Corsini family

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Corsini coat of arms (from Volterra)

Corsini is the name of a Florentine princely family.

From Poggibonsi to the 14th century[edit]

The Corsini are an old and historical family of Florence.

They arrived in Florence towards the end of the 12th century, coming from the areas of Poggibonsi and from the “Pesa” valley, which are between Siena and Florence. They gained considerable success in the 14th century as politicians, traders and churchmen in what was at the time the Republic of Florence. They gave to Florence 12 Priors and 47 Gonfaloniere of Justice, the highest appointments in Florence.

Matteo (1322-1402) build a considerable fortune at the Court of England, trading wools, silk and fish. He was a close friend to the great Italian poet Petrarca. The banking crisis, which had been caused by the insolvency of Edward III following his wars in France, forced Matteo to relinquish his position in England thus returning to Tuscany where he invested in land. In 1371 Matteo and the Corsini were granted the title of Count Palatine by the Charles IV, Emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire. Matteo’s cousin, Giovanni, became Seneschal of Armenia and Governor of Rodi. Another cousin, Filippo (1334-1421) was a law expert, an active diplomat and was 5 times Gonfaloniere of Justice in Florence.

Early contributions to the Church[edit]

Two Corsini were bishops of Fiesole, Andrea (1349) and Neri (1374); and two were bishops of Florence, Piero (1363) and Amerigo (1411).

In particular Andrea, Bishop of Fiesole from 1349 until his death in 1373, was made Saint in 1629 (Sant Andrea Corsini, or Saint Andrew Corsini) because of his life of penitence, meditation and restless help to poor.[1] His brother Neri was also a Bishop of Fiesole, and is a Blessed Soul.

Piero (1363 - 1403) followed Pope Urban V into exile in Avignon as a Cardinal and Bishop of Florence, and supported the Pope’s return to Rome. Amerigo (1411) was the first arch-bishop of Florence.

The 15th and 17th centuries[edit]

At the end of the 15th century the political influence of the Corsini decreased, mainly because of the seizure of power carried out by the Medici family. Though some of the Corsini opposed the Medici, the family as a whole continued to flourish in business and politics under Medici rule, acquiring titles, lands, and offices.

Filippo (1538-1601) and Bartolomeo (1545-1613) increased consistently the wealth of the family thanks to their large and well organised web of commercial desks around Europe, connected with a very fast private postal service (a letter of Bartolomeo, who lived in London, would need less than 3 days to reach Florence). They developed a large banking and brokerage business. They were responsible for the construction of Palazzo Corsini, Florence on the Lungarno, built in what is now referred to as ‘Florentine Baroque’ style. The two Florentine Palazzos – one on the Lungarno and the other in Via del Prato – mark the intensifying relationship between the family and the art world in the course of the 17th century. The chapel in the Chiesa del Carmine, dedicated to Sant’Andrea Corsini, was built during the first half of the century, while the Galleria Gentilizia, where many works of art were preserved, was developed in the Palazzo which dominates the Arno river. Their cousin, Cardinal Ottavio, hosted in 1620 a musical drama on his palace: some professors argue that this is the first time a lyrical opera was staged.

During those years, the Corsini were granted the feuds of Sismano, Casigliano and Civitella. In 1620 Paolo V (Pope Paul V) granted them the title of Marquis of Sismano, which was extended by Urbano VIII (Pope Urban VIII) to Casigliano and Civitella[disambiguation needed] (1629), later Lajatico and Orciatico (1644) and finally Giovagallo and Tresana (1652).

The 18th and 19th centuries[edit]

The 18th and 19th centuries marked the height of the family.

Lorenzo was made Pope with the name of Clemente XII (Clement XII, 1730-1740). He founded the Museum Capitolini, and he commissioned (among other things) the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi fountain), the façade of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome (and the majestic Corsini chapel dedicated to Saint Andrew Corsini on its left side), the façade of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Palazzo della Consulta, and also the ports in Anzio, Ravenna (porto Corsini) and Ancona. He was the first one to ban the Freemasonry.

In 1736, Cardinal Neri Maria (Neri Maria Corsini), nephew of Pope Clement XII, commissioned the structure of the “Palazzo Corsini alla Lungara” in Rome. During the Napoleonic occupation of Rome, the palace hosted Joseph Bonaparte.

Bartolomeo (1683-1752) was commander in chief of the Roman Chivalry, President of the Cabinet of King Charles III in Naples, Vice-King of Sicily. He was also the first Prince of Sismano and Duke of Casigliano, and was Sovereign Marquis of Tresana.

Neri (1771-1845) was a smart politicians, Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany both under Napoleon and under the Restoration; he was appointed as sole negotiator of the Habsburg-Lorena (at the time Grand Duke of Tuscany) at the historical Congress of Vienna.

Tommaso (1767-1856) was several times ambassador and senator of the Grand Duchy and Andrea (1804-1868) was Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Grand Duchy.

Tommaso (1835-1919) was MP of the Kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1882, life senator and finally Mayor of Florence. He founded the “Fondiaria Assicurazioni”, was chairman of the Saving Bank of Florence and chairman of the Southern Italy Railways. With an act of generosity and far-sightedness, he gave the Palazzo della Lungara in Rome to the Italian State and donated his entire Roman collection of paintings, prints and books. The Accademia dei Lincei, which he founded, is still located on these premises.

Tommaso (VIII Prince of Sismano, 1903-1980) nephew of Tommaso, took part in Italy’s political life as a Constituent Assembly deputy for the constitution of the Italian Republic. As an expert in agriculture and farm animal breeding, he contributed to the modernization of these two sectors in Tuscany and Umbria. His wife, Donna Elena, managed to save the Galleria Corsini and many other treasures from bombings and from the passing of the front line during World War II.

Giovanni (1911-1988), Marquis of Lajatico and Count Palatine, escaped during WWII from an English prison in Ethiopia together with 4 comrades, eventually setting free in Mozambique, after 3500 miles of escape.[2]


The family still exists today, with three main branches, living in London, Florence, Rome, Milan, Belgium, United States, Philippines and Brazil.

The IX Prince of Sismano is Filippo (1937) who married Giorgiana Avogadro di Collobiano.[3]

Notable members of the House of Corsini[edit]

Notable estates[edit]

See also[edit]

Sources and references[edit]

  • L. Passerini, Genealogia e storia della famiglia Corsini (Florence, 1858)
  • A. von Reumont, Geschichte der Stadt Rom (Berlin, 1868)