Vannozza dei Cattanei Historical Profile

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Vannozza dei Cattanei
Historical Profile
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VANNOZZA DEI CATTANEI STATS
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Name: Vannozza dei Cattanei
Born: 13 July 1442
Home town: Probably Rome, possibly Mantua
Died: 24 November 1518
Position: Mistress of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, mother of his beloved children Juan, Cesare, Lucrezia, and Joffre.
House of: Cattanei (some sources also list Candia)
Marriage(s): Domenico d'Arignano (1474), Giorgio di Croce (1476), and Carlo Canale (1486)
Nickname: Vannozza is a nickname, diminutive of Giovanna
Personality type: Probably charming and witty as a young lady, vivacious, attractive. Later documents attest to her character as being "grasping, social-climbing, avid for money and position." (Sarah Bradford, Lucrezia Borgia p. 15)
Hobbies: Entertaining rich cardinals, property speculation, endowing churches with valuables
Strength(s): Shrewd business woman, street-smart.
Weakness(es): Petty, materialistic.
Quirks: Maintained a very formal correspondence with her daughter the duchess for several years, but never once visited.



"Vannozza doubtless was of great beauty and ardent passions"
- Ferdinand Gregorovius makes an assumption about her likely character (Lucretia Borgia p. 11)


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VANNOZZA DEI CATTANEI BIO
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Vannozza dei CattaneiBorn in 1442 as a member of a noble family from Mantua - according to Ferdinand Gregorovius - who wrote that she was probably born in Rome or moved there at an early age. Historians think she was from the lowest rungs of the Roman nobility.

Vanozza was the favorite mistress of Vice-Chancellor of the Church, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. Of Rodrigo Borgia's known mistresses their relationship lasted the longest. She bore him the four children most favored by their father: Juan, Cesare, Lucrezia, and Jofre. Rodrigo and Vanozza's relationship eventually cooled but that did nothing to diminish the love and adoration Rodrigo lavished on the children she gave him. "Vannozza doubtless was of great beauty and ardent passions; for if not, how could she have inflamed a Rodrigo Borgia?" (Ferdinand Gregorovius, Lucretia Borgia p. 11)

Aside from being beautiful and charming, she was noted to be an accommodating companion, who never made inordinate demands on the cardinal. Rodrigo must have been relatively faithful to her, as he had no other known children during their years together. During the years of their relationship, Rodrigo gave her the use of a few properties that she was shrewd enough to acquire in her own name. With his lavish gifts and financial support, she bought a vineyard near the Baths of Diocletian and had the control of three inns in the area of Rome most frequented by travellers and pilgrims. (Chamberlin, pp. 32-38)

Rodrigo presided over the wedding of Vannozza and Domenico d'Arignano in 1474. Her husband died a few short years later. Rodrigo chose another acquiescent husband for his mistress - Giorgio di Croce, in about 1476 or 1478, for whom he secured the position of an apostolic secretary. She was married to and living with him by 1480 in a house just steps from Cardinal Borgia's Palace on the Piazza Sforza-Ceasarini (Ibid, p. 12). This is one of the reasons historians note that Rodrigo himself believed the possibility that Jofre may have in fact been the son of Giorgio di Croce, as Vannozza was married to him for the last few years of their affair, until 1482, the year Jofre was born.

"After [1482], Borgia's passion for this woman, who was now about forty, dies out, but he continued to honor her as the mother of his children and as the confidant of many of his secrets." (Gregorovius, p. 20). Croce died in 1486, by that time he was a wealthy man, and Vannozza herself used her savings and capital to buy several taverns, a vineyard, and a country-house. Borgia found for her another husband, a Mantuan named Carlo Canale, "doubtless because his connections would be useful to him." Canale was a member of the humanist circle of Angelo Poliziano and Cardinal Ludovico Gonzaga. She brought as her dowry the amount of "one thousand florins and the position of sollicitator bullarum."

She lived and died in Rome, where she made a lucrative career out of being a property owner and successful landlord for several inns. Though she remained in touch with Lucrezia, she kept her distance and only contacted her illustrious daughter rarely. By the time she entered her late middle age, she was known to have donated to charitable causes and supported convents. She had a chapel and tomb built in the fashionable church of Santa Maria del Popolo, and generally fulfilled her accepted role of reformed sinner. Her funeral was as full of pomp as any state official or cardinal, and was attended by Rome's nobles and citizenry. "Her tombstone proudly recorded her relationship with Cesare, Juan - she even included Jofre - and Lucrezia, with their resounding titles. It was the only part of her tomb to survive and can still be seen today, removed to the porch of the little basilica di San Marco, opposite the flamboyant Vittorio Emanuele Monument." (Bradford, p. 354)



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FROM LUCREZIA BORGIA TO ALFONSO D'ESTE: Lucrezia replied to a letter from Alfonso giving his condolences on hearing of Vannozza's death:

"I thank Your lordship infinitely for the comfort you have given me in your most welcome letter...which has completely alleviated that small residue of chagrin which against my will I have sometimes felt for the death of my mother. That is enough, I do not want to hear any more of it..." (quoted by Sarah Bradford, Lucrezia Borgia p. 350) Letter from Lucrezia to Alfonso, 2 January 1519 Casa e Stato, Busta 141)



FROM NAME TO NAME:--



page logo VANNOZZA DEI CATTANEI QUOTES
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  • Letter to Cardinal Ippolito d'Este (brother-in-law to Lucrezia Borgia) "I am most grieved that I am not in a position to come and be of service to you as I was to the late Duke and still more I am troubled by the persecution of Paolo Pagnano...and for this My Lord I pray you bear Jesus Christ you will not allow this man of nothing to tear me to pieces..." 15 October, 1517 (quoted by Sarah Bradford, p. 352)
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page logo VANNOZZA DEI CATTANEI TRIVIA
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  • She owned a building in Rome where leather workers and their laundress wives lived and worked.
  • In another of her houses lived poor prostitutes, decent courtesans, and old Spanish matrons.
  • She donated a solid silver bust of Cesare Borgia to the Ospedalle di Santa Maria della Consolazione, a refuge for poor and sick women, that disappeared during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

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page logo ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND MATERIALS
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BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS WEBSITES & MEDIA
  • Lucretia Borgia (Gregorovius)
  • The Fall of the House of Borgia (E.R. Chamberlin), 1974
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