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Marcantonio Colonna, born at Civita Lavinia, was a member of the Colonna noble family of the Lazio, then one of the most powerful fief holder 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.
In 1553–1554, during the war against Siena, Colonna was created commander of the Spanish cavalry. At the Battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571), his admiral ship was protagonist of the decisive victory of the Christian League against the Ottoman fleet. On his return to Rome, Pope Gregory XIII confirmed him Captain General of the Church.
In 1577 King Philip II named him Viceroy of Sicily. Marcantonio Colonna was also Lord [Signor] of Marino, then a village some kilometers south of Rome, where the population honoured him with a great feast which is held yearly still today, under the name of "Sagra dell'uva".
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