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

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Marco Visconti’s Ambitions in Milan

Italian CondottieriMarco Visconti's Ambitions in Milan

A man of action, Marco Visconti was the armed arm of the Visconti cause. Ambitious, a valiant and capable warrior, and ruthless with his enemies, he aspired to rule Milan at the expense of his brother Galeazzo and his nephew Azzone. Upon his return to Lombardy, after serving with the imperial forces, Azzone invited him to the palace. Lured into a private conversation in a chamber, he was then strangled and thrown out of the window by his nephew and his brother Luchino. Known in reality as a womanizer, Marco Visconti is depicted in Tommaso Grossi's historical novel, from the first half of the 1800s, as a romantic hero, a victim of the "force of destiny."

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

The Ruthless Path to Power in Milan

Marco Visconti (nicknamed “Balatrone” or “Tardona da Tortona”). Lord of Rosate and Lucca. Cousin of Lodrisio Visconti.

Born: 1280 ca.
Death: 1329

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
………PiedmontExiled by the Della Torre family, in 1310 Marco Visconti was appointed as the podestà of Alessandria. During this period, he traveled to Asti to meet with the brother of Emperor Henry of Luxembourg.
Dec.LombardyMarco Visconti returned to Milan with his relatives in the entourage of the Emperor Henry of Luxembourg. He was compelled to reconcile with the local Guelphs.
JulyGhibellinesGuelphsLombardyWhen his father, Matteo Visconti, was appointed imperial vicar of Milan, Marco Visconti and the city’s rectors attacked the palace at Porta Orientale where Archbishop Cassono della Torre was staying with 300 horsemen. The prelate was forced to flee Milan and seek refuge in Cassano d’Adda.
Mar.MilanGuelphs, NaplesPiedmontMarco Visconti was engaged in the defense of Tortona. When attacked by Ugo del Balzo, he, along with Guarnieri di Homberg, successfully defeated the opponent.
………General captainPiedmontUpon the death of the Count of Salibrun, Matteo Visconti entrusted Marco Visconti with the command of the mercenaries to fight against Genoa and Asti, the Angevin vicars in Piedmont, and the army of the Guelph League in Lombardy.
Aug.PiedmontMarco Visconti was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Milan.
Dec.PiedmontMarco Visconti entered Tortona and expelled the Angevin forces from the city.
JulyLombardy, TuscanyAt the confluence of the Scrivia and Po rivers, Marco Visconti defeated the forces from Pavia led by Ricciardino Langosco and the Angevin troops of Ugo del Balzo, the seneschal in Lombardy for King Robert of Naples (Roberto d’Angiò). He then moved to Tuscany and, alongside Uguccione della Faggiuola, participated in the Battle of Montecatini.
Oct.LombardyTogether with his brother Stefano, Marco Visconti conquered Pavia. The city was subsequently sacked.
Dec.PiedmontMarco Visconti seized control of both Alessandria and Vercelli. His father, Matteo Visconti, appointed him as podestà and entrusted him with the defense of Alessandria.
MayMilanPiacenzaEmiliaAlong with Luchino, Stefano, and Giovannello Visconti, and commanding 100 cavalry, Marco Visconti ravaged the territory of Castell’Arquato, which belonged to Alberto Scotti. He attempted to capture the castle of Castell’Arquato.
Aug.PiedmontMarco Visconti returned to the Alessandria region with a significant force of infantry and 1,000 cavalry. He reached Bosco Marengo and Castellazzo to oppose the advance of the Angevin seneschal Riccardo Gambatesa. Forcing his way into Castellazzo, he captured 20 members of the da Pozzo family, who were then imprisoned in Milan along with the exiles from Alessandria taken during the same operation. He set fire to both the castle at Castellazzo and the one at Vaglio Serra.
………ExilesGenoaGeneral captainLiguriaMarco Visconti provided assistance to the Spinola and Doria families in their efforts to return to Genoa.
Dec.MilanNaplesPiedmontMarco Visconti was assigned to guard Alessandria and Tortona. He attacked Asti with 500 cavalry and 1,000 infantry, targeting the Porta di San Pietro, which he found open. About fifty armed men stormed into the city but were repelled by Mario Guttuario. Consequently, Marco Visconti had to retreat back to the Alessandria region.
Jan.PiedmontMarco Visconti captured the bastion of Loreto near Asti. His troops set up their encampments between Novi Ligure and Castell’Arquato.
Mar. – JunePiedmont, LiguriaGenoa was constantly troubled by internal conflicts. The Fieschi and Grimaldi families controlled the city, while the Doria and Spinola families were among the exiles. The latter sought assistance from the lord of Milan, Matteo Visconti. Marco Visconti, leading Milanese, Lodi, Piacenza, Pavia, and Scaliger militias (1,000 cavalry and infantry), left Gavi, crossed the Bocchetta mountains, and advanced into Val Polcevera. He attacked the tower of Capo di Faro, which fell in June after employing underground excavations to collapse its walls. The defenders surrendered out of fear (or perhaps due to corruption): upon their return to Genoa, they were all condemned to death and their bodies were thrown outside the city walls.
