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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.
Due to his rebellious acts, he was disinherited by his father; Colonna was able to regain the family fiefs in 1562, thanks also to Pope Pius IV's support. However, he had to forfeit several poassessions such as Nemi, Ardea and Civita Lavinia, due to the poor of funds left by Ascanio.
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 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".
Colonna sojourned frequently at Avezzano, where he had a fountain and a new floor in the local castle built, as well as a loggia caing the Fucine Lake. Later in his life he moved to L'Aquila where he lived in the current Palazzo Porcinari.
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