House of Malatesta

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de Malatestiis
Noble house
Motto: "The Indian elephant isn't afraid of mosquitos"
(Latin: Elephas indus culices non timet)[1]
San Marino
Founded1295; 729 years ago (1295)
FounderMalatesta da Verucchio
Final rulerPandolfo IV Malatesta
Estate(s)Castel Sismondo (Rimini)
Rocca Malatestiana (Cesena)
Dissolution1619 (1619)
Deposition1528 (1528)

The House of Malatesta was an Italian family that ruled over Rimini from 1295 until 1500, as well as (in different periods) other lands and towns in Romagna and holding high positions in the government of cities in present-day Tuscany, Lombardy and Marche. The dynasty is considered among the most important and influential of the Late Middle Ages. In the period of maximum influence, they extended their domains along the Marche coast, up to Ascoli Piceno, Senigallia, Sansepolcro and Citerna, and to the north, on the territories of Bergamo and Brescia.[2]


The family's progenitor is said to be Rodolfo of Carpegna whose fighting spirit yielded him the sobriquet mala testa ("bad head"). From 1004 on he built a castle on the rock of Pennabilli.

In the 11th century, the family had possessions in the region of Gabicce Mare, Gatteo and Poggio Berni. Giovanni Malatesta (d. 1150) owned some land between rivers Marecchia and Rubicon, and was the first to settle down in Rimini. His son married into the Traversari family who were lords of Ravenna and Rimini during the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1186 the Malatesta became lords of Torriana. Giovanni's grandsons Giovanni and Malatesta I Malatesta (1183–1248) founded the branches of the Counts of Sogliano al Rubicone (extinguished in 1640) and "della Penna" of Pennabilli and Verucchio (until 1462). In 1216 they became citizens of Rimini.

Malatesta I became podestà (chief magistrate) of Pistoia in 1228 and of Rimini in 1239 and 1247. During the struggles between papal and imperial followers (Guelphs and Ghibellines), he supported emperor Frederick II. His son however, Malatesta da Verucchio (d. 1312), switched sides after the emperor's defeat near Parma in 1248, and became leader of the Guelphs while Guido I. of Montefeltro took the lead of the Ghibellines in the Marche and Romagna regions. Malatesta da Verucchio made himself sole master of the city ("signore") after the expulsion of the family's Ghibelline rivals, the Parcitadi, in 1295. His hunchback son Giovanni Malatesta is chiefly famous because he murdered his wife Francesca da Polenta and his younger brother Paolo in 1285, having discovered them in adultery, and the murder is recorded in Dante's Inferno as well as in a story by Giovanni Boccaccio.

Malatestino I, Giovanni's brother, became capitano of the Guelphs of Bologna in 1296 and of Florence in 1303. In 1312 he destroyed his Ghibelline cousins' castle at Sogliano, and in 1312 followed his father as lord of Rimini. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Malatestas ruled over a number of cities in the Romagna and the Marche, including Pesaro, Fano, Cesena, Fossombrone and Cervia. Several Malatestas were condottieri at the service of various Italian states. Malatesta Novello built the Malatestiana Library at Cesena from 1447 to 1452.

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1417-1468), by Piero della Francesca

The most famous was Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, who was engaged in conflict with the papacy over territorial claims, as well as with his rival Federico da Montefeltro. In the end, he lost almost all of his territories, except for Rimini which he held with the support of the Republic of Venice. He had however built the cathedral of Rimini, the Tempio Malatestiano, from 1450. His grandson Pandolfo was eventually expelled from Rimini in 1500 by Cesare Borgia and the city was finally incorporated in the Papal States in 1528, after the last failed attempt of Pandolfo's son, Sigismondo. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the family still provided a number of condottieri, the Sogliano branch extinguished in 1640, the last of the Rimini branch was the Jesuit Roberto Malatesta (d. 1708), the Ghiaggiolo branch extinguished with Lamberto in 1757.

Malatesta Family Members[edit]

1st generation:

2nd generation:
di Malatestino:

  • (7) Ferrantino (d.1353) (son of 3) - Lord of Rimini, 1326, deposed & imprisoned by 11, 1334

di Paolo:

  • (9) Ramberto (d.1330) (son of 4) - murdered by 14
  • (10) Guido the Archpriest (d.1334?) (son of 4)

di Gianciotto

di Pandolfo:

3rd generation:
di Ferrantino:

  • (13) Pandolfino (d.?) (son of 7)
  • (14) Malatestino Novello (d.1335) (son of 7) - imprisoned & prob. murdered by 11.

di Malatesta:

di Galeotto:

4th generation

di Pandolfino:

  • (21) Ferrantino Novello (d.1352) (son of 13)
  • (22) Guido (d.1334) (son of 13) - imprisoned & probably murdered by 11

Family tree of Malatesta[edit]

Malatesta I
lord of Rimini
Pandolfo I
lord of Rimini, Pesaro
lord of Pesaro
lord of Rimini
capitano in Florence
Malatesta II
lord of Rimini, Pesaro
lord of Rimini, Fano, Cesena, Fossombrone
lord of Rimini
Pandolfo II
lord of Pesaro
lord of Jesi
Carlo I
lord of Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Cesena
Pandolfo III
lord of Fano
lord of Fossobrone
Malatesta III
lord of Pesaro, Fossombrone, Jesi
Galeotto Roberto
lord of Rimini
Domenico Novello
Sigismondo Pandolfo
lord of Rimini, Fano
lord of Pesaro, Fossombrone
Carlo II
lord of Pesaro, Fossombrone
Cleofa MalatestaTheodore II Palaiologos
despot of Morea
lord of Rimini
Pandolfo IV
lord of Rimini

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Francesca Cappelletti; Gerlinde Huber-Rebenich (1997). Der antike Mythos und Europa. Gebrüder Mann Verlag. p. 250.
  2. ^ "MALATESTA in "Enciclopedia Italiana"". (in Italian). Retrieved 2021-04-26.


  • J. Larner (1965) The Lords of Romagna: Romagnol society and the origins of the Signorie, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 243
  • P. H. Wicksteed and E.G. Gardner, (1902) Dante and Giovanni del Virgilio, Westminster: Archibald Constable, p. 249, 336

External links[edit]