In November 1443 Sforza and the Venetian army defeated the armies of Pope Eugene IV and Milan led by the Duke’s captain Jacopo Piccinino. They made peace in October 1444, giving the March of Ancona back to Sforza. Yet Filippo Maria had troops assault Cremona, the city that came with Bianca Maria’s dowry. When Venice resumed the war against Milan, Filippo Maria sent for Sforza; but Filippo died suddenly of dysentery on August 13, 1447.

Filippo had lived in seclusion, and his death was kept secret. Some of the cabinet wanted to offer Milan to King Alfonso of Aragon and Naples, but others supported Francesco Sforza. Citizens elected four representatives from each of six wards to a supreme council. Spanish troops occupied Milan while Sforza’s army was camped outside the city. The small garrisons in the two large fortresses marched out, and the people demolished the strongholds. The new council decided to offer Milan to Sforza. Pavia quickly stopped resisting, and he gathered together condottieri. The Venetians retreated. Sforza sent a small fleet to attack Piacenza; the walls were breached, and troops plundered and razed the city, removing 10,000 inhabitants to be sold as slaves. Sforza went against his agreement with Milan when he accepted the lordship over Tortona. He demanded and was given unlimited powers from the old senate. He went to war against Venice and burned their fleet on the Po River. In 1448 on the field of Caravaggio he captured nearly the entire Venetian army with very few casualties. The mercenaries refrained from killing each other but did not spare those in towns. Sforza sent the Piccinini to besiege Lodi and advanced on Brescia himself.

Venice was trying to replace their general Micheletto Attendolo, and their senate sent secret offers to Francesco Sforza. He accepted and claimed it was self-defense because Milan was trying to take Pavia and Cremona from him. He promised Venice he would evacuate Brescia and Bergamo and renounce Ghiara d’Adda; Venice promised to help Sforza conquer Visconti possessions. Milanese generals deserted to Sforza, and Montferrat made a deal so he could keep Alessandria. Sforza now demanded control over Milan, but Giorgio Lampugnani urged them to fight for their independence. Sforza used cannons to make a breach in the walls, and he was reinforced by Venice. In 1449 he took over Romagnano, Tortona, and Alessandria. Parma surrendered to him, and he tightened the siege of Milan. The Duchess got her brother, the Duke of Savoy, to fight for Milan, and the two Piccinini, who had been given free winter quarters by Sforza, in the spring went back to Milan’s side. Milan appointed Piccinino commander-in-chief, armed their militia of 20,000 citizens, and garrisoned neighboring fortresses. The little town of Vivegano defended itself with such determination that its capture was delayed long enough for the Milanese to harvest their wheat.

Francesco Sforza was losing generals and feared Alfonso might return; so he made peace at Brescia in September. He renounced his claim to Milan and was recognized as ruling Novara, Tortona, Alessandria, Pavia, Piacenza, Parma, and Cremona. However, he refused to ratify the treaty, and in the winter his army fought both Milan and Venice before they could join. People in Milan were starving, and an insurrection began on February 26, 1450, proclaiming Sforza Duke of Milan. With no allies nearby, the Milanese decided to accept Sforza as the legitimate successor of the Visconti. He quickly supplied them with food, and all the strong places surrendered. The Venetians withdrew across the Adda. The Milanese chose to build a fortress over billeting soldiers, and Sforza established his tyranny. Venice, Savoy, Montferrat, and Naples formed an alliance, and Florence accepted an alliance with Sforza to balance Italy. The two armies finally met in November 1452, but it was so foggy that little fighting occurred. The war dragged on until the spring of 1454 when peace was made at Lodi; Venice got Bergamo and Brescia, and Sforza kept Ghiara d’Adda.

Francesco Sforza took over Milan in 1450, and the wars with Venice ended in 1454 with the peace of Lodi. The alliance of Milan, Florence, and Naples gave Italy stability and prosperity. Sforza reorganized the Chancery from 1453 to 1456 and revised it again in 1465. He renewed his alliance with Naples in 1458 when Ferrante became king. Sforza also became an ally of France’s Louis XI, who gave him Genoa as a fief in 1464. Sforza promoted the silk industry and presided over an elegant court without luxury. He patronized the humanist Francesco Filelfo and new building. His sons were well educated. After him Galeazzo Maria and Ludovico Il Moro would govern Milan, and Ascanio became a cardinal. His daughter Ippolita married Duke Alfonso of Calabria, the heir of Naples, and Drusiana wed the condottiere Jacopo Piccinino in 1464. Francesco Sforza died on March 8, 1466 while his oldest son Galeazzo was on a military expedition in France. The heir was briefly captured on his way back to Milan but was released with help from Count Antonio da Romagnano.

Galeazzo Maria Sforza (r. 1466-76) entered Milan on March 20, and he was installed as Duke two days later. He indulged in sexual pleasures and by 1465 had fathered at least four illegitimate children he acknowledged. Cicco Simonetta had improved his father’s administration as his secretary. He continued on as secretary of Galeazzo and after his death helped hold the duchy together by advising his widow. Galeazzo was 22 years old when he became duke and was to be under the tutelage of his mother Bianca Maria until he became 25. Wanting to be a warrior, he spent his time in military exercises, hunting, tournaments, feasts, and other pleasures. Galeazzo was also Count of Pavia and married Bona of Savoy, sister of the Queen of France, in his Pavia castle, his favorite residence. His mother Bianca was the last of the Visconti rulers, and she died on October 23, 1468.

Galeazzo was extravagant, and his cruelty made enemies. He went on a pilgrimage to Florence in 1471 and patronized artists, musicians, and men of letters. At his Christmas court of 1473 he created a hundred courtiers. King Christian of Denmark visited his court in February 1474 with 141 persons. In the fall Sforza broke his alliance with Naples. In July 1475 he offered Emperor Friedrich III 200,000 ducats for investiture or 300,000 for a royal title. Sforza’s finances and government were eroding.

In January 1476 Galeazzo Maria Sforza sent an embassy led by four envoys to the court of Burgundy, but Duke Charles was defeated by the Swiss twice that year. Galeazzo was concerned about aggression from Burgundy and France, and he turned to his brother-in-law Louis XI in France. On November 15 he crossed the Sesia River into Savoy but only with his guard. His court stayed in Piedmont and left for Milan on December 8. After hunting, Galeazzo returned for his Christmas court. On December 26 he went out without his breastplate to the church of Santo Stefano, where he was assassinated by Carlo Visconti, Gerolamo Olgiati, and Giovanni Andrea Lampugnani, all of whom had been educated by the Bolognese scholar Niccolo Montano to value liberty. Olgiati’s sister had suffered from the Duke’s lust, and Lampugnani had lost property. Visconti and Lampugnani were pursued and killed, and Olgiati was tortured and executed.

Duchess Bona acted as regent for her seven-year-old son Gian Galeazzo Sforza, and she was assisted by Cicco Simonetta. Duke Galeazzo Maria’s brothers Sforza Maria and Ludovico, who was called “Il Moro (The Moor)” because of his dark complexion, believed they should rule and attempted a coup in the spring of 1477 that failed. They were exiled to Perugia, and young Ottaviano Sforza refused to surrender and drowned while fleeing. Filippo Sforza retired into his castle, and Ascanio went to Rome. The next year Ludovico and Sforza Maria returned and declared that the 12-year-old Gian Galeazzo was old enough to govern as duke, replacing the Duchess, who retired and soon died of an illness. Sforza Maria died in 1479, and Ferrante of Naples named his heir Ludovico as Duke of Bari. Ludovico also took power in Milan and offered Simonetta his life for his wealth held by Florentine bankers. When Simonetta refused, he was tortured and beheaded in 1480. Ludovico replaced him with Bartolomeo Calco, Bona’s secretary. That year Ludovico made Galeazzo’s former mistress, Countess Lucia Marliani, resign her title and estates to her son Galeazzo Visconti, and he and his brother Ottaviano had successful careers. According to the historian Guicciardini, Ludovico was hated for taking over Milan from the legitimate ruler and for imposing unusual taxes.

