sabato, Aprile 20, 2024

Biographical notes on War Captains and Mercenary Leaders operating in Italy between 1330 and 1550

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Master Strategist: Gattamelata’s Triumphs in the Art of War

Astute strategist. Prudent, tenacious, and attentive captain. Capable of reflection, moderate in his actions. He has been described as the most honest, upright, and loyal condottiero of his times. A disciple of Braccio da Montone, he exercises command by tempering the rigor of discipline with innate affability and a sense of human sympathy

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

Last Updated on 2024/01/09

Tactical Brilliance: Gattamelata’s Military Campaigns.

Erasmo Stefano of Narni, commonly referred to as Gattamelata or “Honeyed Cat,” was a prominent Italian condottiero of the Renaissance era. Born in the town of Narni, he forged a notable career serving various Italian city-states. His journey began alongside Braccio da Montone and later extended to the Papal States, Florence, and culminated in his service to the Republic of Venice in 1434 during their confrontations with the Visconti of Milan.

GATTAMELATA (Erasmo Stefano da Narni, Erasmo of Narni) of Narni. According to some sources, he was born in Castel Due Santi (his father’s city) in the Todi region.

His real name is Stefano, later changed to Erasmo in tribute to Bishop Sant’Erasmo, who had many devotees in Lazio and Umbria during his time. Lord of Valmareno. Father of Giovannantonio di Gattamelata, brother-in-law to Gentile da Leonessa, father-in-law to Tiberto Brandolini, Leonardo da Martinengo, and Antonio da Marciano. He earned the nickname Gattamelata for the gentleness of his manners combined with his cunning; according to other sources, the nickname simply derives from his mother’s surname, Melania Gattelli. He is the son of either a baker or a ropemaker, specifically a craftsman who weaves hemp ropes.

Born: 1370
Death: 1443 (January)

