Romagna: the signories
Rimini, Ravenna, Forli, Faenza, Imola
In Romagna the emergence of the signory took place between 1200 and 1300 . At the end ofthe 1200’s the Da Polenta in Ravenna, and the Malatesta in Rimini achieved success as didthe Ordelaffi at Forli’ and subsequently the Manfredi at Faenza and the Alidosi at Imola.
The important families were really familial clans which comprised, besides blood relatives andin-laws, of domestic servants and even slaves. These clans were often divided into several“case”, or branches that, however did not cease to make reference tothe same origin. They comprised oftens or sometimes hundreds of individuals, without counting the patronage that surrounded them and on whom they could rely as stable or occasional allies.
The bloody conflicts of the factions which made the Romagna the theatre of ferocious, criminal acts, were, in part, the result of the absence of centralised power. The fight for domination and conquest of power hadeverywhere taken as a pretext the battle for control between the Pope and the Germanic emperors.
They were called the guelf on the side of the Pope, and the ghibelline those on the side of the Emperor. The battle, originating with Frederico I Barbarossa, who laid claim to the universal pre-eminence of the emperor, lasted almost two centuries, until the death of Federico II (1250). The papacy,advocates of the universality of the papal monarchy, came out victorious.
In the long and tortuous “fight for the investiture” between Pope Gregorio VII and the Emperor Enrico IV, eastern Emilia and the Romagna, under the jurisdiction of the archbishops of Ravenna – werefor some time aligned on the imperial side as was Rimini. Here the ghibelline were led, first by the Onesti family, and then by the Parcitadi, who already in the XIIth century were assured the government of the city. Leading the guelf faction were the Gambacerri.
In 1248, with the defeat of Federico II at Parma, Romagna did not renew its oath of allegiance, and the major part of the powerful families remained passive towards the side of the guelf: amongst those the Malatesta, ghibelline by tradition.
The family, originally from Pennabilli, belonged to the rural nobility, and at the end of the XIIth century when first mention was made of them, were not yet very powerful.
MALATESTA DA VERUCCHIO. On the political plane the rise of the Malatesta was consolidatedafter 1250, when Rimini, previously ghibelline, became a fortress for the guelf. The hegemony of the family was set up by putting out of play the most powerful families, such as the Gambacerri and the Omodei, and, above all, the Parcitadi, definitively defeated in 1295.
The final battle took place through trickery: at the explosion of violent turmoil between the factions, the Malatesta pretended to be in peace and dismissed their troops. At nightfall, those loyal to the Malatesta re-entered the city by the Porta del Gattolo controlled bythe Malatesta and slaughtered the ghibelline. The Parcitadi fed from Rimini and were forced by the Churchand the Comune never to return. The rise of the Malatesta was not considered to be an obstacle to the freedom of the city, but was understood as away of ensuring internal peace.
Having defeated the Parcitadi, Malatesta da Verucchio established, in 1295, the basis of the signory: obtaining modifications to the institutional order of the Comune in his family’s favour, and in particular, he managed to deprive the local nobility of their privileges. Gradually the Malatesta consolidated their influence on the city, thanks to the operation of the office of the podesta’ held from 1301 until1320; they restricted the function of the organs of the city’s government, entrusted the bureaucratic – administrative offices to those loyal to them, and occupied the lay and ecclesiastical institutions.
From 1355, when they became papal vicars, the Malatesta reinforced their rule, that remained unopposed until the 16th century. From the control of Rimini the territorial signory was builtextending towards the south on the Ancona boundary as far as Fano, and to the west as far as Cesena.
Described by Dante as “il mastin vecchio” [the old mastiff], (Inferno, XXVII, 46), Malatesta da Verucchio for his longevity (1212-1312) earned the appellative, “Centenario”. In his youth, for his courage he was also called, “l’Audace” [the audacious]. As was the custom at that time, his marriages and those of his children served to consolidate political and military alliances. He was married three times: by Concordia, (who brought, as dowry, the estates of the Torre di San Mauro and of Gualdo di Savignano), he had three children, two of whom, Paolo “il Bello” [the Beautiful] and Giovanni “Gianciotto”, or “Gianni lo Zoppo”, [Gianni the Lame], husband of Francesca da Polenta who were together the protagonists of a family tragedy made famous thanks to Dante Alighieri, and remembered by poets and dramatists of all time.
Paolo and Francesca