Ludovico Il Moro patronized art, music, literature, science, and commerce, but his military adventures caused heavy taxes and hurt trade. Having been tutored by Filelfo, he presided over a Renaissance court. Donato Bramante came to Milan about 1474 and designed many churches before leaving in 1499. Zarot printed the Greek grammar of Constantine Lascaris in 1476. Leonardo da Vinci worked in Milan 1482-99. Milan supported Ferrante in the Ferrara war 1482-84. Gian Galeazzo married Isabella of Aragon in 1489, and she asked her father Alfonso of Naples to help her husband attain his dukedom. Ludovico had at least two mistresses who bore him children. In January 1491 he married 15-year-old Beatrice d’Este while her brother Alfonso d’Este wed his sister Anna Sforza.

In January 1492 Ludovico made an alliance with Charles VIII of France, and that year his brother Ascanio helped elect Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI. In April 1493 Milan joined the alliance with this Pope and Venice. Milan was required to send two hundred armed men to Rome to guard the Pope and his state. After Alfonso became king of Naples in January 1494 and allied with Pope Alexander, Ludovico’s ambassador made an agreement with France’s Charles VIII, allowing his army to pass through their domain on the way to attack Naples, supplying them with 500 men-at-arms, letting them arm ships at Genoa, and loaning him 200,000 ducats. Charles promised to defend Milan.

Then Ludovico Il Moro arranged for Gian Galeazzo’s sister Bianca Maria with a dowry of 400,000 ducats to marry Emperor Maximilian on March 16, 1494. Ludovico received the imperial investiture of Milan and joined the league against France. Gian Galeazzo reached his majority in 1494 but died on October 22, a day or two after Charles VIII visited him at Pavia. Ludovico was recognized as duke of Milan. After the French conquered Naples, Ludovico withdrew his troops and contacted Venice. Duke Charles of Orléans was also in Italy and claimed Milan through his Visconti grandmother. Ludovico took the 80 tons of bronze, which Leonardo was to use for an equestrian statue of the duke, and turned it into weapons to defeat the French in July 1495 at Fornovo. The French went home, and Milan recaptured Novara.

The popular Beatrice d’Este died during childbirth on January 3, 1497. When Louis XII became king in April 1498, he claimed Milan for France. Maximilian, Venice, and the Pope joined with France while Ludovico secretly urged the Turks to fight the Venetian empire. As the French invaded, Ludovico left his lieutenant Bernardino de Corte in charge at Milan and fled with his treasure to Emperor Maximilian in Innsbruck. Corte surrendered the castle at Milan to the French for 150,000 ducats. Ludovico gave Maximilian some money, and with Swiss and Burgundian mercenaries he returned to Milan in February 1500. Ludovico resided in Novara, which was besieged by the French in April. His Swiss mercenaries left because there were Swiss on the other side too. Ludovico was captured on April 8 and was imprisoned in France, where he died in 1508.

Milan was dominated by France from 1500 until 1521. Massimiliano Sforza, the oldest son of Ludovico and Beatrice, was born in January 1493. When the French conquered Milan in 1500, he and his brother Francesco went to his namesake Maximilian at Innsbruck, where they were brought up by his wife Bianca Maria, who was also their cousin. The Swiss helped restore Massimiliano at Milan in 1512, and he was welcomed by the Milanese people who did not like French rule. The Swiss helped them defeat the French at Ariotta in June 1513. After François became king of France, his army defeated the Milanese at Marignano in September 1515. Massimiliano surrendered, resigned his title, and went to live in France, where he died in 1530.

Italian Wars with France and Spain 1517-29
Italian Wars under Spanish Rule 1530-59

Venice 1400-53

Michele Steno was elected doge of Venice on December 1, 1400. Venetians felt much relief after Milan’s Duke Gian Galeazzo died of fever on August 13, 1402. Venice turned against Francesco Novello when the Duchess of Milan offered them Vicenza and Verona. Novello rejected an ultimatum to withdraw and mutilated the face of a Venetian herald. Offended Venice conquered Padua on November 4, 1404. The Carraresi father and son were imprisoned and were executed on January 17, 1405. This war was reported to have cost Venice two million ducats.

Although Pope Gregory XII was a Venetian, in 1409 Venice voted to support the end of the schism by recognizing Pope Alexander V instead. That year Venice bought back its territory in Dalmatia from King Ladislas of Naples and Hungary for 100,000 florins. King Sigismund regained the throne of Hungary and sent an army of 20,000 men led by Pippo Spano of Florence into Friuli. Feltre and Belluno surrendered. Sigismund was elected emperor and appointed Brunero della Scala as an imperial vicar to govern. Venice conscripted an army that stopped the Hungarian advance in 1411, and the next year Venice’s forces led by Pandolfo Malatesta and Nicolo Barbarigo defeated Pippo at Motta in Friuli. In 1413 they agreed on a five-year truce.

Doge Michele Steno died on December 26, 1413, and Tommaso Mocenigo was elected. Francesco Foscari negotiated a treaty of friendship with the new Sultan Mehmet I. Relations were peaceful until the spring of 1416 when Turkish ships, which were sent to punish the Duke of Naxos for attacking Turkish shipping, also attacked Venetian merchant ships. Fighting broke out with a war squadron led by Pietro Loredan, and he won a punishing victory over the Turks, taking 1,100 prisoners. At the end of the truce in 1418 Sigismund sent a force to invade Friuli. The Patriarch of Aquileia allied with the Hungarians fighting for Dalmatia. Tristano Savorgnan of Friuli defended his homeland, attacked the Patriarch, and helped Venice regain Sacile, Feltre, and Belluno. His father had been driven out of Undine by Hungarians, and in 1420 Tristano besieged the city. The Patriarch fled to Gorizia, and Undine reinstated Savorgnan. In the peace treaty Venice gained all of Friuli except Aquileia, San Vito, and San Daniele. Venice thus doubled its territory in Italy, extending it to the Alps in the northeast.

Francesco Foscari favored a military alliance with Florence against Milan, but Doge Mocenigo persuaded his council to keep the peace. While dying he told the Signoria that in his nine years they had reduced their debt caused by wars with Padua, Verona, and Vicenza from ten million ducats to six million. He advised them to avoid unjust wars because God would not support them. He warned that if Foscari became doge, Venice would be at war constantly, destroying their honor, reputation, and prosperity.

Francesco Foscari was elected to succeed this prophetic doge on April 16, 1423. That year Venice designated the island of Santa Maria di Nazaret as a lazaretto to hospitalize in isolation infected patients, the first such institution in Europe. The Venetian proveditors Niccolo Zorzi and Santo Venier annexed Thessalonica; but in March 1430 Sultan Murad besieged the city, and the Turks sacked it and forced about 7,000 inhabitants into slavery. Venice signed a treaty in September and promised not to try to recapture Thessalonica while the Sultan agreed not to interfere with the Venetians south and west of the island of Tenedos.

