The House of Orsini

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TheOrsini familyis an Italiannoble family; it was one of the most influential princely families inmedievalItaly andrenaissanceRome. Members of the Orsini include popesCelestine III(1191–1198),Nicholas III(1277–1280), andBenedict XIII(1724–1730), 34Cardinalsof the Roman Church and numerouscondottieriand other significant political and religious figures.


The Orsini were related to the Boboni family existing in Rome in the 11th century. The first members always used the surname of Boboni-Orsini. The first known family member is one Bobone, in the early 11th century, father of Pietro, in turn father ofGiacinto dei Boboni(1110–1198), who in 1191 became pope as Celestine III. One of the first greatnepotistpopes, he made two of his nephews cardinals and allowed his cousin Giovanni Gaetano (Giangaetano, died 1232) to buy the fiefs ofVicovaro,Licenza,RoccagiovineandNettuno, which formed the nucleus of the future territorial power of the family. The Boboni surname was lost with his children, who were calledde domo filiorum Ursi. Two of them, Napoleone andMatteo Rosso the Great(1178–1246) considerably increased the prestige of the family. The former was the founder of the first southern line, which disappeared with Camillo Pardo in 1553. He obtained the city ofManoppello, later a countship, and wasgonfaloniereof thePapal States. Matteo Rosso, called the Great, was the effective lord ofRomefrom 1241, when he defeated theImperialtroops, to 1243, holding the title ofSenator. Two of his sons and Napoleone were also Senators. Matteo ousted the traditional rivals, theColonna, from Rome and extended the Orsini territories southwards up toAvellinoand northwards toPitigliano. During his life the family entered firmly in theGuelphparty. He had some ten sons, which divided the fiefs after his deaths: Gentile (died 1246) originated the Pitigliano line and the second southern line. Rinaldo that ofMonterotondo,Napoleone(died 1267) that ofBraccianoand another Matteo Rosso that of Montegiordano, from the name of the district in Rome housing the family's fortress. The most distinguished of his sons was howeverGiovanni Gaetano(died 1280): elected pope asNicholas III, he named the nephew Bertoldo (died 1289) as count ofRomagnaand had two nephews and a brother created cardinals.[edit]Origins

[edit]The second southern line

The rise of the Orsini did not stop after Nicholas' death. Bertoldo's son, Gentile II (1250–1318), was two times Senator of Rome,podestàofViterboand, from 1314,Gran Giustiziere("Great Justicer") of theKingdom of Naples. He married Clarice Ruffo, daughter of the counts ofCatanzaro, forming an alliance of the most powerful Calabrian dynasty. His son Romano (1268–1327), called Romanello, was Royal Vicar of Rome in 1326, and inherited the countship ofSoanathrough his marriage withAnastasia de Montfort, Countess of Nola. Romano's stance was markedly Guelph. After his death, his two sons divided his fiefs, forming the Pitigliano and the second southern line.
The House of Orsini - The Borgias Fan Wiki
The House of Orsini - The Borgias Fan Wiki
The Tower of Raimondello Orsini in Taranto, c. 1880.
Roberto (1295–1345), Gentile II's grandson, married Sibilla del Balzo, daughter of the Great Senechal of the Kingdom of Naples. Among his sons, Giacomo (died 1379) was created cardinal byGregory XIin 1371, while Nicola (August 27, 1331 – February 14, 1399) obtained the counties ofArianoandCelano. The latter was also Senator of Rome and enlarged the family territories inLazioandTuscany.His second son,Raimondello Orsini del Balzo, supportedCharles III'coup d'étatin Naples against QueenJoan I. Under kingLadislaushe was among the few Neapolitan feudataries who were able to maintain their territorial power after the royal war against them. However, at his death in 1406 the southern Orsini fiefs were confiscated. Relationships with the royal family remained cold underJoan II; However, when Raimondello's sonGiannantonio(1386–1453) sent his troops to help her against the usurpation attempt of James of Bourbon, he received in exchange thePrincipality of Taranto.The links with the court increased further underSergianni Caracciolo, Joan's lover and Great Senechal. A younger brother of Giannantonio married one of Sergianni's daughters. However, the Orsini changed side whenAlfonso V of Aragonstarted his conquest of the Kingdom of Naples. Giannantonio was awarded with the duchy ofBari, the position of Great Connestable and anappanageof 100,000ducati. Giannantonio remained faithful to Alfonso's heir,Ferdinand I, but was killed during a revolt of nobles. Having died without legitimate sons, much of his possessions were absorbed into the Royal Chamber.