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity areaActions taken and other salient facts
1385
SpringUmbriaHe completes his early studies in Narni with the Conventual Franciscan friars. At fifteen years old, he leaves his family to serve as a page for a man-at-arms in the company of Ceccolo Broglia.
1394
………….ChurchPerugia10 lancesUmbriaHe serves in the companies of Ceccolo Broglia, lord of Assisi. He catches the attention of this condottiero; over time, he is granted a command of ten lances. He obtains the use of two suits of armor, the right to carry a banner, have his own tent, a plate (provision), a page, to be part of the captain’s entourage, to participate in war councils, and to lead skirmishes.
MayUmbriaHe supports Ceccolo Broglia in the capture of the fortress of Agello, located near the Porta Borgna of Perugia. He is later spotted in Narni. He meets Brandolino Brandolini.
1398
Apr.ChurchPerugiaUmbriaFollowing the assassination of Biordo dei Michelotti in Perugia, he sides with Broglia against Ceccolino dei Michelotti and the raspanti who rule the city. As a sign of esteem and respect, the Piedmontese condottiero gifts Gattamelata his own lorica (leather cuirass).
1400
Sept.Ceccolo Broglia dies of the plague in Empoli in the spring. Gattamelata leaves this company to join the ranks of the Lord of Perugia, Braccio di Montone. He is appointed as “praefecus equitum” (commander of the cavalry). Braccio di Montone allows him to use his coat of arms and the colors of his outer garments. He will never abandon these insignias.
1410UmbriaHe marries Giacoma da Leonessa, the daughter of Beccarino and sister of Gentile da Leonessa (dowry of 500 ducats).
1411Florence, AntipopePerugia, NaplesUmbriaHe supports Braccio di Montone in the conquest of the Cerqueto castle in the Perugia region.
1416PerugiaAntipopeHe raids the territory of Spoleto.
1417
JunePerugiaChurch, NaplesHe supports Braccio di Montone in the conquest of Rome.
1418
Aug.PerugiaChurchHe devastates the countryside of Norcia. Together with Niccolò Piccinino, he conquers the fortress of Spoleto.
1419
Apr.UmbriaHe stands alongside Braccio di Montone against Spoleto. He lays siege to its fortress.
JuneLazioHe takes part in the battle of Montefiascone; with Brandolini, he follows Montone to the siege of Viterbo against Muzio Attendolo Sforza.
Oct.UmbriaWhile guarding Capitone with Brandolino Brandolini, he is defeated and captured at San Gemini by Muzio Attendolo Sforza and Tartaglia.
………….UmbriaHe escapes using a ruse. From this point on, he is known by the nickname Gattamelata.
1420
Feb.TuscanyAlongside other condottieri such as Fioravante Oddi, Brandolino Brandolini, and Cherubino da Perugia, he supports the Lord of Perugia who travels to Florence to pay homage to Pope Martin V, with whom he has reached a truce.
1423
JulyKing of AragonNaplesAbruzzoHe is left by Braccio di Montone at the siege of L’Aquila.
1424
Feb. – MayAbruzzoHe remains engaged in the siege of L’Aquila.
JuneAbruzzoHe is present at the confrontation at L’Aquila. Braccio di Montone ignores his advice to attack the adversaries while they are moving along the road from Rocca di Mezzo towards Aterno; the Perugian condottiero prefers to wait for the enemies in the plain. Gattamelata is in command of the fifth squad alongside Brandolino Brandolini; with Niccolò Fortebraccio, they assault the vanguard led by Ludovico Colonna and Menicuccio dell’Aquila. Federico da Matelica comes to their aid with many horsemen; the Braccio’s forces are thus forced to fall back. Taken prisoner, he is confined in the city castle. He manages to escape, takes refuge in Ocre with Piccinino, and from there flees to Paganica.
JulyChurchConti400 lancesUmbria, LazioHe is in Narni; he switches allegiance to serve the Papal States (a year’s contract, command of 400 lances, and a salary of 400 florins). Alongside Andrea della Serra and Pietro Navarrino, he directs his attention towards Valmontone to target Avernino Conti.
Oct.LazioHe remains stationed near Valmontone.
Nov.FlorenceMilan
1425
Feb. – Mar.FlorenceMilanRomagnaHe fights against the Visconti under the command of Niccolò Piccinino and Oddo di Montone. He is defeated by the Manfredi in Val di Lamone; during the clash at Pieve d’Ottavo, he narrowly escapes capture despite being wounded in the left leg. In the confrontation, Oddo di Montone is killed; Niccolò and Francesco Piccinino, Guerriero da Marsciano, Niccolò da Tolentino, and Niccolò Orsini are taken prisoners. In March, Pope Martin V renews his contract of service for the third time.
May – JuneChurchSan Severino MarcheMarche, AbruzzoHe is stationed in Macerata. He reclaims San Severino Marche for the Papal States, driving out Antonio da San Severino from the area. In June, he is reported to be in Chieti. Around the same time, his contract is renewed for another year under the same conditions.
Sept.FlorenceMilanRomagnaHe clashes with Francesco Sforza in the territory of Imola.
Oct.TuscanyHe is defeated at Anghiari.
Nov.TuscanyHe remains in the service of the Florentines even when Piccinino chooses to switch allegiances to the payroll of the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti.
1426Church
1427
Feb. – Mar.ChurchSan Severino MarcheMarcheHe continues to serve the Papal States alongside Brandolini. San Severino Marche rebels against Pope Martin V: he is dispatched with Sante Carillo and Francesco da San Severino against the city. The city is captured in early March after a brief siege. As punishment, its walls are torn down in several places; seven leaders of the revolt are hanged.
1428
Jan.ChurchCittà di CastelloUmbriaHe battles the militias of the da Varano family, who are defending Città di Castello on behalf of the younger sons of Montone. With 200 horsemen, he reaches the vicinity of the city and meets the governor of Perugia, Bishop Piero Donato. He joins forces with the prelate’s army (2,000 infantry and a few cavalry), arrives at Fratta Todina, and reclaims Monte Castello di Vibio, which had rebelled against the Papal States.
Legend has it that he expels from Montone the widow of Braccio, Nicolina da Varano. In a hall of the castle, he finds the fearless woman waiting for him with her young son, Carlo, by her side. The boy fiercely lunges at him, biting Gattamelata’s left hand with such force that, instinctively, Gattamelata raises his arm with the boy still attached. Regardless, he manages to negotiate with the pope on behalf of Montone’s widow and her son Carlo, allowing them an honorable exit from the besieged castle and permission to take their personal belongings to Camerino.
Apr.ChurchBolognaEmiliaAt the end of the operations with Micheletto Attendolo, he receives orders to break camp from Città di Castello and move to the Bolognese territory. He is tasked with taking action against the capital city, which has risen up against the Papal States.
Aug.RomagnaUpon reaching Imola, he is joined by the papal legate, Cardinal Domenico di Capranica, along with Antongaleazzo Bentivoglio, Attendolo, Niccolò da Tolentino, and Jacopo Caldora. Together, they begin to counteract the Bolognese forces.
1429
Apr.RomagnaHe escorts the papal legate to Forlì with 100 horsemen. Pope Martin V renews his contract.
Aug.EmiliaBologna surrenders to the Papal forces.
Sept.EmiliaBy the end of the month, the contracts for both Gattamelata and Brandolino Brandolini are renewed (with an immediate payment of 700 florins and 303 florins for the subsequent months).
Oct. – Dec.Romagna, MarcheWith the signing of the peace treaty, he withdraws from the county and moves to the Forlì region. At the end of December, his mount is stolen in Ancona by the Roman, Andrea Jacopo Alberti; the matter is settled with the return of the stolen property.
1430
JulyChurchBolognaEmiliaHe is in the vicinity of Bologna when new hostilities against the Papal forces ignite in the city, instigated by the Canedoli. Under the command of Jacopo Caldora and the Bishop of Tarpeja, he stations himself at Corticella and San Giovanni in Persiceto.
1431
Mar.EmiliaAfter the conflict, Micheletto Attendolo and Brandolino Brandolini unexpectedly capture a condottiero on the borders between Bologna and Modena. This military captain had recently been dismissed from the service of the Florentines and was in possession of a safe-conduct pass from the Marquis of Ferrara. He is arrested under the pretense that he is about to serve the Bolognese. However, Niccolò d’Este intervenes, ensuring the condottiero’s release and the restitution of some of the goods that had been taken from him.
Apr.EmiliaHe escorts to Bologna the new papal governor, Giovanni Bosco, with 150 horses and 80 infantrymen.
………….Romagna, EmiliaHe provides assistance in Forlì to the governor Tommaso Paruta, who has uncovered a conspiracy devised by the supporters of Antonio Ordelaffi. He suppresses the rebellion after escaping an ambush set up by the enemies. He returns to Bologna, which is still in turmoil due to the unrest caused by the Canedoli.
1432
Jan. – Apr.230 horses and 150 infantrymenRomagnaIn January, his credit with the Apostolic Chamber (including the dues of Brandolini) amounts to 18,000 florins. In March, Pope Eugenio IV renews his contract for two months; by mid-May, the Pope extends it for a longer period. He has at his direct command 230 horses and 150 infantrymen. In April, Gattamelata is in Romagna, at Forlì.
MayRomagnaHe departs from Villafranca and Casemurate with Brandolino Brandolini; he enters Forlì through the Porta di Schiavonia; from there, he makes his way into the fortress of Ravaldino. He then proceeds to Forlimpopoli with 300 horses.
JuneRomagnaHe leaves Forlimpopoli; he reaches the Val di Lamone to prevent a private war between Francesco del Malandrino and his rivals. He intercepts the latter at Feragano; during the battle, Gattamelata sustains an injury to a thigh, and several of his men-at-arms suffer the same fate. He captures Malandrino, takes him to Forlimpopoli, and, though with great effort, persuades him to reconcile with his rivals. He is then summoned to Bologna where, with the assistance of a nephew of the papal governor Fantino Dandolo, he is tasked to take control of the Porta di Santo Stefano. The city is constantly plagued by uprisings stirred by the supporters of the Canedoli and the Zambeccari. The condottiero arrives late. Ludovico Canedoli, in fact, controls the entrance to the city, forcing Gattamelata to retreat to Imola. Dandolo is compelled to leave Bologna.
July – Aug.Lazio, UmbriaHe travels to Rome to meet Pope Eugenio IV accompanied by some ambassadors from Forlì. By the end of August, he is with Brandolini guarding Todi and Civitella d’Agliano.