Venice hired the condottiere Francesco Bussone of Carmagnola, who had been fighting for Milan and had even married Antonia Visconti. After being appointed governor of Genoa in 1422, he felt ignored and went to Milan in 1424; but Filippo Maria refused to see him. So Carmagnola went to Venice in February 1425. One year later he was appointed commander-in-chief of Venice’s army with a salary of 1,000 ducats per month. In 1426 Foscari involved Venice in a war against Milan that lasted for the next 21 years. Although Carmagnola often took time off for health treatments, he managed to force Filippo Maria to surrender Brescia and the Bresciano. He lost the trading base at Casalmaggiore to Milan’s army while taking a cure, but he defeated the Milanese army led by Carlo Malatesta at Macalo on October 11, 1427, taking 8,000 soldiers prisoners after a “battle” in which not one man was killed. Many of them had previously fought for Carmagnola; as condottieri often did, he kept their arms and released them without ransoms. Also he ignored the opportunity to advance on Cremona.

Discussions at Ferrara led to a peace treaty on April 19, 1428. Carmagnola resigned the following January but negotiated an even more lucrative contract. He continued to meet with Filippo Maria often, though he dutifully reported every meeting to the Venetians. On March 11, 1430 the nobleman Andrea Contarini wounded Doge Foscari in an assassination attempt in revenge for an election he had lost; he was hanged. In August 1430 the Senate promised to make Carmagnola duke of Milan if he conquered the city. Facing the top generals Niccola Piccinino and Francesco Sforza, 1,600 of his men were captured in a battle. In 1431 a Venetian fleet was attacked in the Po River and lost 28 galleys and 42 transports while 2,500 men were killed. Carmagnola was on the wrong bank and could not defend them. He was summoned to Venice and arrested. After being tortured, Carmagnola was convicted of treason and was beheaded on May 5, 1432.

Venice made a treaty with Emperor Sigismund in August 1435, and he appointed Doge Foscari imperial vicar; two years later he agreed to invest Venice with the lands they had conquered. Pope Eugenius IV was also a Venetian. He tried to dissolve the Council of Basel and called for a new assembly at Ferrara. On his way to the meeting the Byzantine Emperor John VIII and Constantinople’s Patriarch Joseph II visited Venice with great pomp in February 1438. After the Milanese army attacked Brescia in the fall, Venice hired the condottiere known as Gattamelata. In June 1439 Venice turned to an even greater condottiere and hired Francesco Sforza, who also had fought for Filippo Maria. He led the coalition of Venice, Florence, and Genoa and was also promised the dukedom if he captured Milan or Cremona or Mantua. On November 19, 1439 he and Gattamelata drove the Milanese out of Verona. Sforza also forced the Milanese to abandon their siege of Brescia in July 1440. However, in 1441 Sforza was reconciled with Filippo Maria, and on October 25 he married Bianca Maria in Cremona.

In 1445 a Florentine exile secretly accused Foscari’s son Jacopo of accepting bribes from Duke Filippo Maria of Milan. Jacopo was tortured and confessed, and the Ten banished him for life to Romania. Later he was allowed to live in the Trevisan. In 1450 a state inquisitor was assassinated in Venice, and one of Jacopo’s servants reported the murder. He was tortured by strappado eighty times but maintained his innocence. Jacopo was arrested and tortured and banished again.

After Filippo Maria Visconti died on August 13, 1447, Lodi and Piacenza tried to free themselves from Milanese domination and turned to Venice. In November the Milanese army led by Sforza defeated the Venetians at Piacenza. He defeated the Venetians again in July 1448 at Casalmaggiore, where the commander Andrea Querini destroyed the Po River fleet to prevent the enemy from taking the ships. Then in September near Caravaggio 12,500 cavalry fought on each side, but Micheletto Attendolo’s Venetian infantry were outnumbered two-to-one by Sforza’s foot-soldiers. The expenses of such battles caused a financial crisis in Venice. The estimo tax on wealth was levied thirteen times in 1448 alone. Milan and Venice finally made peace at Lodi on April 9, 1454.

In November 1452 a Venetian ship was hit by a cannonball and sunk in the Bosphorus, and Sultan Mehmet II had the captain and crew put to death. In February 1453 the Venetian Senate received a letter from Girolano Minotto, the bailo in Constantinople, urgently requesting a relief force. They voted for fifteen galleys but did not send them until the money was raised to pay for them. Constantinople was under siege by the Sultan’s army of 80,000 men. Before the Venetian ships arrived, on May 29 the Turks broke into Constantinople. Many Venetians were killed in the fighting. Minotto, his son, and seven other prominent Venetians were beheaded.

Venice and the Turks 1453-95

After the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Venice was suffering from economic collapse because of continuous warfare. Greek scholars were taking refuge in Venice, and Archbishop Bessarion of Nicaea donated his collection of books to found the Marciana Library. The Venetians began negotiating with Sultan Mehmet in order to protect their commercial empire, and an agreement was reached in 1454. The Ten would not let the old Doge Francesco Foscari (r. 1423-57) resign, and his son Jacopo was brought back from exile in 1456 and charged with secretly corresponding with the Sultan Mehmet. Jacopo pleaded to stay in Venice, but he was sent back to Crete, where he died. The Council finally released the 84-year-old Doge from his oath, and he died one week after the Venetian Pasquale Malipiero became Doge on October 30, 1457.

Despite the Turkish conquests in Greece, Venice still retained Candia (Crete), Negropont (Euboea), and other islands, and their land empire extended to Milan and the Alps. Rascia and Servia fell to the Turks in 1458. Pope Pius II summoned a conference in September 1462 at Mantua for a crusade. That year Doge Malipiero died and was succeeded by Cristoforo Moro. The Great Council had approved an alliance with Hungary against the Turks and supported the Pope’s proposals. The Muslims took Sinope, Cerasus, and Trebizond in 1462 and Bosnia the next year.

A slave of the Muslim ruler of Athens stole public funds and gave some to the Venetian commander of Coron who gave him refuge. The Turks demanded the money and that he be extradited, but Venetians refused both. Dandolo was commanding at Argos, and its capture by the Turks in 1462 led Venice to form an alliance with Hungary. The Venetian Captain-General Alvise Loredan hired 30,000 men that fall to construct a large wall across the isthmus at Corinth, but it was broken down a few months later. In 1463 the Turks reconquered Morea, and Venice lost her stations there. Pope Pius II quickly mediated an agreement to stop the hostilities; but he also urged Doge Moro and Duke Philippe of Burgundy to lead the expedition, and the Council voted overwhelmingly in favor. The 65-year-old Doge got out of commanding the fleet and appointed a relative. The Doge went to Ancona with a fleet of twelve galleys, but he only gave the mercenaries religious indulgences.

In early 1464 Duke Francesco Sforza of Milan acquired Genoa, and the Italian states refused to back the crusade. Ailing Pope Pius left Rome on June 18 but while crossing the Appenines passed sad crusaders going home. He died on August 14, and two days later the Doge sailed his fleet back to Venice. The cardinals sent three galleys, but the Venetian Senate recalled them the same year.

On the island of Rhodes the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem had seized two Venetian ships. Venice considered it piracy and diverted a squadron from the crusade to Rhodes in 1465. Lodovico Loredano led a fleet of 32 galleys against the Turks in the Levant. They attacked Lesbos and captured 300 Turks, impaling some, drowning others, and hanging the rest. However, the siege failed, and the Venetians lost 500 men. Loredano was ashamed and died after embarking. Pope Pius had put Sigismund Malatesta in command of the Venetian army in the Morea, and they also suffered losses while attacking Sparta, burning a town inhabited by Christians and defending Rimini. In 1466 the Venetian general Vittore Capello attacked Athens. Christians of the Eastern Church who collaborated with the Muslims were often treated as enemies. While the Venetian army was plundering Patras, 300 Turkish cavalry attacked them; only 1,000 men escaped. Capello attacked again, lost a thousand men, and then retired. He was succeeded by Veniero, who spent the next sixteen months defending fortresses. Venice had fought Milan with almost 20,000 cavalry and more than that many infantry; but they were fighting the Muslims in the Morea with only about 2,000 men without help from other Christian states.