[edit]Pitigliano line

This line was initiated by Guido Orsini, second son of Romano, who inherited the county ofSoana. He and his descendants ruled over the fiefs of Soana, Pitigliano andNola, but in the early 15th century wars against theRepublic of Sienaand the Colonnas caused to lost of several territories. Bertoldo (died 1417) managed to keep only Pitigliano, while his grandson Orso (died July 5, 1479) was count of Nola and fought ascondottierounder theDuke of Milanand theRepublic of Venice. Later he passed to the service of Ferdinand I of Naples, but, not having taken part in the Barons' conjure, he was rewarded with the fiefs ofAscoliandAtripalda. He took part in the Aragonese campaign in Tuscany and was killed at the siege of Viterbo.
The House of Orsini - The Borgias Fan Wiki
The House of Orsini - The Borgias Fan Wiki
Gerolama Orsini, Pier Luigi's wife.
The most outstanding member of the Pitigliano line wasNiccolò, one of the major condottieri of the time. His son Ludovico (died January 27, 1534) and his nephew Enrico (died 1528) participated in theItalian Warsat the service of bothFranceandSpain, often changing side with the typical ease of the Italian military leaders of the time. Two of Ludovico's daughters married to relevant figures: Geronima toPier Luigi Farnese, illegitimate son ofPope Paul IIIand Marzia toGian Giacomo MediciofMarignano, an important general of the Spanish army.The line started to decay after the loss of Nola by Ludovico, who was also forced to accept the Senese suzerainty over Pitigliano. Under his sonGiovan Francesco(died May 8, 1567) the county entered the orbit of theGrand Duke of Tuscany. Later, the attempt of Alessandro (died February 9, 1604) to obtain the title of Monterotondo was thwarted byPope Gregory XIII. His son Giannantonio (March 25, 1569 – 1613) sold Pitigliano to Tuscany, in exchange for the marquisate ofMonte San Savino.The line became extinct in 1640 with the death of Alessandro.

[edit]Monterotondo line

This line was founded by Rinaldo, third son of Matteo Rosso the Great. His son, Napoleone, became a cardinal in 1288 and remained a prominent member of the Curia until his death at Avignon in 1342.This branch of the family was often involved in the baronal struggles of the Late Middle Ages Rome, at least three members of the family being elected as Senators, while others foughts as condottieri. Francesco in 1370 took part to the war of Florence against theViscontiof Milan. Orso (died July 24, 1424) died fighting for the king of Naples in theBattle of Zagonaraagainst the Milanese. His sons Giacomo (died 1482) and Lorenzo (1452) battled for the Papal States, Naples and Florence. One of Giacomo's daughters,Clarice(1453–July 30, 1488) becameLorenzo de' Medici's wife.Franciotto Orsiniwas created cardinal byLeo Xin 1517.The most important member of the Monterotondo Orsinis wasGiovani Battista Orsini, who became cardinal underSixtus IV(1483). He was probably among the promoters of the failed plot againstCesare Borgiain 1502, being assassinated as retaliation, together with numerous members of the family.The line decayed from the late 16th century, when several members were assassinated or lost their lands for various reasons. Its last representants Enrico (died September 12, 1643) and Francesco (1592 - September 21, 1650) sold Monterotondo to the Barberini in 1641.