Oct.ChurchUrbinoRomagnaHe departs from Villafranca with his men and enters Imola with Brandolino Brandolini with the intent of preventing the locale from falling into the hands of the rebels of the Papal States. He informs the castellan, suspected of treachery, that he has come to pay the ransom for some prisoners. The castellan lowers the drawbridge; Gattamelata enters the castle with a small escort. Once in front of the official, he pours money onto him. As the official hurries to count it, he is arrested by Gattamelata’s men. He then moves to the region of Rimini, which is plagued by the raids of Bernardino degli Ubaldini della Carda; he confronts Guidantonio da Montefeltro. He is forced to return to Forlì empty-handed due to the approaching Romagna condottiero from Visconti, Francesco Sforza.
Nov.ChurchMilanRomagnaHe remains stationed in the region of Rimini; upon hearing news of a possible attempt by Antonio Ordelaffi to return to Forlì, he heads back to that city. After a day, he moves with 100 horses to Cosina, a small river that marks the boundary with the territory of Faenza; Brusco, a captain of Astorre Manfredi, retreats for a mile with the intention of luring Gattamelata into an ambush. However, Gattamelata senses the trap and withdraws. He first reaches Forlì and then proceeds to Imola.
1433
Jan.ChurchBanishedRomagna, EmiliaHe departs from Forlì at night aiming for Bologna: his entrance into the city is obstructed by the Canedoli. He then supports Abbot Carlo Zambeccari, the Griffoni, and Antongaleazzo Bentivoglio; he only returns to Imola upon the conclusion of an agreement between the parties. The Venetians, through the envoy Antonio Contarini, try to convince him to join the service of the Serenissima (Republic of Venice). He responds that he first needs the Pope’s consent.
Apr.EmiliaHe enters the fortress of Castelfranco Emilia through cunning means; he persuades them to open the gate under the pretext of having to judge two of his men-at-arms detained on charges of treason. Once inside, he imprisons the castellan and his family. Days later, he secretly sets fire to some houses outside the castle along the road to Modena; amid the general commotion, the inhabitants rush out to extinguish the fire. Seizing the opportunity, he introduces many soldiers into the fortress and orders the gates to be closed. His men plunder the homes of the residents, and the castle falls under his control.
JulyRomagna, EmiliaIn Imola, he reaches an agreement with the Griffoni, then departs from the city with 600 horses and attempts to enter Bologna. He arrives late at the agreed meeting point, the “Crociari,” and is forced to return to Imola.
Sept.ChurchBentivoglioEmiliaIn the ongoing shifting of alliances, it is now Antongaleazzo Bentivoglio who becomes an enemy of the Papal States. Gattamelata leaves Castelfranco Emilia with Brandolini and goes to Monteveglio, where his friend Giovanni Bianchetti is in charge of guarding it with 200 infantrymen. He persuades Bianchetti to surrender on terms, leading him to believe that there is a treaty against him within the castle. The locality is plundered. On the way to Bologna, Bianchetti is killed by Bentivoglio’s men, as Bentivoglio himself also leaves Monteveglio with Bolognino dalle Fiubbe.
Nov.ChurchMilanEmiliaIn Monteveglio, he monitors the movements of Giuliano da Siena and Antonello Ruffaldi, who lead 1000 Visconti cavalrymen from Piccinino’s companies, marching from the Panaro towards the Samoggia.
Dec.The negotiations for the enlistment of Gattamelata and Brandolini by the Serenissima (Republic of Venice) encounter significant difficulties.
1434
Feb.ChurchSforzaEmiliaHe attempts to hinder Francesco Sforza, who is striving to establish his own state in the Marche of Ancona at the expense of the Papal States. He positions himself at the bastion of Castelfranco Emilia and informs the people of Imola about the negotiations conducted by Troilo da Rossano, who serves with the enemy condottiero, through the city’s castellan.
Apr.Venice400 lances, 400 infantrymenHe declines offers from the Duke of Milan and Prince Antonio Colonna of Salerno. However, with Brandolino Brandolini, he agrees to serve the Serenissima (Republic of Venice). Eugenio IV approves the arrangement, in part because he is indebted to both captains for 20,000 ducats. They are granted a contract for 400 lances, each with three horsemen, and 400 infantrymen. Six months later, the contract is expanded to include an additional 100 men-at-arms to meet the needs of their respective sons, Giovannantonio and Tiberto. Each lance is awarded 60 ducats, making the total cost of the company 24,000 ducats per year. Each lance is also granted a prestanza of 60 ducats. Additionally, the two condottieri receive an immediate loan of 2,000 ducats.
The Venetians commit to recognizing the remaining 10,000 ducats owed to them by the Pope. To secure this debt, Gattamelata and Brandolini are allowed to control the bastion of Castelfranco Emilia, guarded by 100 infantrymen, until the Apostolic Chamber settles its debt with the Serenissima. The contract is set for one year of active service and one year of reserve, requiring their presence in various parts of Italy.
MayVeniceMilanEmiliaIn Bologna, alongside Brandolino Brandolini, he defends the city against the attacks launched by Piccinino and Gaspare Canedoli.
JuneVeniceBolognaEmiliaHe is reinforced by 800 men, including both cavalry and infantry, led by Taddeo d’Este. Gattamelata conquers Piumazzo and Manzolino and demands that the people of Bologna release the city’s governor, the Bishop of Avignon. With the support of some locals, he captures Gaspare da Canedoli’s castle in San Giovanni in Persiceto, easily seizing the opponent along with the garrison.
However, Bologna rises in rebellion, instigated by Battista Canedoli. He receives further reinforcements led by Giovanni Malavolti, Guerriero da Marsciano, and Marino di Canaruto, allowing him to regain the initiative.
JulyEmilia, RomagnaHe is repelled at San Giorgio di Piano; with Guidantonio Manfredi, he occupies Castel San Pietro Terme, Castel Bolognese, and Sant’Agata Bolognese. Lastly, he enters Bologna with the new governor, Archbishop Bartolomeo Zabarella. He also attacks the Visconti forces in the Imola region but declines the idea proposed by someone to become the lord of Imola. He prefers to continue his role as a condottiero.
Aug.RomagnaThe new papal legate is Bishop Giovanni Vitelleschi of Recanati. Niccolò Piccinino also moves to Romagna, commanding 6000 cavalry and 3000 infantry. The Visconti condottiero fortifies himself in San Lazzaro di Savena, while the opposing army, with equal strength, is stationed at Castel Bolognese. Gattamelata falls into a trap set by the enemy commander, who, in an initial skirmish, ensures that 200 horses from his companies are captured. Encouraged by this, the league captains accept a pitched battle that takes place on the main road leading from Imola to Castel Bolognese. The Venetians, Florentines, and papal forces are utterly defeated on the banks of the Rio Sanguinario, suffering the capture of 3500 horses and 1000 infantrymen. Among the captains, only Bishop Giovanni Vitelleschi, Guidantonio Manfredi, Brandolino Brandolini, and Gattamelata (despite wounds to the chest and a leg) are not taken prisoner.
Sept.RomagnaHe is compelled by Erasmo da Trivulzio to fortify himself in San Giovanni in Persiceto.
Nov. – Dec.500 lances, 400 infantrymenRomagnaHe is besieged by the Bolognese in Castelfranco Emilia, and Niccolò Piccinino also joins their forces. However, heavy rains in early December prompt the enemies to abandon their operations. In November, near Marsciano, his wife Giacoma, sister of Gentile da Leonessa, is kidnapped and robbed of her belongings (worth 3000 florins) by some soldiers of Francesco Sforza. The prisoners are taken to the nearby castle of Ripabianca.
1435
Apr. – MayRomagnaHe joins forces with Guidantonio Manfredi and Pietro Testa, crossing the Savio River on a makeshift bridge of boats. This obstructs the passage for Niccolò Piccinino, forcing him to abandon his positions and move to the Canove.
JuneEmiliaAfter entrusting the guard of San Giovanni in Persiceto and Castelfranco Emilia to 600 cavalry and 700 infantry, he moves with Antongaleazzo Bentivoglio towards Bologna. They assault the city at the Porta di Santo Stefano. Some of his men break the outer locks and lower the drawbridge, while Pietro Alberto da Modena attempts to pry open the locks from the inside. Their attempt is discovered, and the tolling bells of the San Giuliano church bring many defenders to the walls, easily repelling the attack. He retreats with Bentivoglio to Sant’Agata Bolognese with 300 infantry, mostly handpicked, and 300 cavalry.
JulyEmilia, RomagnaNiccolò Piccinino attempts to surprise him at Piumazzo, but he joins forces with Brandolino Brandolini and Francesco Sforza in the Cesena region. Following a truce, he is sent to the Marche to aid the Papal forces against Niccolò Fortebraccio. He chooses the road to Ravenna, considered safer for the journey.
Aug.VeniceFortebraccioMarcheHe descends via Visso with 800 cavalry and encounters Fortebraccio near Fiordimonte, close to Camerino. In the clash, the opposing captain loses his life.
Oct.LombardyHe is recalled to Lombardy and sets up camp in the Brescia region.
Dec.LombardyHe returns the castles of San Giovanni in Persiceto, Sant’Agata Bolognese, and Manzolino, which were under his protection, to the Papal authorities.
1436
Feb.400 lances, 200 infantrymenLombardy, VenetoFrom Brescia, he travels to Venice to the Collegio dei Pregadi, where he is received with numerous expressions of esteem and warmth. He is reconfirmed, along with Brandolino Brandolini, for a two-year contract with one year in reserve. The size of their contingent is reduced from 500 to 400 lances and from 400 to 200 infantrymen. At the same time, the two condottieri are granted the fief of Valmareno, including two castles and 20 villages, in the Treviso region, under the condition of delivering a 10-pound candle every end of April to the Church of San Marco in Venice.
Meanwhile, his relationship with Brandolino Brandolini deteriorates due to the latter’s jealousy.
1437
Mar. – Apr.VeniceMilanTuscany, LombardyHe assists Francesco Sforza in the siege of Lucca on behalf of the Florentines. Niccolò Piccinino finds his retreat routes, which lead from the capital to the nearby hills, blocked by a triple line of forces supported by heavy artillery. The clash is fierce, and the Visconti forces are forced to leave the area and seek safety beyond the Apennines. He returns to Lombardy to focus on Milan under the command of Gian Francesco Gonzaga. He suggests building a makeshift bridge of boats at night to cross the Adda River. With a group of soldiers, he fords the river near Medolago and reaches the opposite bank. The two ends of the bridge are about to connect when a violent flood, caused by heavy rains during the day and night, obstructs further progress. He is no longer able to join the rest of the army and is attacked at dawn by Luigi da San Severino and numerous locals. He advises his men to ford the Adda instead of engaging in a battle that is already lost due to the disparity in forces. With a few men, he covers the retreat of his troops who plunge into the river. In the end, he spurs his horse, throws himself into the waters of the Adda, and overcomes the difficulties posed by the weight of his armor and the strong current with his strength.