The Venetian Pietro Barbo became Pope Paul II (1464-71), and he summoned ambassadors to form a league against the Muslims. His financial requests were not heeded, but the amounts he asked indicate the wealth of the Italian states. The Pope himself was to pay 100,000 florins and Venice an equal amount. Naples was asked for 80,000, Milan for 70,000, Florence for 50,000, Modena for 20,000, Siena for 15,000, Mantua for 10,000, Lucca for 8,000, and Montferrat for 5,000 florins. The Pope then offered a plenary indulgence to all who fought against the Turks or paid for a substitute for four months. The Turkish army invaded Croatia, and they killed 8,000 Christians in one town. They came near to Friuli and Trieste and captured 15,000 Christians they took to the slave markets in Constantinople. Niccola Canal commanded a Venetian fleet of 26 galleys, and they captured the trading port at Eno, sacked the town, and even raped the nuns the Muslims had left alone. They burned Eno and took 2,000 to sell as slaves at Negropont (Chalcis).

The Albanian chieftain Skanderbeg, who had led the defense of his homeland, died in 1467, leaving the fortress at Croia to Venice. In 1469 the Turks gathered a large fleet at Gallipoli and an army at Adrianople that marched through Macedonia and Thessaly toward Venice’s chief Aegean colony at Negropont. Venice used force to borrow 200,000 ducats and armed 29 galleys within a month while more than a thousand workers extended the Arsenal. Padua, Gerona, and Brescia supplied a total of 9,000 ducats and 18,000 bushels of biscuit.

In 1470 the Turks equipped a fleet with hundreds of ships and put out from Constantinople, and at first the Venetians had only 35 large galleys. The vanguard of the Turkish navy landed on the island of Euripos on June 14 and after five assaults took it in early July. Turks sailing to Negropont fortified every strait with a bridge connecting the island to the mainland. They began a siege and fired 55 cannon-shots a day from each gun of their artillery. The Turks assaulted Chalcis three times, and on July 12 the fourth broke through the walls, moving the fighting to the streets. Venice sent more ships, and Canal commanded a hundred galleys. He did not attack but finally tried to land at Negropont and failed. Admiral Piero Mocenigo arrived and replaced Canal, who was arrested, sent back to Venice for trial, and was sentenced to exile and a fine. Citizens of Negropont were massacred, but Governor Paolo Erizzo was promised he could keep his head; so Mehmet had his body cut in two at the waist. This battle helped the Italians realize they needed a defensive league.

Doge Moro died on November 9, 1471 and was succeeded by Nicolo Tron, a merchant from Rhodes. The wealth tax was increased by 20%, but government employees were exempt. Venice and Pope Paul II formed an alliance with Hassan Beg of Persia against Mehmet II. Hassan Beg attacked Georgia while Mocenigo raided the coasts of Asia. He paid a ducat for each Muslim head, and he hired the Stradiotes of Rumania to strengthen his army. Mocenigo devastated Caria and Cos. Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) and King Ferrante of Naples furnished galleys, and Pietro Mocenigo’s fleet of 85 ships pillaged Antalya, Smyrna, Halicarnassus, and other ports in Asia Minor in the summer of 1472. The crusaders did not spare the Christians and raped women before selling them as slaves. Mocenigo went into winter quarters. The Pasha of Bosnia passed through Carniola and Istria to invade Venetian territory; but they returned with booty and slaves before they reached Udine, capital of Friuli.

Hassan Beg invaded Armenia but was defeated by Mehmet and his modern artillery. Mocenigo continued to campaign in Asia Minor and took over Cyprus for Venice in 1473. Doge Tron died that year, and his successor Nicolo Marcello passed away on December 1, 1474. Mocenigo had just returned to Venice after commanding the Venetian navy for a record four years, and he was chosen to be Doge. By then Venice had received little support except from Milan. When Pope Sixtus IV did not provide his share, Venice withdrew its ambassador from Rome. In January 1475 the Sultan’s stepmother brought Venice a proposal for peace, and the bankrupt state was ready to negotiate. The famous condotierre Bartolomeo Colleoni replenished Venice’s low treasury by leaving them 216,000 ducats and twice that in property upon his death in October 1475, for which he was honored with an equestrian statue before the Scuola of St. Mark. Mocenigo died in February 1476, and his successor was Andrea Vendramin.

Venetian diplomacy secured peace on the mainland with Milan. Naples was allied with the papacy, but Venice with Milan, Florence, and Ferrara invited the King of Naples and the Pope to join their league. Meanwhile the Turks were besieging Scutari. When the Turks appeared before Lepanto, the Venetian fortress kept them out of the Venetian Gulf. Both sides were exhausted and agreed to a truce for six months.

Venetians stationed an army to protect Friuli, but the Turks attacked them in the fall of 1477 with great slaughter and destruction. The Ten sent their ambassador Malpieri to Constantinople, offering to give up Croia in the Morea and pay 100,000 ducats. Mehmet got them to add an annual tribute of 6,000 ducats and agreed. Malpieri asked for two months to consult his government. The kings of Hungary and Naples also negotiated with the Sultan and recognized his conquests. Hassan Beg had died, and no help came from Persia. Mehmet said he would accept Scutari for Croia, but Malpieri refused and left Constantinople. Those defending Croia were starved into surrendering in 1478. Mehmet had all those killed who could not be ransomed. Next he besieged Scutari and breached the walls with artillery, but they could not overcome the defenders. Yet Turkish irregulars overran Friuli. Venice was suffering from a plague; the senators had scattered, and Doge Vendramin died in May. Pietro Mocenigo’s brother Giovanni became Doge. The assassination of a Medici on Easter had provoked another war in Italy, and Venice with Milan took the side of Florence.

The Venetian senators managed to meet and decided to fight even though revenues were down to 100,000 ducats. The Turks were suffering also, and Mehmet agreed to a treaty on January 24, 1479. Venice agreed to give up Negropont and Lemnos and most of their colonies on the Greek mainland and in Albania. Most important to Venice they were granted trading privileges in Constantinople and Turkish waters for an annual payment of 10,000 ducats. Christian Italy had been saved; yet Pope Sixtus accused Venice of betraying Christianity. Venice had attained military glory in a half century of wars, but the commonwealth had been impoverished. Later that year the Turks took over the Ionian islands of Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante, and Leucas, and in 1480 they captured Otranto, turning it into a market for Christian slaves for a year. That year Mehmet also attacked Rhodes, but the Knights Hospitallers of St. John managed to defend it against the siege. Mehmet II died on May 3, 1481, and his successor Bayezid II withdrew Turkish forces from Otranto and left Rhodes in peace. The new Sultan also cancelled Venice’s annual tribute and reduced their import duties.

In 1482 Venice came into conflict with Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara over a salt monopoly. At first Pope Sixtus took Venice’s side to oppose the coalition that included Milan, Florence, and Naples. Both sides prepared for war, but then the Pope asked Venice to lay down her arms. Doge Giovanni Mocenigo refused, and on May 25, 1483 Sixtus put Venice under an interdict and warned it not to attack Ferrara. Venice appealed to a future council and ignored the religious restrictions. They turned to Charles VIII of France, who claimed Naples, and his cousin Duke Louis of Orléans, who believed he should rule Milan. However, King Ferrante of Naples and Duke Ludovico Sforza of Milan made peace in August 1484, and Venice got Rovigo and Polesina. The new Pope Innocent VIII lifted the interdict before Mocenigo died on September 14, 1485.

