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Gian Galeazzo Visconti

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Gian Galeazzo Visconti
Duke of Milan
Reign5 September 1395 – 3 September 1402
Coronation5 September 1395, Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio
SuccessorGian Maria Visconti
Lord of Milan
Reign6 May 1385 – 5 September 1395
PredecessorBernabò Visconti
Lord of Pavia
Reign4 August 1378 – 5 September 1395
PredecessorGaleazzo II Visconti
Lord of Pisa
Reign13 February 1399 – 3 September 1402
PredecessorGherardo Appiani
SuccessorGabriele Maria Visconti
Born16 October 1351
Pavia, Italy
Died3 September 1402(1402-09-03) (aged 50)
Melegnano, Duchy of Milan, Italy
(m. 1360; died 1372)
(m. 1380; died 1402)
FatherGaleazzo II Visconti
MotherBianca of Savoy

Gian Galeazzo Visconti (16 October 1351 – 3 September 1402), was the first duke of Milan (1395)[a] and ruled that late-medieval city just before the dawn of the Renaissance. He also ruled Lombardy jointly with his uncle Bernabò.[1] He was the founding patron of the Certosa di Pavia, completing the Visconti Castle at Pavia begun by his father and furthering work on the Duomo of Milan. He captured a large territory of northern Italy and the Po valley. He threatened war with France in relation to the transfer of Genoa to French control as well as issues with his beloved daughter Valentina. When he died of fever in the Castello of Melegnano, his children fought with each other and fragmented the territories that he had ruled.



During his patronage of the Visconti Castle, he contributed to the growth of the collection of scientific treatises and richly illuminated manuscripts in the Visconti Library.[2]

Gian Galeazzo was the son of Galeazzo II Visconti and Bianca of Savoy.[3] His father possessed the signoria of the city of Pavia. In 1385 Gian Galeazzo gained control of Milan by overthrowing his uncle Bernabò through treacherous means by faking a religious conversion and ambushing him during a religious procession in Milan.[4] He imprisoned his uncle who soon died, supposedly poisoned on his orders.[5]

Galeazzo's role as a statesman also took other forms. Soon after seizing Milan, he took Verona, Vicenza, and Padua, establishing himself as Signore of each, and soon controlled almost the entire valley of the Po,[6] including Piacenza where in 1393 he gave the feudal power to Confalonieri family on the lands they already had in the valleys around Piacenza.[citation needed] He lost Padua in 1390 when it reverted to Francesco Novello da Carrara.[7] He received the title of Duke of Milan from Wenceslaus, King of the Romans in 1395 for 100,000 florins.[8]

Gian Galeazzo spent 300,000 golden florins[citation needed] in attempting to turn from their courses the rivers Mincio from Mantua and the Brenta from Padua, in order to render those cities helpless before the force of his arms.[9]

Notable are his library, housed in the grandest princely dwelling in Italy, the Castello in Pavia, and his rich collection of manuscripts, many of them the fruits of his conquests. In 1400, Gian Galeazzo appointed a host of clerks and departments entrusted with improving public health. For the new system of administration and bookkeeping this established, he is credited with creating the first modern bureaucracy, with the assistance of his Chancellor Francesco Barbavara.[10]

Conflict with France


Galeazzo was a devoted father to his daughter Valentina. He reacted to gossip about Valentina at the French Court by threatening to declare war on France.[11] The wife of King Charles VI of France was Isabeau of Bavaria, the granddaughter of Bernabò Visconti, and, thus, a bitter rival of Valentina and her father Gian Galeazzo.[12]

Furious at French political manoeuvring that had removed Genoa from his influence, Gian Galeazzo had been attempting to stop the transfer of Genoese sovereignty to France and Enguerrand VII was dispatched to warn him that France would consider further interference a hostile act. The quarrel was more than political. Valentina Visconti, the wife of the Duke of Orleans and Gian Galeazzo's beloved daughter, had been exiled from Paris due to the machinations of Queen Isabeau the same month as the departure of the crusade.[citation needed]

In 1396, after the disaster of Nicopolis, Galeazzo was strongly suspected of having informed the Ottomans of the Crusaders' plans and of the size and strength of their army as vengeance for his daughter being accused of being behind the illness of King Charles VI of France, and for France's increasing control over the city of Genoa that he had attempted to hamper, for which he had been rebuked by Enguerrand VII before the battle.[citation needed]

Uniting Italy and death


Gian Galeazzo had dreams of uniting all of northern Italy into one kingdom, a revived Lombard empire.[13] Obstacles included Bologna and especially Florence. In 1402, Gian Galeazzo launched assaults upon these cities. The warfare was extremely costly on both sides, but it was universally believed the Milanese would emerge victorious. The Florentine leaders, especially the chancellor Coluccio Salutati worked successfully to rally the people of Florence, but the Florentines were being taxed hard by famine, disease, and poverty. Galeazzo won another victory over the Bolognese at the Battle of Casalecchio on 26–27 June 1402.[14]