MayLombardyHe quickly becomes aware of the agreements between Gonzaga and the Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti. He informs the Venetians of his suspicions and leaves the field for safety.
JuneLombardyHe strengthens his position on the Oglio River with trenches and barricades.
Sept.LombardyHe is alongside Gian Francesco Gonzaga in Calcinato on the Oglio River. He falls into an ambush set by Niccolò Piccinino, narrowly escaping. With inferior forces, he leaves the battlefield and sends the baggage wagons to Palazzolo sull’Oglio. The enemy seizes upon these wagons, providing him with an opportunity to move to Pontoglio. The Visconti forces halt at Castelli Calepio to besiege its castle. The condottiero is able to exit Pontoglio, heading towards Mantua and Brescia, evading both the traps set by Gonzaga and those prepared against him by Piccinino in Soncino.
Nov.Governor GeneralLombardyHe gathers 3000 cavalry in Brescia and keeps the army steady when the Marquess of Mantua officially defects from the Venetian camp with 400 cavalry. Following the breakdown of his relationship with Brandolino Brandolini, he assumes control of the entire contingent of 400 lances and 200 infantrymen, earning a monthly stipend of 300 ducats. He is elected as the Governor-General instead of the Captain-General, as Guidantonio Manfredi still serves with the latter title in the employ of the Serenissima.
1438
Feb.LombardyThe people of Brescia congratulate him and offer gifts of cheese, cereals, preserves, sweets, and spelt for the horses.
Mar. – Apr.LombardyTaking advantage of the absence of his rival Piccinino, he quickly recovers the territories that had been conquered by the Duke’s forces in Brescia and Bergamo, including places like Ponte San Pietro and the Valley of San Martino. In the Cremona region, he seizes the fortress of Menala, capturing the entire garrison.
JuneLombardyHe stations himself on the Oglio River at Acquanegra sul Chiese with 9000 cavalry and 6000 infantry, encamped between Mariana Mantovana, Gazzuolo, Baschi, Canneto sull’Oglio, Casalmoro, Volongo, and Castelnuovo. He blocks Piccinino’s passage.
JulyLombardyHis rival, Piccinino, constructs a pontoon bridge in front of Gattamelata’s camp and stages a simulated direct attack. Simultaneously, he guides the bulk of his troops across the river at night using three pontoon bridges set up by Gonzaga between Marcaria and Canneto sull’Oglio. This maneuver succeeds because the Venetians, up until the last moment, refuse to believe in Gonzaga’s betrayal, to the extent that they nail a poor infantryman to the square in Brescia by his ears because he had warned them of Gonzaga’s troop movements against the Serenissima. The Duke’s forces attempt to surprise him in his quarters, but the Governor-General manages to anticipate their movements thanks to the revelations of a deserter captured by his infantry, a certain Beretta di Gottolengo. In order to save his life, as he had previously abandoned the Venetian ranks, he reveals everything to Gattamelata. He orders the camp to be lifted during the night and rapidly marches towards Bagnolo Mella and Brescia. Piccinino tries to cut off his communication with Lake Garda and Verona. To counter this new situation, Gattamelata shifts his forces to Gussago and Gardone Riviera to defend Gavardo and Salò. By mid-month, Piccinino is joined by 2000 to 4000 cavalry and 2000 infantry led by Gonzaga, allowing him to resume the offensive and attack Gardone Riviera. Gattamelata, unwilling to engage in a pitched battle, withdraws to Brescia. His men abandon the Bagnolo Mella camp and establish their quarters in the city’s neighborhoods of San Giovanni, Sant’Alessandro, and Pile. He entrusts Taddeo d’Este with the defense of Sant’Alessandro, Antonio da Martinengo with guarding the Pile Gate, Pietro Navarrino is sent to Orzinuovi, and Bartolomeo Colleoni to Palazzolo sull’Oglio.
Aug.LombardyWith the Governor of Brescia, Francesco Barbaro, he is compelled to quell an uprising in the city instigated by clashes between supporters of the Guelf cause and those of the Ghibelline faction inclined towards the ducal side. Some of the latter are executed. The Venetian army finds itself in dire straits not only due to the presence of a highly formidable enemy but also because of the scarcity of provisions, the presence of the plague, and frequent desertions among the soldiers. Chiari falls to the adversaries, prompting Gattamelata to dispatch Guerriero da Marsciano and Michele Gritti (300 infantry and 150 cavalry) to recapture it; these captains, too, are captured. Piccinino besieges Rovato. Gattamelata decides to come to the aid of the town and departs from Brescia. Many raiders, accompanied by Leonardo da Martinengo and 2,000 local inhabitants, follow him towards Passirano, Paderno Franciacorta, and Bornato. Piccinino, confronted by this sudden sortie, dispatches 2,000 men to the hills of Calino, who, despite falling into an ambush, manage to engage the enemies in a battle that lasts for several hours. The Visconti forces are defeated, with the loss of 400 men and the capture of another 400. Among the Venetians, 200 are killed (100 cavalry and 100 infantry), including the provost Federico Contarini. The ducal forces retreat to Calogna; however, the victory brings no benefit to the Venetians.
Sept.Lombardy, Trentino, VenetoDue to the growing shortage of provisions, Francesco Barbaro convinces him to leave Brescia and relocate to the Veronese region. The condottiero first attempts to ford the Mincio River; however, the swollen river and the forces of Gonzaga and Luigi dal Verme persuade him to abandon the action and return to Brescia before Piccinino blocks his retreat route. In forty hours, without food or rest, the soldiers make their way back to Brescia. At the end of the month, he repeats the attempt under cover of night. He leaves Taddeo d’Este with 600 cavalry and 1000 infantry in the city and sets off rapidly to the east with 3000 cavalry, 2000 infantry, and 200 experienced raiders. Giacomo Antonio Marcello and Giovanni Villano are sent as scouts; they evade enemy surveillance by moving north of Lake Garda through Val di Sabbia (Nave) and the Lodrone Mountains. Paride di Lodrone grants them passage after receiving 1500 ducats. In fact, this route had never before been used by large military formations and was not closely monitored by the ducal forces. Along the way, they defeat the blockades set up by the troops of the Bishop of Trento, who roll numerous boulders down from the mountains onto the advancing soldiers. 300 infantry under the command of Guglielmo Cavalcabò and Guido Rangoni drive the mountain dwellers from the peaks. Upon reaching the plains in Riva del Garda, the Venetians find the road blocked at Salto Petrano, near Arco, by the militias of dal Verme and Antonio, Galeazzo, and Vinciguerra d’Arco. In the meantime, Girolamo Piloso, the commander of the garrison in Rovereto, descends from Valle Lagarina and crosses the Loppio Valley. Gattamelata meets Piloso at night and sends him ahead with 400 or 1000 infantry, tasked with attacking the forces guarding the Santa Lucia Valley and its surrounding areas. Piloso places other infantry in a part of the forest near the mountaintop, which is poorly guarded. When the defenders of the pass are assaulted, the guards in the forest abandon their positions and rush to assist their comrades. Piloso has numerous lanterns lit on the tips of his soldiers’ lances, creating the illusion of a retreat; the opponents move away to monitor their movements, allowing the infantry hidden in the forest to seize the path. Gattamelata is thus able to ford the Sarca River and enter Rovereto, albeit with significant losses in horses (300/600) and wagons. The hardships only cease upon reaching Monte Baldo, marking the border between Trentino and Veneto. After five days, they reach Verona with the army intact.
Oct.General Captain, 1500 cavalryVenetoDoge Francesco Foscari appoints him as the General Captain; his monthly stipend is increased from 300 to 500 ducats, and he is granted a palace in Venice at Campo San Giovanni e Paolo, formerly owned by the dal Verme family. Continuing his operations, he drives Gonzaga out of the Veronese region, penetrates into the territory of Mantua, and wreaks havoc there. He approaches the Po River to support the actions of Piero Loredan’s fleet, which consists of 6 galleons, 6 galleys, and 150 other vessels. During this period, his mercenary company (according to Marin Sanudo) ranks second in size only to that of Sforza and is the fifth largest in terms of armed forces among the 170 companies operating in Italy.
Nov. – Dec.VenetoThroughout the winter, he strives to alleviate the suffering of the besieged people of Brescia, who are under Piccinino’s siege. He repeatedly sends numerous convoys of provisions to them, thus lending external support to their resistance. He fortifies himself on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. In mid-December, he is in Val d’Arco with Girolamo Piloso. He continues to Nago, where he arrives by mid-month, facing the same difficulties encountered three months earlier. He decides to divide the army in half. One wing, under Piloso’s command, enters the Santa Lucia Valley. The Venetians are immediately attacked by troops from Castel Penede led by Francesco d’Arco. The other half, led by Gattamelata himself, arrives and defeats the enemy, capturing the opposing captain. Piloso is wounded in the encounter.
1439
Jan.Trentino, VenetoHe occupies Castel Penede, Nago, and Torbole, reaching an agreement with Paride di Lodrone for the dispatch of a significant quantity of wheat to Brescia. He takes the path through Val d’Adige, veers towards Mori, and heads towards Lodrone. From that location, he moves on to Arco and Tenno. As soon as he learns that Gonzaga and Niccolò Piccinino have preceded him in these castles, he retreats to Castel Penede and sends 400 men as an escort for the wheat cargo to the mountains of Tenno. They are intercepted and routed by 600 cavalry and 1000 infantry under the command of Taliano Furlano. Undaunted, he often manages, sometimes through cunning and at other times through different means (diversionary raids in the Mantuan territory), to break through the blockades set up by the adversaries.
MayVenetoFaced with a fresh offensive from Piccinino, he withdraws with 9,000 cavalry and just under 6,000 infantry to the stronghold of Padua. He sacks Montagnana, which had fallen into the hands of Visconti supporters, and takes refuge within the confines of the Brenta River.