After Marco Barbarigo was Doge for less than one year, he was succeeded by his brother Agostino Barbarigo (r. 1486-1501). Venetians did not want a hereditary monarchy, and this was the first time they had allowed a relative to succeed. In October 1488 Venice incorporated Cyprus into her empire, and Caterina Cornaro, who had been sent there to be their queen in 1468, was recalled to Venice. In 1492 Venice had a noble and a priest who were convicted of homosexual acts beheaded in the Piazzetta.

Venice and Wars 1495-1517

After France’s Charles VIII led a large army through Italy to attack the kingdom of Naples in February 1495, Venice formed a league with Milan, Pope Alexander VI, Fernando of Aragon, Henry VII of England, and Emperor Maximilian. They hired Francesco of Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, to lead their armies and drive the French out of Italy, and most of the French left in May. Incidentally the French soldiers had picked up syphilis which was probably brought back from America and spread what was called the “French disease” in Italy and then France. The Venetian League had about 30,000 soldiers camped at Fornovo, and on July 6 the French army of 10,000 led by King Charles attacked them to get food. The battle was short, but about four or five thousand were killed. Charles and the French lost the loot in their baggage train and returned to France without having gained anything. Venice gained the ports of Brindisi, Trani, and Otranto. In the next three years Venice supported the Pisan rebellion against Florence, but it strained the gap between the rich and poor patricians.

Louis XII became king of France in April 1498, and in February 1499 he made a treaty of alliance with Venice at Blois that divided defeated Milan. A French army led by Gian Giacomo Trivulzio invaded Milan in August, and the next month Venetian troops moved into Cremona. A few days later Venetians learned that their navy had been defeated by the Turks off the island of Sapienza. The Turks ravaged the coast of Dalmatia up to Istria. Venice’s colony at Cattaro (Kotor) had refused to allow two towns to have their own rectors, and they revolted and asked for Turkish protection.

Antonio Grimani had loaned Venice 16,000 ducats and had become naval commander in April 1499. In August about 170 Venetian vessels fought 260 Turkish ships at Sapienza again in four engagements. Then the Venetians fled, and the Turks took Lepanto. Grimani was excoriated, and he was replaced by Melchior Trevisan on September 29. Grimani was tried and exiled to the island of Cherso (Cres). Venice sent an envoy to Constantinople to negotiate, but Bayezid demanded all their territory in the Peloponnese. The Sultan led the siege of Modone which fell, followed by Corone. Spaniards helped Venice capture Cephalonia and Ithaca. Venice and the Muslims then made peace, which was ratified at Venice in May 1503. The wars against Milan and for four years against the Turks as well as fighting in the Romagna drained Venice’s resources. Government salaries were cut in 1501, and Minio led a protest by poor patricians in 1502.

Meanwhile Vasco da Gama had sailed from Lisbon to India and back, opening a direct trade route by sea, and this new route would greatly reduce the trade through Venice which was suffering an economic crisis. On September 13, 1501 Doge Agostino Barbarigo announced he was resigning at the age of 82, but this was refused. He was accused of corruption and perversion of justice, but he died a week later. The forty-one electors chose Leonardo Loredan on October 2. Investigation led to legislation to reduce corruption, though abuses continued. Venice turned to extending its mainland territory and took over Russi, Forlimpopoli, Rimini, Cervia, and Faenza. Giulano della Rovere became Pope Julius II on November 1, 1503. He criticized Venice, and on September 22, 1504 he formed an alliance with France and the Emperor Maximilian against Venice. The Venetians agreed to give up Rimini, Faenza, and Cervia, and the Pope relented.

In 1508 Emperor Maximilian asked permission to pass through Venetian territory on his way to be crowned in Rome. Venetian agents discovered he intended to take Verona and Vicenza from Venice and seize Genoa and Milan from the French. Venice said he could come only without military forces, and they strengthened their defenses in Friuli. In February 1508 the Emperor began leading his army toward Vicenza, and the Marquis of Brandenburg led a small army toward Rovereto. Venice hired two Orsini condotierri, Nicolo of Pitigliano and his cousin Bartolomeo d’Alviano. Pitigliano and the French stopped Brandenburg, and Alviano’s army made the Emperor turn back. Tyrolese soldiers entered Friuli, but Alviano marched there and defeated the Austrians before taking Gorizia, Trieste, and Diume. In April the Emperor agreed to a truce for three years.

In the next few weeks Venice disobeyed Pope Julius by refusing to turn over Giovanni Bentivoglio and his followers after their failed attempt to take power in Bologna, and Venice ignored the Pope’s nominee and chose the new bishop for Vicenza. Venice had always chosen their own bishops, but Julius sent emissaries to France, Spain, Milan, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Maximilian, proposing a coalition against the Venetian empire. At Cambrai on December 10 Margaret of Austria, who was also Regent of the Netherlands for her father Maximilian, and Cardinal Georges d’Amboise for France agreed to the league with the papal legate. On March 14, 1509 a gunpowder arsenal exploded in the Doges’ Palace, killing many and setting fires that made even more people homeless. King Fernando joined the League that month, and France declared war on April 14 and began invading the next day. Venice welcomed the mediation efforts of England’s Henry VII and offered to give Rimini and Faenza back to the Pope. On April 22 Doge Loredan urged his colleagues to put aside their feuds to save the republic, and he donated 5,000 ducats from his salary.

On April 27, 1509 Pope Julius issued a bull condemning Venice for its invasions, sheltering of rebels, and disobeying the Pope. He announced excommunication and an interdict against Venice, allowing 24 days for restitution. Once again Venice appealed to a council, and their alliance with the Orsini caused the Pope to threaten to punish their family. Venice offered Maximilian 200,000 florins and help in conquering Milan for an alliance, but he did not reply. The Venetian army with 42,000 men was fighting off the French, but on May 9 they were looting Treviglio and allowed the French to cross the Adda. Alviano fought a French attack led by Charles d’Amboise of Chaumont, but he was not backed up by Pitigliano and was defeated and captured in the battle of Agnadello on May 14. About 4,000 Venetians were killed. Bergamo, Brescia, Crema, and Cremona surrendered. Louis XII had the Venetian governors of Caravaggio and Peschiera hanged; the garrisons and inhabitants were killed while the rich Venetians were held for ransoms.

The armies of Emperor Maximilian, Pope Julius II, the Duke of Ferrara, the Marquis of Mantua, and Fernando of Aragon all invaded Venetian territory at the same time. Venice was losing all of Lombardy and the Veneto as Maximilian’s representatives accepted the surrender of Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Rovereto, Riva, and Cittadella. Naples regained the Apulian ports, and Ferrara moved back into Rovigo, Este, Monselice, and Polesina. Mantua took back Asola and Lunato. On May 28 the papal legate recovered Rimini, Faenza, Cervia, and Ravenna, and he imprisoned the Venetian officials.

An army of 100,000 that included Germans, Swiss, French, Spaniards, Savoyards, and other mercenaries captured Padua in June. In early July uprisings began in favor of Venice, and the proveditor of Treviso, Andrea Gritti, marched there and regained Padua on July 17. The imperial army of 40,000 besieged Padua on September 15; but Maximilian found it was defended by 15,000 men, and he gave up the siege on September 30. Pitigliano led an attack on Vicenza on November 14, and the Duke of Anhalt surrendered; but a week later an assault on Verona failed. However, the northern towns of Cittadella, Bassano, Feltre, and Belluno and the southern towns of Este, Montagnana and Monselice proclaimed themselves for Venice. Angelo Trevisan was ordered to lead a squadron of seventeen small galleys up the Po River, but they were attacked by Ferrara’s heavy artillery that destroyed fifteen of them. Trevisan returned to Venice and was sentenced to three years exile in Portogruaro.

