The House of Bentivoglio

SEE ALSO Borgias Home | Powerful Families of Renaissance Italy | Renaissance Italy


From the Period 1323 - 1511

Bentivoglio was an Italian family of princely rank, long supreme in Bologna and responsible for giving the city its political autonomy during the Renaissance.


The presence of the Bentivoglio family is first recorded in the city in 1323. Originally from the castle of that name in the neighborhood of Bologna, the family claimed descent from Enzio, King of Sardinia, an illegitimate son of Federick II, Holy Roman Emperor.

During the fourteenth century, the family belonged to one of the workingmen's guilds at Bologna, and the family had gained power as pro-papist Guelph leaders in the fourteenth century. Amid the faction-conflicts of the commune Giovanni I Bentivoglio, with the help of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, declared himself signore and Gonfaloniere di Giustizia on 14 March 1401.

When the Visconti turned hostile, Giovanni was defeated and killed on 26 June 1402 at the Battle of Casalecchio and was interred in the church of San Giacomo Maggiore. During the next few decades, the city's political status - and the family's fortunes- remained unpredictable. The son of Giovanni I, Anton Galeazzo (or Antongaleazzo, c1385-1435), was a lecturer in civil law who assumed power in Bologna in 1420, but was quickly overthrown. Anton Galeazzo became a condottiero, and was assassinated by papal officials on 23 December 1435 due to fears over his growing power (he had returned to Bologna on 4 December).

During his reign the Bentivoglio received the fief of Castel Bolognese. Annibale I, a putative son of Anton Galeazzo (his mother, Lina Canigiani, was said to be uncertain of the boy's paternity and the matter was decided by dice), led a city revolt against the Papacy in 1438. He tried to make peace with the Visconti family and to convince the Pope not to place Bologna under his dominion. In 1442, the Visconti condottiere Niccol Piccinimo imprisoned Annibale and his supporters at Varano; Annibale was freed by Galeazzo Marescotti in 1443. When Annibale returned to Bologna, the powers of government were confirmed upon him, a sign that the city recognized the family’s political importance. Annibale, however, was assassinated by his rival Battista Canneschi, with the support of Pope Eugene IV, on 24 June 1445.

He was succeeded by Santa I (1426-1463), also of uncertain paternity and origin, but alleged to be a son of Ercole Bentivoglio, a cousin of Annibale I. Originally an apprentice of the wool guild of Florence, Sante ruled as signore of Bologna from 1443. Sponsored by Cosimo de Medici, Sante Bentivoglio ushered in a brief period of political tranquility.

Sante I Bentivoglio

Alleged to be a natural son of Ercole Bentivoglio, Sante was a cousin of Annibale I Bentivoglio. He was aducated at Florence in the court of Cosimo de' Medici the Elder. When Annibale was killed in an ambuscade by the rival family of the Canteoli, Sante succeeded him in the rule of Bologna with the title of gonfaloniere die guistizia. He was also named as tutor of Annibale's son Giovanni II. In 1454 he married Ginerva Sforza, then fourteen-years old, the daughter of Alessandro Sforza, lord of Pesaro. The two had two daughters: Costanza (1458–1491), who married to Antonmaria brother of Giovanni Pica della Mirandola, and Ercole (1459–1505), a condottiero. In 1460 Sante started building a palace, which was destroyed in 1507 after the Bentivoglio were ousted from Bologna. He obtained from the popes autonomy of government over the city and established a communal senate including local nobles and Papal representants. He allied with the Republic of Venice, the House of Sforza and the House of Medici. He died in Bologna in 1462 due to illness, being succeeded by Giovanni Bentivoglio, who later remarried Ginevra.

Giovanni II - Ruler of Bologna

In order to secure the support of the other powerful families of Italy, Giovanni fought personally as condottiero. In 1467 he was at the service of Florence, Milan and Naples against Bartolomeo Colleoni, and in 1471 again for Milan, but his first military deeds occurred only in 1477 when he besiege Faenza for the Sforza. In 1482, during the War of Ferrara, he helped Ercole d'Este against Pope Sixtus IV and Venice. He later fought in small struggles for the Kingdom of Naples, but his personal interventions were always limited by the Bolognese institutions. In 1488 his daughter Francesca killed her husband, Galeotto Manfredi, ruler of Faenza. The latter's citizens considered the feat as an occult move to conquer the city, and rebelled. When Giovanni reached the city to suppress the revolt, he was captured. He was freed only through the intercession of Lorenzo de Medici. In the same year he was made Capitano Generale (Chief of Staff) of the Milanese army, but this was an almost honorific position as Giovanni left the command duties to his sons. In 1488 Giovanni had also to crush a plot against him, led by the Malvezzi family, whose members were almost all hanged or exiled. In 1501 the same fate struck the Marescottis. Bentivoglio had managed to resist the expansionist designs of Cesare Borgia, but on 7 October 1506, Pope Julius II issued a bull deposing and excommunicating Bentivoglio and placing the city under interdict. When the papal troops, along with a contingent sent by Louis XI(I of France , marched against Bologna, Bentivoglio and his family fled. Julius II entered the city triumphantly on 10 November Giovanni moved first to Busseto, host of the Pallavicino family. An attempt led by his sons Annibale II and Ermes to reconquer Bologna in 1507 failed. The Bolognese subsequently rioted against his possessions in the city, destroying the palace. Excommunicated, Giovanni ended his days as prisoner of Louis XII in Milan. He died in 1508 in the Castello Sforzesco of that city.

A son of Giovanni II, Annibale II (1469-1540), married Lucrezia d'Este, an illegitimate daughter of Duke Ercole I of Ferrara, in 1487. He served as a condottiero. In rebellion against Julius II, he re-entered Bologna in 1511 with the help of the French and ruled for only a year. He was hated by other rival families, such as the Ghisilieri and the Canetoli, and was subsequently assassinated.

In exile, the Bentivoglio family established themselves in Ferrara and produced several important prelates.

Bentivoglio Coat of Arms

Bentivoglio Coat of Arms
Stemma di Bentivoglio

Enzio King of Sardinia
Enzio imprisoned taken from a Medieval Manuscript

Giovanni I Bentivoglio

Giovanni I Bentivoglio

Giovanni II Bentivoglio (Ercole de Roberti)

Giovanni II Bentivoglio

The House of Bentivoglio - THE  BORGIAS   wiki

Ginerva Sforza

Ermes Bentivoglio

Ermes Bentivoglio

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