JuneVenetoHe is joined by the General Captain of the League, Francesco Sforza, and they collaborate on a war plan. Together with Sforza, he becomes the first condottiero to establish early military regulations, particularly focused on organizing the marching order. The two captains arrive in Cologna Veneta, leading a combined force of 14,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry. Piccinino fortifies himself in Soave, while Sforza and Gattamelata move to Roncà. A sortie led by Troilo da Rossano and Niccolò da Pisa forces the Visconti forces to abandon their position.
JulyHe is honored by the Most Serene Republic with a diploma of nobility distinguished by a golden bull.
Aug.Veneto
He crosses the Adige to provide aid to Brescia but finds the road blocked at Peschiera del Garda.
Sept.TrentinoHe constructs a defensive line from Lake Garda to the mountains overlooking Riva del Garda. In order to contest the enemy’s control of the lake, Gattamelata, along with the Dalmatian engineer Niccolò Sorbolo, devises a plan involving the transportation of a convoy of vessels. This convoy consists of 25 boats loaded with weapons and supplies, along with 5 galleys – 3 small ones and 2 long ones measuring 40 meters in length and weighing 250 tons each. The plan entails moving this convoy over land and along the Adige River. The feat is accomplished in approximately fifteen days.
Initially, the boats are hauled by thousands of men and as many working animals, departing from the Venetian lagoon. They reach the mouth of the Adige and, by rowing against the current and utilizing both oars and sails, they overcome obstacles such as boat bridges and marshes, gradually making their way up the river to Verona. They navigate through the narrow passage of the Chiusa and reach Mori. Here, they are pulled ashore.
The vessels are placed on specially designed wagons, employing wooden rails in their ascent through the Monte Baldo mountain range. These rails are disassembled and reassembled as needed. Once they arrive at Lake Loppio, the boats are placed back into the water and sailed until they reach a natural drop of about a hundred meters, leading to the present-day San Giovanni Pass. Special winches installed at the top of the incline enable them to overcome this elevation as well.
The last challenge for the convoy is the descent through the steep Santa Lucia valley, on the eastern slope of the rocky peak where Castel Penede stands. The ships finally reach their intended destination, the waters of Torbole.
Oct.TrentinoHe joins forces with Troilo da Rossano, then relocates to the Val di Ledro and proceeds along the road to Tenno.
Nov.Trentino, VenetoHe besieges the fortress of Tenno (near Riva del Garda), which is reinforced by Piccinino. The battle, in which Sacramoro da Parma is captured, is ultimately decided by the actions of the Brescians, who put the ducal forces to flight, forcing them to seek refuge within the stronghold. The defenders surrender unconditionally. Piccinino narrowly escapes capture by hiding in a sack carried by a soldier. Shortly thereafter, Gattamelata rushes to the aid of Brescia.
However, he is soon recalled, along with Sforza, when, a few days later, the Viscontis unexpectedly seize Verona. From Torbole, they cross the Adige above Brentonico, making their way to the Chiusa, overcoming resistance from the Viscontis who sought to block every exit from the valley. Under cover of night, they approach Verona near the castle of San Felice while the ducal forces are still engaged in looting. Alongside Alessandro Sforza, Gattamelata recovers Porta Oriello, defended by Mantuan militias, and Porta Vescovo, guarded by Veronese soldiers who surrender almost immediately.
Later, in gratitude, the inhabitants present him with an estate in Montorio Veronese, previously owned by Marino Contarini. The Venetian nobleman initially resists but eventually accepts the gesture when the Veronese offer him 4,000 ducats.
Dec.TrentinoHe recaptures Castel Penede and Torbole. In the same month, he renounces his rights over Valmareno in exchange for 3,000 ducats, which are granted to him by Brandolino Brandolini.
1440
Jan.Trentino, VenetoHe is struck by an apoplectic attack on the mountain of Tenno. He is transported by boat from Lazise to Venice.
Feb.VenetoHe has himself taken to Montegrotto Terme for medical treatment.
…………..TuscanyHe goes to the Sienese region to receive assistance, as he has done on previous occasions in the past for a similar ailment.
…………..LombardyHe returns to the battlefields, even though he is not fully healed.
1441
Feb.VenetoIn Venice for the wedding of the Doge Foscari’s son, Jacopo, to the daughter of Leonardo Loredan, he is welcomed with the bucintoro. His retinue participates in a joust that lasts for two days, alongside selected troops from the Sforza and Taddeo d’Este. By his side is his son Giovannantonio.
Apr.VenetoAs his illness progresses, he leaves the army and retires to Padua (Palazzo Lion). The Venetians grant him an annual pension of 1000 ducats in case he does not recover and a command of 450 lances and 350 foot soldiers in case of his recovery. In such an event, he should also receive a monthly allowance of 250 ducats.
1443
Jan.He dies at the beginning of the month, at the hour of vespers, in Padua, in his house near the cathedral (via Vescovado, Palazzo Lion). The Venetians declare a day of mourning throughout the territories of the Most Serene Republic, and 250 ducats are spent on his funeral. The funeral eulogy is delivered by Lauro Querini. Twelve days after his death, the funeral rites are repeated in Venice before the Doge Francesco Foscari and the senators of the republic, with Giovanni Pontano delivering the funeral oration. He is buried in Padua in the church of Sant’Antonio, in a chapel dedicated to San Francesco and San Bernardino da Siena (now the Santissimo), facing the tomb of his son Giovannantonio. The lids of both tombs are sculpted in relief with the figures of both warriors lying in repose. The chapel was built at his wife Giacoma’s expense.
The decorative painting is the work of the Venetian Matteo dal Poro, the Paduan Pietro Calzetta, and Jacopo da Montagnana. The tomb’s ark is the creation of Master Gregorio di Allegretto. The son and wife also commission a bronze equestrian monument in his honor in Padua, in the square in front of the basilica, created by Donatello. The statue of Gattamelata on horseback is completed in late 1453 and costs the family 1,650 ducats. When Donatello was tasked with creating this monument, there already existed another equestrian Gattamelata sculpture, made of silver and weighing 14 pounds, donated by Erasmo da Narni himself to the Church of the Santissima Annunziata in Florence. During the same period when this monument was being crafted, two other Florentine artists were engaged in Ferrara in the execution of bronze equestrian monuments: Antonio di Cristofano, for the Marquis of Ferrara Niccolò d’Este, and Niccolò Baroncelli, a student of Brunelleschi, for the Marquis Borso d’Este. Twenty-six years later, in 1479, Andrea del Verrocchio was invited to Venice to sculpt an equestrian monument in bronze for Bartolomeo Colleoni. This monument was erected not only to honor the valor of the Bergamasque condottiero but also to encourage other captains in the service of the Most Serene Republic. Of the four statues, only two remain, as those of the Marquis d’Este were destroyed in 1796.
In the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua (the so-called Salone), a gigantic wooden horse is preserved, a Renaissance copy of Donatello’s Gattamelata monument, made for a parade held in Padua in 1466. In 1837, the horse was donated by its owners, the Emo Capodilista family, to the municipality to be placed in the Salone. The horse measures 5.75 meters in height and has a circumference of 6.20 meters. It has a hatch inside for access. Various replicas of Donatello’s statue have been created in different formats and materials. A replica from the late 1950s, crafted by the artistic foundry Ferdinando Marinelli, stands in Avenida Italia in Montevideo. Another bronze copy is found in Moscow’s Pushkin Museum. Lastly, a plaster reproduction is located in the plaster cast gallery of the State Art Institute in Florence.
In recognition of his merits, Braccio di Montone allows Gattamelata to use his own heraldic emblem: a red ram’s bust, rampant, on a yellow field. Upon Gattamelata’s death, he uses a new heraldic emblem: a red cat, rampant, on a silver field. After his name is inscribed in the Golden Book of Venetian nobility, he is granted a new heraldic emblem: a shield containing three rope loops, symbolizing his military exploits and his ability to enter and exit besieged cities with ease. According to some, his emblem may represent three ropes, implying that perhaps his father worked as a rope maker. This latter emblem is sculpted on his funerary monument, on the base of his equestrian monument, and in the arch of the Gattamelata chapel in the church of San Domenico in Narni.
In his hometown of Narni, along the street named after him, a plaque is placed with the inscription “Narnia me genuit / Gattamelata fui” (Narni gave birth to me / Gattamelata I was). Also in Narni, the condottiero had a chapel built, now dedicated to Santa Rosa da Lima. His armor is preserved in the Arsenal Museum in Venice; it is mounted on a wooden horse, bridled and armored. It consists of 124 pieces, weighs 49 kilograms, and stands 206 centimeters above the ground, with a chest circumference of 122 centimeters and shoulder width of 74 centimeters. His (presumed) command staff is kept in the treasury of the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua; it measures 70 centimeters in length and is covered with a silver-gilt plate. In the pommel, 40 turquoise stones are set.
His epitaph by Francesco Barbaro can be found in a codex at the Guarneriana of San Daniele del Friuli. Another eulogy is located in the Vatican, authored by Giovanni Pontano. His portrait, attributed to Antonio Maria Crespi, is now in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan. A portrait by Giorgione (with Brandolino Brandolini) is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Lastly, Giovanni, Jacopo, and Gentile Bellini, commissioned by the heirs, painted the “Gathamelata altarpiece,” which was lost in 1651, and was located in the chapel where he is buried with his son. In it, ten nude figures were depicted mourning over his corpse. There are also other images of him in Dueville (Villa Monza, now Cavedon), dating from the second half of the 15th century: the facade of the building is frescoed with scenes of war, and portraits of him and Colleoni. Friend of humanist Ciriaco d’Ancona.