Venice sent six envoys to Rome, but as excommunicates they were not allowed to lodge together or have the usual privileges of diplomats. On September 11 Venice decided to appeal to the Sultan for support against the League opposing them. European Christians had become so divided that Venice, which had been defending them against the Muslim invaders, had been isolated and turned to those Muslims for help against the European coalition. On December 29 Venice accepted the Pope’s conditions for peace which included submitting to the Holy See in appointing bishops and clergy, and not collecting customs from subjects of the Papacy. Later the Council of Ten passed a resolution declaring they had been coerced into these concessions, and therefore they were not binding. Although the Pope withdrew in 1510, the League of Cambrai against Venice continued for six more years. French, German, and Ferrarese armies met and regained Este and Montagnana, moving north against Vicenza which Anhalt entered on May 24, reclaiming it for the Emperor. More than a thousand refugees fled into a large cave near Monte Berico and were killed by smoke from fires the French soldiers set. The French knight Bayard had the two French officers responsible for the massacre hanged in front of the cave.

During these wars Venetian culture continued to thrive with talented artists such as elderly Giovanni Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio, and the young Giorgioni and Titian creating masterpieces. Doge Cristoforo Moro had approved the first printers’ license in 1469, and soon more books were being published in Venice than in Rome. The printer Aldus Manutius came to Venice in 1490, and he printed a Greek and Latin grammar by Constantine Lascaris in 1495, a Greek grammar by Theodorus Gaza in 1496, and a Greek-Latin dictionary he compiled in 1497. He and Venetian scholars founded the New Academy in 1500, and at their meetings they spoke only Greek. By 1515 he had printed 28 authoritative editions of Greek classics. Books were produced in such numbers that they were not only for the rich.

In 1510 Venice increased its army from 7,000 men to 15,785, which cost 60,000 ducats per month. The Ten began letting patricians enter the Senate by giving loans or by serving in the army, lowering the prestige of the Senate and causing the Ten and the Great Council to decide things in secret without sending them to the Senate. In early August the condottiere Lucio Malvezzo was confirmed as military commander, and that month Venice regained Vicenza in the Veneto and drove the French out of Anhalt to Verona. A papal and Venetian force led by the Pope’s nephew the Duke of Urbino took Modena on August 17. Venetian light cavalry and stradioti also reinforced the Pope’s siege of Bologna along with a contingent sent by Fernando from Naples. However, Gian Giacomo Trivulzio succeeded Chaumont and relieved Bologna on May 23, 1511, reinstating the Bentivogli. Venice gained allies against the French when Spain’s Fernando decided to oppose French aggression and persuaded Henry VIII to invade France.

In 1512 the Venetian ambassador in Rome assured Pope Julius that the republic of Venice would not make a separate peace with France. Swiss mercenaries joined with the Venetian army near Verona while Maximilian ordered all his imperial subjects to stop fighting for the French or face death, though the Emperor was not willing to give Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Treviso, Cremona, and Brescia back to Venice. Pope Julius tried to mediate; but Venice rejected the proposal to surrender only the two major cities, and it was not willing to pay for them with gold. So Julius warned them against a revived League of Cambrai and became friends with Louis XII in the autumn. So many Venetian senators were in debt that in November patricians were required to have a certificate to show they had paid their debts to the state.

Then at the start of 1513 Pope Julius signed an agreement with Maximilian to exclude Venice from any treaty. In response Venetian envoys met the French at Blois and signed a treaty of alliance on March 23. In four years of war the alliances had changed from Venice being opposed by France, the Papacy, and others to Venice allied with the Papacy against France, and now to Venice allied with France against the Pope. Julius had died on February 21, 1513, and on March 4 the Cardinals had elected Giovanni de’ Medici as Pope Leo X. The French invasion of Italy began in early May led by Trivulzio and Louis of La Trémoille. On May 15 Bartolomeo d’Alviano took command of Venetian forces and set out with them for Lombardy. Alviano managed to save Padua, but a League army led by Spain’s Viceroy in Naples, Ramon de Cardona, burned Fusina, Mestre, and Marghera while advancing on Venice itself. Once again water protected the city from a land invasion, and Cardona and his army left. The Venetians pursued them, and they met near Vicenza on October 7. Alviano’s volunteers could not stand up to Cardona’s veterans, and the Venetians retreated and fled. Proveditor Andrea Loredan was caught and killed.

When François (Francis) became king of France in 1515, he gathered 50,000 cavalry and 60,000 infantry commanded by Trivulzio and Lautrec. Against them were the papal army led by Giuliano de’ Medici, Spaniards of Cardoza, Massimiliano Sforza’s army from Milan, and the Swiss who controlled Milan. Venice borrowed money in August for Alviano to pay his forces that joined the French who captured Milan on September 1. Two weeks later the French and Venetians defeated the Swiss in the battle of Marignano, though Alviano was killed. Emperor Maximilian decided to sell his Italian conquests back to Venice, which regained its territory but with diminished power. Because of the Ottoman empire Venice was no longer a sea power in Greece. When people found out in August 1516 that the treasurer Giovanni di Giorgio Emo was using state funds to buy votes, he fled the city. Violence erupted in the streets and even in the hall of the Great Council, and a law was enacted against carrying weapons in the Ducal Palace. In 1517 Venice finally got Verona back from Maximilian by way of the French.

Venice 1517-88

Genoa, Pisa, and Siena 1400-1517

Genoa and Pisa 1250-1400
Siena and Caterina

In 1396 Milan’s ruler Gian Galeazzo arranged for France to send a vicar, and Genoa remained under French domination until 1411. Genoa borrowed money from its citizens for its wars, and in 1407 they formed the bank of St. George to collect taxes for the state. After two years under the Marquis of Montferrat, the republic of Genoa was re-established in 1413. The next year Tommaso Fregoso became doge, and except for two brief intervals he governed Genoa until 1442. He paid Genoa’s debt of 60,000 florins with his own money and was aided by five capable brothers. In 1420 Alfonso V of Aragon conquered most of Corsica, but Genoa’s Governor Battista Fregoso forced them off the island in 1421. To pay for the war Genoa sold the port of Livorno (Leghorn) to Florence for 100,000 florins. Genoa became involved in another war against Alfonso in 1435 when he was trying to conquer Naples. Genoa sent a fleet to relieve Gaeta, defeated the Catalans, and captured Alfonso. Duke Filippo Maria of Milan ordered them to send the King to him. They did so, but their envoys refused to accept him as their king. The Genoese revolted and once again re-established their republic with revised laws. They sent embassies to fellow independent states of Florence and Venice to oppose the tyrannical Duke of Milan. Ludovico Fregoso was doge 1447-50. Then Genoa had difficulty finding a doge and offered it to Tommaso again; but he pleaded old age, and it was given to another Fregoso, Pietro II.

The Turks’ taking of Constantinople in 1453 affected the merchants of Genoa, and they transferred their colonies on the Black Sea and Corsica to the directors of the bank of St. George to preserve their commercial relations. In 1455 Pietro Fregoso defeated an attempt to overthrow him, killing and capturing many and executing some. He urged René of Anjou to claim Naples, and in 1458 he put the republic of Genoa under Charles VII of France while retaining all their rights. While Genoa’s navy joined Provence in an attempt to take Naples in 1459, Pietro was killed trying to retake Genoa. Battista’s son Tommaso, who governed Savona, was beheaded for favoring the French. In 1460 a committee of four protectors was appointed, and they selected three consuls each year to rule their important colony at Caffa.