[edit]Bracciano line

Napoleone, another son of Matteo Rosso the Great, received Bracciano,Nerolaand other lands in what is now northernLazio. In 1259 he was Senator of Rome. Thanks to the strategic positions of their fiefs, and to their famouscastlebuilt in Bracciano in 1426, they were the most powerful Orsini line in the Lazio. Count Carlo (died after 1485), son of anotherNapoleone(died October 3, 1480), was Papal Gonfaloniere. By his marriage with a Francesca Orsini of Monterotondo was born GentileVirginio Orsini, one of the most relevant figures of Italian politics in the late 15th century. After Carlo's death, he enlarged the family's tenure with lands inherited by his wife, another Orsini from Salerno, and most of all he was amongst the favourites of Ferdinand I of Naples, who appointed him as Great Connestable of Naples. Together with his cousin, the Cardinal Giovanni Battista, he was among the fiercest opposers of popesInnocent VIIIandAlexander VI. In 1492 Gentile Virginio bought the county ofAnguillarafromFranceschetto Cybo.DuringCharles VIII of France's descent into Italy, he managed to keep Bracciano by fighting without too much dogging against him.Ferdinand IIhad his fiefs confiscated and imprisoned him inCastel dell'Ovo, where he was poisoned in 1497. The family recovered this setback under the more friendly Medici popes of the early 16th century. His sonGiangiordanowasPrince Assistant to the Papal Throne. His sonVirginiowas a famous admiral for the Papal States and France, but in 1539 he had his fiefs confiscated under the charge of treason.Paolo Giordanowas created first Duke of Bracciano in 1560. An accomplished condottiero, he was however also a ruthless figure who had his wifeIsabella de' Medicimurdered. For this and other homicides he had to flee to northern Italy. He was succeeded byVirginio, whose heirPaolo Giordano IImarried the princess ofPiombinoand was created Prince of theHoly Roman Empire. His brotherAlessandrowas cardinal and Papal legate, and another brother, Ferdinando (died March 4, 1660) acquired the assets of the other line ofSan Gemini. In the 17th century the Dukes of Bracciano moved their residence to Rome. This, along with a general economical decadence, damaged the dukedom, and last Duke and Prince, Flavio (March 4, 1620 – April 5, 1698) was forced by the huge debts to sell it to theOdescalchiand others.

[edit]Gravina line

The line of Gravina, from the name of the eponymous city inApulia, is the only existing line of the Orsini. It descends fromFrancesco(died 1456), a son of Count Carlo of Bracciano. Most of his fief were located in northern Lazio, but he entered in the Neapolitan orbit when in 1418 he was called by Sergianni Caracciolo to fight against the Angevine troops, which he defeated. By marriage, he obtained the title ofcount of Gravina. He was made Duke of Gravina by King Alfonso, title definitely assigned to his son Giacomo (died 1472), to which had been added the counties ofConversano,CampagnaandCopertino. Two of Francesco's son, Marino (died 1471) andGiovanni Battista(died June 8, 1476), were respectivelyarchbishop of TarantoandGrand MasterofKnights of Rhodes.The fourth duke, Francesco, was strangled byCesare Borgiain 1503. One of his nephews,Flavio Orsini, was created cardinal in 1565. The fifth duke, Ferdinando (died December 6, 1549) had all his fiefs confiscated by the Spaniards, but regained it after a 40,000 scudi payment.After the heirless death of Duke Michele Antonio (January 26, 1627), his lands passed to his cousin Pietro Orsini, count ofMuro Lucano(died 1641). The latter's nephewPier Francesco, who had renounced to the succession in favour to his brother Domenico to became aDominican, was later elected pope with the name of Benedict XIII.His successor raised Benedict XIII's nephew, PrinceBeroaldo Orsini, to the dignity ofPrince Assistants to the Papal Throne(title held until 1958), after the emperorCharles VIhad already, in 1724, made him a prince of theHoly Roman Empire. The last cardinal from the family wasDomenico.The family moved to Rome in the 18th century, where Duke Domenico (November 23, 1790 – April 28, 1874), married Maria LuisaTorloniain 1823. In 1850 he was Minister of War and General Lieutenant of the Papal Armies, and, also, Senator of Rome.The remaining Princely family is represented by Prince Domenico Napoleone Orsini d'Aragona, Duke of Gravina (b. 1948). With no male heirs, he is currently to be succeeded as Duke of Gravina by his unmarried brother Benedetto (b. 1956), then by his cousinDonRaimondo Orsini d'Aragona (b. 1931), whose heir isDonLelio Orsini (b. 1981).

[edit]Orsini-Rosenberg

AnAustrianprincely family, theRosenbergchanged its name to Ursini-Rosenberg (and subsequently to Orsini-Rosenberg) in 1683, while creating spurious claims of kinship to the Orsini, which were regarded at the time as more prestigious. No convincing evidence of the link was ever brought, and as such many researchers consider it fictional.

[edit]Notable buildings

The House of Orsini - The Borgias Fan Wiki
The House of Orsini - The Borgias Fan Wiki
The Orsini Castle in Nerola.
Apart from the Bracciano castle, other notable buildings and structures associated with the Orsini include:
House of Orsini













Orsini Coat of Arms
The House of Orsini
Coat of Arms

Gentile Virginio Orsini, Lord of Bracciano
Gentile Virginio Orsini, Lord of Bracciano















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