Sources

-“Furono il Gattamelata e lo Sforza che nel 1439 emanarono uno dei più noti regolamenti militari del tempo. Era probabilmente prassi normale fin dai primi del Quattrocento che un capitano generale stabilisse le norme di condotta a cui doveva attenersi il suo esercito, soprattutto quando era accampato. Tuttavia ben poche di quelle regolamentazioni normative sono giunte. E’ plausibile che ricalcassero tutte un modulo stereotipato e che si trattasse di norme convenzionali relative ad aspetti della vita militare su cui i militari erano preventivamente d’accordo. In realtà i regolamenti militari italiani differiscono ben poco da quelli allora emanati dall’amministrazione militare inglese. Il Gattamelata e lo Sforza si trovavano in una situazione alquanto inconsueta, nel senso che avevano il comando congiunto di un esercito bipartito. Il Gattamelata, infatti, in quanto capitano generale di Venezia era specificamente a capo delle forze veneziane; lo Sforza era capitano generale della Lega e comandava la sua imponente compagnia e anche un certo numero di soldati arruolati da Firenze. Le norme emanate dai due condottieri ebbero, quindi, un contenuto peculiare là dove stabilivano quale dovesse essere l’ordine di marcia. I due eserciti dovevano andare in testa un giorno l’uno e un giorno l’altro e chi stava in testa doveva assicurare la protezione della colonna in marcia. Su altri punti le norme erano convenzionali, come quando ingiungevano di scompigliare i ranghi, di proteggere con contingenti di cavalleria tutte le compagnie incaricate del vettovagliamento, di formare una squadra speciale per gli alloggi delle truppe comprendendovi rappresentanti di ogni compagnia, oppure quando stabilivano le mansioni del maresciallo di campo e la procedura da seguir nel caso che il campo fosse assalito. MALLETT

-“Questo Gatto era assai avveduto nelle battaglie; ..costui, come uomo che al tutto cercava fama, spesso i nemici assaliva, e di belle battaglie con loro faceva: l’ozio gli era nemico.” CAVALCANTI

-“Non mai il potere lo rese soperchiante, non mai la vittoria superbo..Nel dar mano alle imprese, prudente; nel condurle, tenace; nel compierle, bene attento.” PONTANO

-“Dux aetatis suae cautissimus.” BARBARO

-“Valoroso capitano de’ soldati de Venetiani.” ALBERTI

-“Cujus nomen Erasmus Narniensis, obscurissimo genere, militia clarissimus.” MANELMI

-“Soprannominato per la sua astuzia Gattamelata, grand’Uomo di guerra.” BONIFACCIO

-“Non indegno della sua fama ed esperto.” PASERO

-“Un prode, e valoroso guerriero.” BROGNOLI

-“Qui in bello etiam nostro in tempore tantum florent, ut etiam victor fortunatus evaserit.” SAVONAROLA

-“Huomo peritissimo dell’arte della guerra.” MARCELLO

-“Meritò nome singolarissimo Condottiero..Haveva Erasmo persona grande, volto colorito, occhi e capelli castagnicci.” ROSCIO

-“Nel fatto dell’arme uno di quelli che in tal tempo teneva el primo posto, homo di grande ardire et ingegno.” ANONIMO VERONESE

-“Uomo nobile per gloria militare e benemerito del dominio veneziano.” SABELLICO

-“Huomo molto valoroso nell’armi e a tempi suoi famosissimo Capitano, pratico nel mestier dell’armi.” PELLINI

-“Acquistò gran credito, ma di capitano più accorto che bellicoso.” GIOVIO

-“Vir rebus in bellicis ea tempestate non ultimus.” CORNAZZANO

-“Del condottieri che il santo luogo regna.” D’ANNUNZIO

-“Strenuus ac prudens bellator.” FARINA

-“Valente condottiere dei veneziani nel secolo XV.” BOSI

-“Capitano generale di diversi principi d’Italia e famoso per l’eccellente suo valore nell’imprese passate.” SANSOVINO

-“Militiae longe clarissimus dux postea evasit, qui quum operam suam in terra Italia diversis principibus praeclarum exhibuisset..Mox militiam professus inter imperatores Italicos sibi prima vindicavit, Venetorum autem dictus imperator, ea fide ac facilitate bellum contra Philippum Mediolani principe gessit, ur praeclarus inde victorias atque trophaea retulerit..Inter egregios rei militaris imperatores aetate sua adnumerari meruit.” EGNAZIO

-“Uomo da porre tra i primi di quella età nelle cose di guerra.” SPINO

-“Vecchio ed espertissimo capitano.” UGOLINI

-“Virum in re militari praestantem.” PLATINA

-Alla battaglia di L’Aquila “Gran guerra li facea Gattamelata/ el conte Brandolino el seguitava.” CIMINELLO

-Alla battaglia di L’Aquila “Gatto parea un danese songiery” VALENTINI

-“Fedele alla sua republica contrariamente all’abitudine dei tempi.” AMBROSETTI

-“Non mai permise saccheggiar le città, spogliare i templi, devastare i campi, guastar le case villerecce. Non mai tollerò a’ soldati di crudelmente rapire e malmenare le madri di famiglia o le vergini ed i fanciulli ingenui.” Da una cronaca riportata dall’ARGIOLAS

-“Condottiero celeberrimo.” PAOLINI

-“Praefectum magni animi virum..Vir strenuus, atque impiger rei militaris.” BRACCIOLINI

-“Viri in re militari celebrati nominis.” FACIO

-Con Pietro Giampaolo Orsini, Niccolò Piccinino e Malatesta Baglioni “Capitani tutti che avevano già dato prova del loro valore.” CUTOLO