The house of Anjou tried to govern Genoa, but the French governor imposed heavy taxes for their wars. Pietro had persuaded his brother Paolo (1430-98) to be archbishop of Genoa. He entered politics and came back with peasants to replace the French, agreeing to share power with his rival Prospero Adorno. René of Anjou led 6,000 men and landed at Savona. They arrived at Genoa and fought the bloodiest war of the century on Italian soil with 2,000 killed. The Genoese were victorious, but Adorno closed the gates against Paolo. He and his men got in boats and entered the city through the harbor. Fregoso and his men then defeated Adorno’s party. Paolo became doge but then let his cousin get elected. René turned the fortress over to Ludovico Fregoso, but Paolo deposed the doge and gave the office to Ludovico in 1461. Louis XI became king of France and let Duke Francesco Sforza of Milan take over Genoa as Paolo fled. The French held on to Savona. Paolo with a band of ruffians forced Ludovico to let him be doge, and he secured bulls from Pope Pius II. Paolo indulged in such luxuries that he alienated the people and decided to leave by ship with 500 of his best soldiers, but he came back to be doge again in 1464. That year King Louis gave both Genoa and Savona to Francesco Sforza.

Genoa’s colony at Caffa became as prosperous as Genoa, but in 1475 the Turks seized it, killed most of the inhabitants, and took 1,500 children to Constantinople to become Janissaries with the rest of the people being sent to Pera. When Milan’s ruler Galeazzo Maria Sforza was assassinated in December 1476, exiles returned to Genoa. Prospero Adorno was released from prison by Milan’s advisor Simonetta, who promised him self-government under Milan. By 1477 Genoa no longer dominated the Black Sea. In 1478 Adorno declared himself doge, but he had to yield that year to Battista II, who paid 6,000 florins to a Fieschi and the same to the Neapolitans to become doge of a free city.

Archbishop and Cardinal Paolo commanded the papal fleet against the Turks to drive them out of Otranto in 1481; but when they left, he was forbidden to pursue them. He returned to Genoa and organized a plot that deposed his nephew Battista II in 1483. Battista tried to regain power, and chroniclers described Paolo’s five-year term as being filled with exceptional violence. Genoa had taken back Sarzana from Florence in 1478 but lost it in 1487, the year Agostino died. In late 1487 Paolo yielded to Ludovico Sforza and remained as Milan’s governor of Genoa until a popular uprising drove him out in January 1488. Paolo took refuge in Rome and plotted again, but Cardinal della Rovere, who later became Pope Julius II, prevented him from perpetrating more factional violence. Ludovico Sforza banished all the Fregosi from Genoa. Ludovico Fregoso’s son Agostino was a soldier but served the Church. He married Duke Federico of Montefeltro’s daughter Gentile.

Antoniotto Fregoso was captured by the French in April 1500, and then he retired and wrote poetry including one about the laughing philosopher Democritus and the weeping Heraclitus. In his allegorical poem La cerva bianca a nymph is transformed into a white deer by Diana and is pursued in a hunt. Ottaviano Fregoso (1470-1524) was the son of Agostino and Gentile. He was educated at the court of Urbino, and he and his brother Federico are portrayed in Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano. Ottaviano wanted to liberate Genoa, but it went from domination by Ludovico Sforza of Milan to that of France’s Louis XII in 1499. Ottaviano fought for Urbino against Cesare Borgia and served as their ambassador to France. He also fought for Pope Julius II, who made him a general of the Church. He tried to regain Genoa in 1507 and again in 1510 but failed both times. When the French left Genoa in 1513, Ottaviano became doge and had the fortress Louis XII built destroyed. His reign was bothered by conspiracies. When François became king of France in 1515, Ottaviano proposed abolishing the doge. The French made him governor of Genoa until they were defeated by Spain in 1522.

In 1404 Florence sent its army that captured the citadel of Pisa in August 1405. The Pisans refused to negotiate; but eventually when they were on the verge of starvation, a second Pietro Gambacorta secretly negotiated for Florentine citizenship, some freeholds and fortified places, and 50,000 florins. Then he opened the gates at night, and the Florentine army marched into Pisa. The new governor Capponi sent the Gambacorti and two hundred leading citizens to Florence as hostages, and in the next half century many of Pisa’s prominent citizens emigrated.

In 1472 Lorenzo de’ Medici revived the University of Pisa which taught law, medicine, and theology. In 1475 Pope Sixtus IV appointed Francesco Salviati archbishop of Pisa, but Lorenzo prevented him from serving there for three years. In 1489 Pisa became the designated port for the wool trade between England and Florence.

In October 1494 Piero de’ Medici gave Pisa to France’s Charles VIII. The French army occupied Pisa on November 9, and they promised to return it after the war. Pisa decided to be independent of Florence and revolted, and Venice helped them from 1495 to 1498. Then Florence sent mercenaries led by Pagolo Vitelli to subdue Pisa, but after breaching the walls he retreated and was taken back to Florence and executed in October 1499. In the next six years Pisa withstood three sieges by Florence. In 1504 the Florentines even tried to divert the Arno River from Pisa, and in 1507 they bribed Lucca to stop smuggling food into Pisa. In 1509 Florence paid the French and Spanish not to intervene, and in May the starving Pisans sent eight ambassadors to Florence to negotiate terms. On June 9 Pisa finally opened its gates to the Florentine commissioners. A schismatic Church Council was convened at Pisa on September 1, 1511 supported by the French and Spanish who opposed the warrior Pope Julius II. However, the Pisan clergy closed the cathedral to the cardinals, and the city would not let 300 French lances inside the gates.

In 1395 Siena submitted to Milan, and in 1399 they turned the city over to its duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti. He was ambitious to become king of Italy, but he died of illness in 1402. The next year the Dodicini tried to take over Siena, but they were defeated and excluded forever from the government. Siena gained its independence by expelling the Visconti in 1404. They elected ten priors to govern and formed an alliance with Florence against Naples.

Enea Silvio Piccolomini was from Siena and studied at the universities there and at Florence. When he became Pope Pius II in 1458, the city offered to elevate his family; but he insisted that all the nobles of Siena regain their positions in the government. After he died in 1464, the popular party returned to power. In 1472 the republic of Siena founded the Monte dei Paschi bank, the oldest bank that still survives. In 1477 Florence during a war demanded access to Siena’s territory, but Siena refused to join their alliance and inflicted heavy losses on the Florentines. The victorious Duke Alfonso of Calabria occupied Siena, and after the peace of 1480 he intrigued with the Noveschi and others to take over the town. However, when the Turks landed at Otranto, Alfonso quickly departed to protect Naples. Many leading Noveschi were banished and excluded from government forever, including the Petrucci family; but in 1487 the Noveschi using their wealth came back. On July 22 Pandolfo Petrucci led the assault over the walls and drove out the rulers. He took control and ruled with his brother Giacopo Petrucci until the latter died in 1497.

Pandolfo Petrucci then consolidated his power with help from his friends in the Balia to reduce the responsibilities of the General Council. He was popular for encouraging trade and patronizing art, but he also had his enemies banished or killed. His father-in-law Niccolo Borghesi turned against him, and Pandolfo had him assassinated on June 19, 1500. This gave him despotic power in Siena. He resented Florence and helped its enemies but avoided war with the powerful neighbor. Pandolfo had an ambivalent relationship with Cesare Borgia, and he conspired against him in October 1502 and avoided being poisoned, but Cesare forced him to leave Siena in January 1503. Pandolfo stayed at Lucca, but two months later Louis XII helped him return to power in Siena. After Cesare’s death in 1507 Pandolfo’s power was less limited, and he sent military help to Pisa against Florence. He was an ally of Pope Julius II against the French, but in 1511 the Pope forced him to give Montepulciano to Florence in exchange for his nephew becoming a cardinal. Before he died on May 21, 1512, Pandolfo let his son Borghese Petrucci succeed him. In 1516 Borghese had to flee from Siena, and his cousin Raffaele ruled Siena 1516-22.

