Marcantonio Colonna

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The Victors of Lepanto (from left: John of Austria, Marcantonio Colonna, Sebastiano Venier).

Marcantonio II Colonna (sometimes spelled Marc'Antonio; 1535[1] – August 1, 1584), Duke of Tagliacozzo and Duke and Prince of Paliano, was a Roman aristocrat who served as Viceroy of Sicily in the service of the Spanish Crown, general of the Spanish forces, and Captain General of the Church. He is best remembered for his part as the admiral of the Papal fleet in the Battle of Lepanto.[2] He was "one of the most illustrious land and sea captains of the 16th century".[3]


Marcantonio Colonna, born in 1535 at Civita Lavinia,[4] was a member of the noble Colonna family of the Lazio, then one of the most powerful feudal dynasties of the Papal States and the Kingdom of Sicily, which was under Spanish rule. His parents were Ascanio Colonna, Duke of Tagliacozzo, and Giovanna d'Aragona.

The Colonna coat of arms, from the Palazzo Bellomo in Syracuse.

Due to acts of rebellion, he was disinherited by his father; but in 1562 Colonna was able to regain the family fiefs for himself, largely thanks to the support of Pope Pius IV. However, he had to forfeit several possessions, such as Nemi, Ardea, and Civita Lavinia, due his father, Ascanio, having left little money.

In 1553–1554, during the war against Siena, Colonna was made commander of the Spanish cavalry. Colonna often stayed at Avezzano, where in 1565 he expanded the castle by adding a new floor. He also had a fountain built as well as creating a loggia by the Fucine Lake. The castle was later converted into a fortified palace with a moat and drawbridge.[5]

In 1571, Don John of Austria appointed him captain-general of the allied fleet against the Moors.[4] At the Battle of Lepanto (7 October 1571), he commanded the papal Capitana (flagship) as part of the Centre division, where he rescued the Real, flagship of commander Don John of Austria. When the Real was almost taken by the Ottoman janissaries, Colonna came alongside, with the bow of his galley and mounted a counter-attack. With the help of Colonna, the Turks were pushed off the Real and the Ottoman flagship of Ali Pasha was boarded and swept. The entire crew of Ali Pasha's flagship was killed, including the commander himself. The banner of the Holy League was hoisted on the captured ship, breaking the morale of the Turkish galleys nearby.[6]

Entry of Marcantonio Colonna to Rome, 1571. Etching by Francesco Tramezzino.

On Colonna's return to Rome, Pope Gregory XIII confirmed him as Captain General of the Church.[4]

In 1577 King Philip II named Colonna as Viceroy of Sicily. He was also Lord of Marino, then a village a few miles south of Rome, where the inhabitants honoured him with a great annual feast which still takes place today, under the name of "Sagra dell'uva".

Later in his life he moved to L'Aquila, where he lived in the house now called the Palazzo Porcinari.

In November 2022, the Italian Navy launched the Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Ship, Marcantonio Colonna.[3]

Family and issue[edit]

On 29 April 1552, at Rome, he married Felicia Orsini, daughter of Girolamo Orsini, Lord of Bracciano, and granddaughter of Gian Giordano Orsini and his second wife Felice della Rovere, natural daughter of Pope Julius II. Her mother was Francesca Sforza of Santa Fiora, daughter of Bosio II Sforza, XI Count of Santa Fiora, and his wife Costanza Farnese, Natural daughter of Pope Paul III.

They had seven children, four sons and three daughters:


  1. ^ Leonard, Amy E.; Nelson, Karen L. (2011). Masculinities, Childhood, Violence: Attending to Early Modern Women—and Men. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 353. ISBN 978-1611490183.
  2. ^ "Marcantonio Colonna", The British Museum
  3. ^ a b "The fifth PPA “Marcantonio Colonna” launched in Riva Trigoso", European Defense Review, November 26, 2022
  4. ^ a b c "Marcantonio Colonna", Marina Militare
  5. ^ Latini, Marialuce (2000). "Avezzano (AQ), La rocca Orsini". Guida ai Castelli d'Abruzzo (in Italian). Pescara: Carsa Edizioni. p. 82. ISBN 88-85854-87-7.
  6. ^ William Oliver Stevens and Allan F. Westcott, A History of Sea Power, 1920, p. 105–106.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by Viceroy of Sicily
Succeeded by