-“Certamente valoroso capitano..Valoroso e modesto.” BELOTTI

-“Eut donc l’insigne fortune que, du décor d’une cuirasse à l’antique, sinée de conventionnele tete de Méduse, Donatello ait faire saillir un étonnant visage dont on ne peut douter qu’il ne soit son portrait..Menton carré, pommettes accusées, bouche mince, Gattamelata est tout en nuances, en raffinements inquiétants.” LABANDE

-“Vir bello strenuus, atque impiger.” SANT’ANTONINO

-“Del cui merito ne vive in Padova tutt’hora sovra gran cavallo di bronzo, vicino al tempio di Santo Antonio, conspicua memoria.” VERDIZZOTTI

-“Astuto capitano.” MUZZI

-“Assai pregiato dal governo (di Venezia) pel suo valore e per la costante fedeltà.” TENTORI

-“Gatta Melata ancor nella bandiera, Gran Guerriero, che per la sua virtù e fedeltà la illustrissima signoria di venetia lo fece suo capitano generale..Valente capitano.” BROGLIO

-“Pochi condottieri ebbero in morte come il Gattamelata altrettanti laudi e onori: dall’elogio del Querini a quello del Pontano: da Francesco Barbaro al Porcellio, al Giovio, le lettere fecero a gara ad onorarlo..Lo spirito semplice e austero del grande condottiero rivive nel sepolcro ch’egli volle nella basilica del Santo, dove nel marmo appare disteso nella sua armatura, compagna fedele di tante battaglie, mentre nel rilievo intorno si profilano la spada d’onore e il bastone del comando. Poco lontano è Giannantonio che volle seguirlo in vita come in morte.” M.L. FIUMI

-“Divenuto..celebre come condottiero dei Veneziani; la cui statua equestre, scolpita dal Donatello, orna anche oggi dì la piazzetta avanti la chiesa di S. Antonio di Padova.” VON PLATEN

-“Era uno stratega avveduto; .. raramente i suoi successi sono stati determinati dalla sola forza delle armi o dalla particolare abilità nei combattimenti. Il Gattamelata fu soprattutto un esperto di strategia militare, un uomo capace di riflessione, astuto, profondo e attento osservatore degli avversari che si apprestava ad affrontare, oltre che dei suoi uomini, con i quali era in continuo contatto e che conosceva personalmente uno per uno…In questo suo atteggiamento, che oggi definiremmo di moderazione, Erasmo ci appare simile agli eroi del mondo antico, che rifuggivano da ogni eccesso (o per lo meno ci provavano) per non essere vittime della tracotanza, quella che i Greci chiamavano ubris, le cui conseguenze temevano più di ogni altra disgrazia, in quanto severamente punita dal Fato. In questo Gattamelata fu uomo antico, erede di un’etica lontana, in contrasto – almeno apparente – con l’immagine di uomo nuovo, decisamente più avanti del suo tempo, una personalità che avrebbe lasciato un’impronta molto apprezzata, pur con mille contraddizioni, nei secoli successivi.” GAZZARA

-“Il più onesto, corretto e leale condottiero di tutti i tempi…Il Gathamelata è un soldato valoroso ed energico e, cosa rara in quei tempi e non solo in quelli, sempre fedele allo Stato che serve, schietto e a volte di una rude eloquenza. Non è affatto un diplomatico od un uomo di eccezionale furberia, come si potrebbe credere dal soprannome, che invero gli si adatta poco e che gli deriva, forse, dal nome della madre Melania Grattelli, e nemmeno uno sforzesco amante delle lunghe guerre di logorio inframmezzate agli intrighi diplomatici…Erasmo..esercita il comando secondo il pensiero ed il modo di Braccio, temperando il rigore disciplinare ed i rapporti gerarchici con una innata affabilità e con un senso d’umana simpatia: vigile e pensoso dei suoi gregari e delle cavalcature, prodiga loro tutta la sua esperienza e la sua passione; dalla cura delle armi all’efficienza degli uomini e dei cavalli, dai medicamenti delle ferite, delle febbri, delle piaghe, dei guidaleschi (escoriazioni o piaga prodotta da attrito di cinghie e simili), all’ ordinamento tattico ed all’addestramento delle squadre, dalla corresponsione delle paghe e dalla distribuzione del bottino all’esaltazione dei fattori morali.” BASSETTI

-“(Chiamato Gattamelata) per..la dolcezza de’suoi modi congiunta a grande astuzia e furberia, di cui giovossi molto in guerra a uccellare e corre in agguato i mal cauti nemici e poi un parlar accorto e come miele dolce e soave.” EROLI

-“Tanto fedele e tanto prudente che fino a quando durerà Venezia (e lo sarà in eterno) i veneziani ricorderanno la sua mirabile fede e degna laude. Quante cose questo fedele duca per la repubblica operò non saprei oggi dichiarare…Prudenza nel consigliarsi, fortezza d’animo nell’agire e prontezza nell’eseguire; tolleranza mirabile per la fatica..Mai atroce freddo, altissime nevi, lunghezza del cammino, gravezza di morbo, lo poterono dalle imprese ritardare.” Dall’elogio funebre di Lauro Querini riportato da BASSETTI

-“Era un gigante che doveva sfiorare i due metri, arrivato tardi ai comandi importanti. Probabilmente non era un genio militare, ma rappresentò bene l’evoluzione del mercenariato del suo tempo: fu un funzionario preparato e coraggioso, preposto da chi lo assumeva alla conduzione degli eserciti, sostanzialmente fedele e leale e per di più esente dagli eccessi di violenza che contraddistinguevano i suoi colleghi”…..Riguardo la ritirata del Gattamelata da Brescia assediata. “Oggi forse non si comprende bene l’eccezionalità dell’impresa, ma per i tempi, alle soglie dell’autunno, con i pregiati cavalli da battaglia che tanto erano robusti per combattere, tanto erano delicati quando si trattava di cibo e temperatura, avventurarsi per montagne ostili e strade che spesso erano solo sentieri, a volte con la necessità di abbattere gli alberi per far passare i soldati, era una cosa talmente temeraria che i milanesi non l’avevano nemmeno presa in considerazione.” SCARDIGLI

-“La grande dote di questo condottiero è in realtà quella di non avere ambizioni politiche, di essere fedele allo Stato.” RENDINA

-“Con lui se ne andava davvero un condottiero sui generis: non ebbe mai ambizioni politiche e non prese parte agli intrallazzi dei giochi di potere, troppo frequenti negli ambienti di corte. Il suo obiettivo fu solo quello di assolvere nel migliore dei modi le incombenze militari che gli venivano affidate, con la massima lealtà e la devota fedeltà allo Stato che lo pagava. Se a ciò si aggiunge che in anni di ruberie e di stragi “non mai permise saccheggiar le città, spogliare i templi, devastar i campo, guastar le case villereccie. Non mai tollerò a’ soldati di crudelmente rapire o malmenare le madri di famiglia, o le vergini, o i fanciulli ingenui”, secondo quanto riportato dal’orazione funebre declamata da Lorenzo Quirini e Giovanni Pontano, possiamo attribuire al condottiero un lusinghiero bilancio morale. Chi più di tutti colse la reale portata del personaggio fu proprio Donatello, quando concepì la statua che l’ha consegnato ai posteri, realizzata inseguendo l’archetipo della virtù militare secondo i canoni tradizionali dell’antichità. Dedicarla a un uomo di umili origini, privo di legami aristocratici, i cui successi furono il frutto del suo impegno concreto nella carriera militare significò ribaltare le rigide concezioni dell’arte medievale, basate sulla sacralità o sulla nobiltà del protagonista, per proporre una nuova figura di eroe popolare.” STAFFA

-“Noto per le sue imprese al servizio di Venezia alla metà del Quattrocento.” TANZINI

-“Una carriera esemplare, la sua; nel 1434 diventa capitano generale, per conto dei Veneziani, nella lotta armata contro il Duca di Milano; sfugge dall’assedio di Brescia; diventa patrizio, e il 9 novembre 1439, conclude la gloriosa vicenda militare con la vittoria del piano d’Arco, morendo poi in quella città, Padova, che ha scelto come propria patria d’elezione, chiedendo addirittura di esser sepolto nel convento del Santo.” GROSSI-JORI

-“Grazie all’esperienza maturata in tante battaglie può esprimere una smisurata saggezza tattica e strategica.” BRIGNOLI

-Sulla sua tomba è riportato il seguente epitaffio “Dux bello insignis, dux et victricibus armis/ Inclytus, atque animi Gatamelata fui,/ Narnia me genuit media de gente, meoque,/ Imperium Venetum fortia signa tuli./ Munere me insigni, et statua decoravit equestri, Ordo Senatorius, et mea pura fides.” Porcellio, citazione riportata da FABRETTI

-Epitaffio nella sala del comune di Narni sotto il suo ritratto “Erasmo. Gattamelattae – Venetus. Qui. Ità. Vivens. Mor. Integritate. Animi. Corpo. Risq. Fortitudine. Fide.  Praecipue. Ac. Prudentia. Omnibus. Profuit. Ut. Post. Mortem. Suis. Concivibus. Virtutum. Omnium. Optimum. Sit. Exemplum.

