Duchy of Ferrara

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Duchy of Ferrara
Fief of the Papacy

1264 - 1597


Coat of arms

Territories of the House of Este in 1494 (shown in canary yellow)
Capital Ferrara
Government Monarchy
History
 -  Obizzo II d'Este becomes ruler 1264
 -  Modena and Reggio become Duchies 1452
 -  Ferrara made into Duchy 1471
 -  House of Este lose Ferrara to Papacy 1597

The Duchy of Ferrara is a former sovereign state of northern Italy.

Background[edit]

Ferrara, walled and moated, ca 1600.

The origin of Ferrara is uncertain, it was probably settled by the inhabitants of the lagoons at the mouth of Po river; there are two early centers of settlement, one round the cathedral,[1] the other, the castrum bizantino, being the San Pietro district, on the opposite shore, where the Primaro empties into the Volano channel. Ferrara appears first in a document of the Lombard king Desiderius of 753 AD,[2] as a city forming part of the Exarchate of Ravenna. Desiderius pledged a Lombard ducatus ferrariae ("Duchy of Ferrara") in 757 to Pope Stephen II. After 984 it was a fief of Tedaldo, count of Modena and Canossa, nephew of the emperor Otto I. It afterwards made itself independent, and in 1101 was taken by siege by the countess Matilda. At this time it was mainly dominated by several great families, among them the prominent Adelardi (or Aleardi) family.

In 1146, Guglielmo II of Adelardi, the last of the House of Adelardi, died, and his property passed, as the dowry of his niece the Marchesella, to Obizzo I of Este. There was considerable hostility between the newly entered family and the prominent Salinguerra family, but after considerable struggles Azzo VII of Este was nominated perpetual podestà in 1242; in 1259 he took Ezzelino of Verona prisoner in battle. His grandson, Obizzo II (1264–1293), succeeded him, and he was made perpetual lord of the city by the population in 1264.

Middle Ages[edit]

The House of Este was from henceforth settled in Ferrara. In 1289 he was also chosen as lord of Modena, one year later he was made lord of Reggio. Niccolò III (1393–1441) received several popes with great magnificence, especially Eugene IV, who held a council here in 1438. His son Borso received the title of duke for the imperial fiefs of Modena and Reggio from Emperor Frederick III in 1452 (in which year Girolamo Savonarola was born here), and in 1471 was made duke of Ferrara by Pope Paul II. Ercole I (1471–1505) carried on a war with Venice and increased the magnificence of the city.

Renaissance[edit]

Portrait of a Woman by Bartolomeo Veneto, traditionally assumed to be Lucrezia Borgia.

During the reign of Ercole d'Este I, one of the most significant patrons of the arts in late 15th- and early 16th-century Italy after the Medici, Ferrara grew into a cultural center, renowned for music as well as for visual arts. The painters established links with Flemish artists and their techniques, exchanging influences in the colors and composition choices. Composers came to Ferrara from many parts of Europe, especially France and Flanders; Josquin des Prez worked for Duke Ercole for a time (producing the Missa Hercules dux Ferrariæ, which he wrote for him); Jacob Obrecht came to Ferrara twice (and died during an outbreak of plague there in 1505); and Antoine Brumel served as principal musician from 1505. Alfonso I, son of Ercole, was also an important patron; his preference for instrumental music resulted in Ferrara becoming an important center of composition for the lute. The architecture of Ferrara benefitted from the genius of Biagio Rossetti, who was asked in 1484 by Ercole I to redesign the plan of the city. The resulting "Addizione Erculea" is one of the most important and beautiful examples of renaissance city planning and contributed to the selection of Ferrara as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alfonso married the notorious Lucrezia Borgia, and continued the war with Venice with success. In 1509 he was excommunicated by Pope Julius II, and he overcame the pontifical army in 1512 defending Ravenna. Lucrezia, together with other members of the Este house, is buried in the convent of Corpus Domini.

Gaston de Foix fell in the battle, in which he was supporting Alfonso. With the succeeding popes he was able to make peace. He was the patron of Ariosto from 1518 onwards. His son Ercole II married Renée of France, daughter of Louis XII of France; he too embellished Ferrara during his reign (1534–1559).

Torquato Tasso in the St. Ann's hospital of Ferrara, by Eugène Delacroix.

His son Alfonso II married Lucrezia, daughter of grand-duke Cosimo I of Tuscany, then Barbara, sister of the emperor Maximilian II and finally Margherita Gonzaga, daughter of the duke of Mantua. He raised the glory of Ferrara to its highest point, and was the patron of Tasso, Guarini, and Cremonini – favouring, as the princes of his house had always done, the arts and sciences. During the reign of Alfonso II, Ferrara once again developed an opulent court with an impressive musical establishment, rivaled in Italy only by the adjacent city of Venice, and the traditional musical centers such as Rome, Florence and Milan. Composers such as Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Lodovico Agostini, and later Carlo Gesualdo, represented the avant-garde tendency of the composers there, writing for gifted virtuoso performers, including the famous concerto di donne — the three virtuoso female singers Laura Peverara, Anna Guarini, and Livia d'Arco. Vincenzo Galilei praised the work of Luzzaschi, and Girolamo Frescobaldi studied with him.

The city was much affected by the 1570 Ferrara earthquake.

When Alfonso died in 1597, he had no legitimate male heir. The Este lands were bequested to Alfonso's cousin Cesare d'Este. However, the succession was not acknowledged by Pope Clement VIII. Ferrara was claimed as a vacant fief by the Pope, as was Comacchio. The House of Este still retained Modena and Reggio until 1796, apart from short interludes.

Este Lords of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio[edit]

Altarpiece, by the artist Michele di Luca dei Coltellini, was once in the now ruined church of Sant'Andrea in Ferrara.[3] The Walters Art Museum.

Este Dukes of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Trevor Dean, Land and Power in Late Medieval Ferrara: The Rule of the Este, 1350-1450.(Cambridge University Press) 1987.
  • Cecily Booth, Cosimo I - Duke Of Florence, 1921, University Press

External links[edit]