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    People, history, traditions
    Malatesta & Montefeltro

    The Malatesta

    The Malatesti originate from the Marecchia valley; the first documents mentioning them, dating from the 12th century, concern landed property in southern Romagna and highlight conflict with the municipality of Rimini.

    The family had so much landed property it was able to control the roads inland of Rimini, basing its strongholds in Pennabilli and Verucchio, which dispute the honour of the family’s origins.

    Their ancient kinship with the area’s most illustrious and powerful feudal family - the Carpegna - was crucial. By controlling the territory, routes of communication, trade and agricultural production they began to put pressure on Rimini. They began a war that ended in 1197 following an act of reparation. The municipality of Rimini joined forces with the Malatesta, named them citizens, granted them a seat on the town’s council (1206) and invited them to settle within its walls.

    Malatesta dalla Penna (Malatesta I Malatesta), who had held the role of podestà of Pistoia in 1223, was podestà of Rimini from 1230 to 1247.

    One well-known figure is Malatesta da Verucchio, “the centenarian”, who was born in Verucchio in 1212 and died in Rimini in 1312. Given his age, he was known as Mastin Vecchio, as Dante recalls in his Divine Comedy (Inferno XXVII verses 46-48). He was the father of two of Dante’s other characters, Paolo and Gianciotto, the deformed husband and murderer of his wife Francesca and brother Paolo.

    The road was now open to exercising absolute power over Rimini. In just a few decades, the family took over all civil and religious roles, removing all the town’s organs from office. The family could count on considerable wealth and support, obtained through war and astute matrimonial choices and alliances.

    They did not however have a noble title and thus tried to gain credit by boasting ancient origins including Noah, Tarchon, Trojan hero and cousin of Hector and Aeneas, Otto III, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and Scipio the African, who Sigismondo Pandolfo - the most famous Malatesta and lord of Rimini from 1432 to 1468 - was a great follower of.

    Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

    He became lord of Rimini and Fano in 1432 at just 15 years of age.

    For years he fought in military campaigns all over Italy, earning the fame and wealth he then used to make his capital and court worthy of the great seignories of the time. Thanks to him, Rimini has the honour of having the first Renaissance building ever - the Malatesta Temple, designed by Leon Battista Alberti and with frescoes by Piero della Francesca. It is the mausoleum of Sigismondo and his wife, Isotta degli Atti, but also that of Giorgio Gemisto Pletone, one of the philosophers of the nobleman’s court. Sigismondo’s aggressive nature played a key role in his glorification, but an equally important part in his downfall.

    The intricate political situation in Italy did the rest, leading to his decline at just 40 years of age. Failure to fulfil the commitments undertaken, disloyalty towards the Pope, whose policies he no longer shared, and military occupation of territories under the jurisdiction of the Montefeltro, loyal upholders of the policies of the Church, meant he lost everything except the town that was the symbol of his power. Meanwhile, Federico not only took back what had once been his, but also extended his estate to the Malatesta castles.

    Sigismondo died aged 51; having led an army at just 13, he mainly spent the last years of his life supervising work on his temple. Like Urbino, Rimini was one of the capitals of the Renaissance, attracting great artists, men of literature and humanists. After Sigismondo’s death, the town lost its key role, whilst other capitals remained protagonists for centuries to come.

    (taken from Malatesta & Montefeltro a journey through the hills of Rimini ed. Assessorato al Turismo della Provincia di Rimini)

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    Last update: 10/02/2016