-“Il monumento ha reso Gattamelata più famoso di altri condottieri del suo tempo, donandogli un’aureola di eroismo superiore al valore mostrato in battaglia.” E. e G.N. PITTALIS

-“Erasmo da Narni, detto il Gattamelata, è nato intorno al 1370, secondo recenti studi, da Paolo Angeloni e da Caterina. Probabilmente prese il suo soprannome “Gattamelata” dalla forma del “cimiero” che scelse di indossare durante le battaglie, che rappresenta una gatta color miele. Si può anche dedurre, ma è meno probabile, che derivi anche dai suoi modi gentili. La tradizione folcloristica vuol che abbia acquistato tale soprannome dopo la cattura e la successiva fuga dall’Aquila nel 1424. Un’altra storia è quella che il soprannome Gattamelata, derivi dall’anagramma di “Melania Gattelli” presunta madre di Erasmo; questa persona però esiste solo nella tradizione folcloristica, non esiste alcuna traccia nei documenti della sua esistenza.” BIONDINI-SANGIORGIO

-“Si deve la cappella (del Santissimo, o del Gattamelata) al desiderio testamentario (1441) del condottiero Erasmo da Narni, detto il Gattamelata – di cui, sul sagrato antistante la basilica, sorge il monumento equestre, capolavoro del Donatello – che, se fosse morto a nord del Po, desiderava essere sepolto nella chiesa francescana della città nella quale o vicino alla quale sarebbe avvenuto il suo decesso (16 gennaio 1443/ nella basilica del Santo per Padova), in un “sepulcrum lapideumet honorablem, secundum quod decet Magnificentiam suam”, lasciando libertà agli esecutori di erigere un’eventuale cappella dedicata in particolare a san Francesco. Ma fu solo dopo la morte del figlio ventottenne Giovanni Antonio (1456) che Giacoma da Leonessa (Rieti), vedova del condottiero, procedette in tal senso…la cappella venne dedicata a san Francesco, come voleva lo stesso Erasmo, e a san Bernardino, del quale era particolarmente devota Giacoma. In essa trovarono sepoltura Erasmo alla parete sinistra, il figlio Giovanni Antonio a destra; nel 1466 la stessa Giacoma, sepolta semplicemente a terra, ma con il desiderio espresso nel testamento (1457) di avere sopra di sé un Coelo Stellato in auro, et aliis figuris, et historiis (la lapide tombale è stata spostata nel 1741; e nel 1476 Caterina, figlia di Giovanni Antonio.” RIZZA

-“Havea Erasmo persona grande: volto colorito: occhi, e capelli castagnicci.” CAPRIOLO

-“Soprannominato Gattamelata per la dolcezza dei suoi modi unita alla sua astuzia.” DISTEFANO

-“La scultura di Donatello è ricca di particolari realisti come le rughe sulla fronte ampia e lo sguardo pensoso ed i dettagli dell’armatura confermano l’attenzione alla verità storica del personaggio rappresentato dall’artista: la testa è scoperta e lo sguardo è fiero mentre l’armatura con gorgone alata è completa di spada con insegne papali legata al periodo in cui il capitano era al servizio della Chiesa. L’incedere del cavallo è reso più armonico nei volumi del dorso e della parte posteriore grazie all’inserimento della palla di cannone posta sotto lo zoccolo anteriore che risolve così anche i problemi di statica.” www.gentileschi.it>padova>gattamelata

-“Il suo monumento equestre, opera di Donatello, venne posto dalla Repubblica in “piazza del Santo” dove tutt’ora lo si può ammirare: è Giorgio Vasari a ricordare, nelle “Vite”, quanto compiuto a Padova dall’artista che, quando viene incaricato dell’esecuzione del monumento, aveva un solo precedente di rappresentazione del Gattamelata a cavallo; si trattava di una scultura in argento, dono dello stesso Erasmo da Narni alla chiesa della Santissima Annunziata di Firenze. Concepito come un cenotafio, sorge in quelal che all’epoca era un’area cimiteriale, in una collocazione attentamente studiata rispetto alla vicina Basilica, ossia lievemente spostata rispetto alla facciata e al fianco in asse con un importante accesso viario (ora “Via del Santo”): la posizione ne garantisce la visibilità da molteplici punti di vista.” www.conoscere venezia.it

-“Erasmo lasciò onorevole memoria di sé, fedele, valoroso,accorto, prudente.” FABRETTI

-“Gattamelata di Narni/Figlio di un fornaio discepolo di Braccio/Capitan generale dei Veneti/Nelle utili dimore accortissimo/La cui morte onorò il Senato/E più il pennel di Mantegna/Coloritore del pianto e della/Costernazione del popolo.” Da un’epigrafe di Giambattista Giovio riportata dal FABRETTI

-“Non splendori di conquiste nella sua vita di guerriero: non brama di dominio, non sogno di primato. Tra quelle figure imperiose e irruenti, egli sta in un piano inferiore o in una linea più indietro, come nel posto riservato sulla scena ai personaggi di second’ordine. I cronisti e gli storici del tempo. quando il suo nome cade sotto la loro penna, non vi si indugiano troppo: persino l’aggettivazione, sempre così ricca e amplificatrice, ha parchi fronzoli e fioche risonanze. Non un poeta gli consacra un’ode, un’ottava, anche solo un esametro.. C’è, è vero una poesia latina di Basinio parmense, ma di tono satirico, e del resto non fatta per pungere lui ch’é morto da poco, bensì Venezia che gli ha consentito l’onore della statua; e ci sono quattro distici del Porcellio e due elogi di Ciriaco anconitano e di Francesco Barbaro, anch’essi in morte, a guisa d’epitaffi… Erasmo si staccava dai “Capitanei maximi” che l’avevano preceduto.. Se era privo di ambizioni politiche, e se modiche erano le sue richieste di denaro, dava però alle azioni di guerra, alla cura delle milizie, alla sorveglianza del nemico, un’opera assidua e oculata, mai spingendo ad atti rischiosi o a feroci rappresaglie, sempre contenuto in ogni occasione. di quella cautela ch’era in lui istinto dominante. Soprattutto senza restrizioni e senza limiti era la sua fedeltà agli ordini dello Stato. Di essa aveva dato innumerevoli prove prima di capitanare le forze venete; ad essa, più che ad altre virtù, doveva l’esser scelto, sotto il vessillo di S. marco ai gradi maggiori. Per questa “fides” sicurissima raccolse Erasmo in vita onori, in morte lodi.” PORTIGLIOTTI 

   Specific Biographies

-S. Bassetti. Erasmo Gathamelata 1370-1433.

-G. Eroli. Erasmo Gattamelata da Narni. Suoi monumenti e sua famiglia.

-P. Gazzara. Gattamelata. Storia di Erasmo da Narni e dei più valorosi capitani di ventura.

-P. L. Marini. Erasmo da Narni il Gattamelata.

Featured image source: wikimedia

Topics: Erasmo of Narni biography insights, Italian condottiero’s military career, Medieval warfare strategist Erasmo of Narni, Gattamelata’s impact on Italian history, Legendary condottiero’s life story

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Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani è l'autore del sito Condottieri di ventura.