Galeazzo's dreams were to come to nought, however, as he succumbed to a fever at the Castello of Melegnano on 10 August 1402. He died on 3 September. His empire fragmented as infighting among his successors wrecked Milan, partly through the division of his lands among both legitimate and illegitimate children.[b]

Marriage and issue


His first marriage was to Isabelle of Valois,[15] who brought him the title of comte de Vertus in Champagne, rendered in Italian as Conte di Virtù, the title by which he was known in his early career. They had:

  • Gian Galeazzo (b. Pavia, 4 March 1366 – d. bef. 1376).
  • Azzone (b. Pavia, 1368 – d. Pavia, 4 October 1381).
  • Valentina (b. Pavia, 1371 – d. Château de Blois, Loir-et-Cher, 14 December 1408), married on 17 August 1389 to Louis I, Duke of Orléans[15]
  • Carlo (b. Pavia, 11 September 1372 – d. Pavia, 1374).

After Galeazzo's wife Isabelle died in childbirth in 1372, he married secondly, on 2 October 1380, his cousin Caterina Visconti,[15] daughter of Bernabò; with her he had:


See also



  1. ^ He was also Signore di Verona, Cremona, Bergamo, Brescia, Belluno, Pieve di Cadore, Feltre, Pavia, Novara, Como, Lodi, Vercelli, Alba, Asti, Pontremoli, Tortona, Alessandria, Valenza, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Vicenza, Vigevano, Borgo San Donnino and of the valli del Boite.
  2. ^ To his son Giovanni Maria he assigned the title of Duke of Milan, which included Como, Lodi, Cremona, Bergamo, Brescia, Reggio Emilia, Piacenza, Parma, and claims to Perugia and Siena. To Filippo Maria, conte di Pavia, he assigned in addition Vercelli, Novara, Alessandria, Tortona, Feltre, Verona, Vicenza, Bassano and the shores of Trento. To his illegitimate son, Gabriele Maria, went Pisa and Crema.


  1. ^ Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim (1978). A distant mirror : the calamitous 14th century. New York: Knopf. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-394-40026-6.
  2. ^ Hoeniger, Cathleen. The Illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis Manuscripts from Northern Italy ca. 1380-1400: Sources, Patrons, and the Creation of a new Pictorial Genre. in: Givens, Jean Ann; Reeds, Karen; Touwaide, Alain. (2006) Visualizing medieval medicine and natural history, 1200-1550. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. pp. 51-82. ISBN 0754652963.
  3. ^ Mueller 2019, p. 550.
  4. ^ John T. Paoletta and Gary M. Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy
  5. ^ Barbara Tuchman A Distant Mirror A.A.Knopf, New York (1978) p.418
  6. ^ Bueno de Mesquita (2011), pp. 69–83.
  7. ^ Bueno de Mesquita (2011), pp. 122–123.
  8. ^ Bueno de Mesquita (2011), p. 173.
  9. ^ Bueno de Mesquita (2011), pp. 165–167, 276–277.
  10. ^ Symonds, John Addington (1888) [1875]. Renaissance in Italy: The age of despots. Vol. 1 (American ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 142. ASIN B003YH9WF0. hdl:2027/mdp.39015026749849. OCLC 664406875. Retrieved 8 March 2011. It was he who invented bureaucracy by creating a special class of paid clerks and secretaries of departments. Their duty consisted in committing to books and ledgers the minutest items of his private expenditure and the outgoings of his public purse; in noting the details of the several taxes, so as to be able to present a survey of the whole state revenue; and in recording the names and qualities and claims of his generals, captains, and officials.
  11. ^ Frazee, Charles A. (June 1992). "The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Edited by Alexander P. Kazhdan, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. 3 vols. xxxi + 2232 pp. $225.00". Church History. 61 (2): 241–243. doi:10.2307/3168272. ISSN 0009-6407. JSTOR 3168272. S2CID 162432200.
  12. ^ Bueno de Mesquita (2011), pp. 63, 158–159.
  13. ^ "Giangaleazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan | History Today". www.historytoday.com. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  14. ^ Morelli 2015, p. 200-201.
  15. ^ a b c d Ward, Prothero & Leathes 1934, p. table 68.


  • Bueno de Mesquita, D. M. (Daniel Meredith) (2011) [1941]. Giangaleazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan (1351-1402): A Study in the Political Career of an Italian Despot (reprint ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521234559. OCLC 746456124.
  • Morelli, Giovanni Di Paolo (2015). "Memoirs". In Branca, Vitorre (ed.). Merchant Writers: Florentine Memoirs from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. University of Toronto Press.
  • Mueller, Reinhold C. (2019). The Venetian Money Market: Banks, Panics, and the Public Debt, 1200-1500. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Ward, A.W.; Prothero, G.W.; Leathes, Stanley, eds. (1934). The Cambridge Modern History. Vol. XIII. Cambridge at the University Press.
Italian nobility
Preceded by Lord of Milan
Became duke
New creation Duke of Milan
Succeeded by