Italian Wars with France and Spain 1517-29
Italian Wars under Spanish Rule 1530-59

Bernardino of Siena

Bernardino degli Albizzeschi was born on September 8, 1380 in the town of Massa Marittima in Siena where his father was the governor. His mother died in 1383 and his father three years later. Bernardino was then raised by his pious aunt Diana who died in 1391. He was taken in and raised by his father’s brother and his wife who had no children. He studied with Onofrio di Loro, the best teacher of grammar in Siena, and then learned rhetoric and dialectic from Giovanni di Buccio da Spoleto, an eminent teacher of moral philosophy. Bernardino studied canon law at the Studio of Siena but did not complete the doctorate. In 1400 he nursed the sick during a plague and nearly died. On September 8, 1402 he “left the world” to join the Observant branch of the Franciscan order. Exactly one year later he took his final vows, and one year after that he was ordained a priest and celebrated his first mass. In 1405 Bernardino became an itinerant preacher in northern and central Italy.

In 1417 a novice in Fiesole had a vision and told Bernardino to preach in Lombardy. He gave sermons in Ferrara and Genoa and had a very successful mission in Milan that made him famous in 1418. He continued to preach in Lombardy, and in 1421 he was appointed vicar of the Observants in Umbria and Tuscany. During the winter of 1422-23 he studied rhetoric with the famous humanist educator Guarino, and there he met the Franciscan scholar Fra Alberto da Sarteano. Bernardino recognized the intellectual light in humans and encouraged friars to learn; but he emphasized that love is more important than knowledge.

At Padua in 1423 Bernardino warned that Jews should be isolated because of their practice of usury, though he criticized Christian usurers also. He preached against the concentration of too much money among a few while the interest on loans made the poor poorer. On his first visit to Rome in 1424 he preached against feuds, gambling, and sorcery. He may have inspired Siena to pass stronger laws against usury in 1425. Siena and other cities would expel Jews for moneylending; but often they would recall them later when they needed their help. He taught that when the state required loans, interest was not wrong; but if a man initiated a loan to the state, then expecting interest was a sin. He urged misers to return money or to give it to the poor before they died in order to avoid hell.

Bernardino warned against the three great sins of pride, avarice, and luxury. He also preached against gambling, and often he inspired his listeners to bring their gambling devices and burn them in a “Devil’s castle.” In trade he held that the just price was the one fixed by law or the market price, even if it was below cost. When he preached against paganism at Arezzo, probably in 1425, he found resistance and was expelled from the city. Siena, Padua, and Bologna had chairs of astrology, and Bernardino warned that astrologers were liable to error.

Bernardino occasionally preached against sodomy, and after a such a sermon in Siena he was nearly beaten by four sodomists. In 1425 he persuaded Siena and Perugia to reform their statutes making the penalty for sodomy a large fine or banishment, and one who persisted in it could be burned at the stake; but Siena revoked the laws two years later. Sodomy was more common in Italy and especially in Tuscany.

Reports of Bernardino’s sermons at Florence in 1424 and 1425 and at Siena in 1425 and 1427 were published. These sermons drew such large crowds that towns competed to host them in order to help their economies. He criticized Sienese ladies for using cosmetics and other beauty aids and vanities. Yet he urged the kind and courteous treatment of women and opposed corporal punishment. He often said that a good wife was worth more than rubies. He encouraged parents to teach their children the seven duties of love, fear, reverence, obedience, patience, imitation, and support with love being the most important. The education of girls should prepare them for marriage and household tasks. Widows were not expected to marry again so that the dowry could be returned to the family. He venerated Mary as an example of motherhood. He urged people to use the name “Jesus” and to put the initials “YHS” surrounded by the light of the sun on things as an act of devotion. In 1426 he was summoned to Rome on charges of heresy for this practice, but he spoke sincerely and was found innocent. On June 5 Pope Martin V granted Bernardino four new convents for his Franciscan Observants. The Pope also asked him to preach in Rome, and he did so every day for 80 days. He later claimed that he incited people in Rome to put a witch on trial.

He often warned about wickedness and the Devil. The humanist Poggio Bracciolini wrote that Bernardino could persuade by exciting emotions, manipulating people in order to lead them where he wanted. He described the wretched life of the usurer and warned of eternal punishment. In his sermons he would usually use reason, appeal to authority, and give examples. He followed the Church’s teachings and advised others to prefer those to their own opinions. He criticized as heretics the Wycliffites in England and the Hussites in Bohemia. He often gave sermons against sorcery and witchcraft, which he called one of the four universal sins. His preaching at Todi in 1426 may have influenced the passing of laws against witchcraft that led to a woman being burned on March 20, 1428. His sermons were attended by all kinds of people from royalty and aristocrats to the poor.

Bernardino declined to be made bishop of Siena in 1427; but that summer he gave sermons there every day for 45 days that were attended by thousands, and Siena made 30,000 florins from his visit. His sermons would last from one to four hours or more. He preached what good things people should do and what bad things to avoid. He argued that listening to a sermon was better than attending Mass because there is more danger for one’s soul in not hearing a sermon. He became the most influential religious force in Italy. He came back to Siena from a tour in 1431 to help prevent a war against Florence. In November the Council of Constance began a secret investigation of his suspected heresy, but on January 5, 1432 Pope Eugenius IV issued the bull Sedis Apostolicae declaring Bernardino “the most illustrious preacher and unerring teacher.”

Bernardino declined the bishoprics of Ferrara in 1431 and Urbino in 1435. He spent several months with Emperor Sigismund during his visit to Siena in 1432, and he helped persuade the Pope to crown Sigismund in 1433. His adversaries asked the Council of Basle to re-examine the charges once again in 1438. Pope Eugenius ignored this, and that year Bernardino was appointed Vicar General over all the Strict Observance convents in Italy; but in 1442 he persuaded Pope Eugenius to let him resign and go back to preaching. Bernardino had preached eloquently for unity at the Council of Florence which agreed to unity on July 5, 1439. His band of influential comrades included Giovanni of Capistrano, Giacomo della Marca (James of the March), and Alberto da Sarteano, who was elected to succeed him. He usually preached in Italian, but he revised and completed nine volumes of his sermons and treatises in Latin in 1443. They were copied and spread through the Franciscan communities. During the lifetime of Bernardino the number of Observance houses increased from 15 to 230, and the membership went from 130 to nearly 4,000. Bernardino went as far south as the kingdom of Naples, and he died in L’Aquila on May 20, 1444. Bernardino was canonized as a saint on May 24 in the jubilee year of 1450, and 40,000 people attended the ceremony.

Copyright © 2011 by Sanderson Beck

EUROPE & Humanism 1400-1517 has been published.
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EUROPE & Reform 1517-1588

Milan and Venice 1400-1517
Florence, the Medici and Machiavelli
Rome, Popes, and Naples 1400-1517
Italy and Humanism
Eastern Europe 1400-1517
German Empire 1400-1517
Scandinavia 1400-1517
Castile, Aragon, Granada, and Portugal 1400-1517
France’s Long War 1400-1453
France in the Renaissance 1453-1517
England of Henry IV, V, and VI 1399-1461
England 1461-1517
Scotland and Ireland 1400-1517
Erasmus and Spreading Humanism
Summary and Evaluation Europe 1400-1517

Chronology of Europe 1400-1588
World Chronology

BECK index