Marco Visconti devastated the surrounding area and ravaged the villages of Prè outside Porta dei Vacca. He seized control of the passes of Peraldo and San Bernardo in the mountains above Genoa (500 Angevin cavalry were killed in the gorge), and constructed two large bastions there. He camped in Val di Bisagno, penetrated the suburbs, which consisted of very tall buildings, occupied the highest towers, and began besieging Genoa.
JulyLiguriaWith the arrival from Provence of the Angevin fleet led by King Robert of Naples (Roberto d’Angiò), Riccardo Gambatesa, Filippo di Taranto, and Giovanni d’Acaja entered Genoa’s defense with 1,200 cavalry. Marco Visconti withdrew from Val di Bisagno to camp in the mountains and the villages of Prè.
Aug. – Oct.LiguriaIn early August, the Guelphs and Angevins attempted to capture the bastions overlooking the city from Peraldo. Marco Visconti seized the Church of Sant’Agnese, which was connected to the walls by a bridge. He ordered a perpendicular excavation to Porta di Vacca during the night, extending it beneath the castle. The foundations were cut and replaced with wooden supports. He then feigned an assault, prompting the garrison to call nearby guards for help, including the King of Naples himself. Amid the chaos, the supports gave way, causing the structure to collapse on the defenders. The king narrowly escaped.
Marco Visconti retreated from the village in front of the gate and ordered additional tunnels to be dug under the walls. Meanwhile, Guelph forces from Tuscany arrived, along with others from Bologna led by Simone della Torre, totaling 1,000 cavalry. In mid-October, during a skirmish with the adversaries, Visconti’s men destroyed a house, killing 300 soldiers who were trapped inside.
Nov.LiguriaUnder Marco Visconti‘s command were 1,500 cavalry, facing 2,500 of the opponents, not counting contingents from Florence, Siena, Bologna, and Romagna. In early November, a new clash occurred, resulting in many casualties on both sides.
Feb.LiguriaThe situation turned with the defeat at Sestri Ponente, where 850 cavalry, 5,000 infantry, and many crossbowmen landed at night from 60 galleys and numerous Angevin ushers. The troops fortified themselves behind Marco Visconti‘s lines, leading to a simultaneous attack from the rear and from the Genoese defenders in front. Marco Visconti retreated with heavy losses to the passes of Peraldo and San Bernardo; from there, he took the road to Savona.
Apr.LombardyMarco Visconti was forced to return to Lombardy due to difficulties in supplying provisions for his troops.
JunePiedmontMarco Visconti attempted to surprise Asti: he gathered more than 1,000 cavalry and an equal number of infantry, and approached the city with the exiles. Repelled, he went on to capture Gamalero.
Aug.LiguriaMarco Visconti resumed besieging Genoa and clashed with the Angevins at Vassalli.
Dec.PiedmontMarco Visconti besieged Alessandria. With 600 cavalry, he surprised and killed Ugo del Balzo, who had left the city with 500 Provençal cavalry to gather wood for defensive works. Immediately afterward, Marco Visconti hurried to Asti to confront Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto. However, no battle took place because he succeeded in bribing the commander of the Guelph militias, Filippo Maino.
………LiguriaMarco Visconti once again threatened Genoa. He hired 4,000 mercenaries and moved into Val Polcevera. He clashed with Riccardo Gambatesa and again attempted to collapse the walls through systematic underground tunnels. This time, however, the defenders were not caught off guard; they detected the direction of the digging with small bells placed in the trenches. Consequently, they were able to intercept and block the tunnels with counter-tunnels.
Aug.MilanChurchLombardy, PiedmontMarco Visconti was recalled to Lombardy due to an approaching new threat. Along with his brother Galeazzo Visconti and commanding 3,000 cavalry and 15,000 infantry, he was tasked by their father, Matteo, to attack Vercelli. The Tizzoni, allies of the Visconti, besieged the Avogadro in the castle. The Avogadro sought aid from the King of France. Marco Visconti moved to confront Philip of Valois and Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto, who were advancing with 1,500 Provençal and Gascon cavalry. After two days without any battle, he contacted Philip of Valois and, with lavish gifts (two barrels containing 10,000 florins), persuaded him to return to France.
Dec.PiedmontMarco Visconti besieged Vercelli. He set up camp at the Porta degli Avogadro, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the city under the penalty of death.
Apr.PiedmontThe siege of Vercelli ended when Marco Visconti ambushed 3,000 infantry and 600 cavalry, led by Count Pietro di Nicorno, who had come to the city’s aid. Nicorno fell from his horse and, although wounded by Marco Visconti himself, managed to escape on foot. From Asti, 300 Guelphs under the command of Martino d’Agliato arrived and joined forces at Santhià with the Catalan militias in the service of the King of Naples. Marco Visconti attacked these new opponents, defeated them, and seized many supply wagons intended for the defenders of Vercelli. There were 200 enemy casualties. The following day, the city was forced to surrender and was subsequently sacked.
He appointed his brother Stefano as the rector of Vercelli, left a strong garrison in the city, and returned to Milan. Members of the Avogadro family, including Simone da Collobiano, were also taken to Milan to be executed by Matteo Visconti.
MayPiedmontMarco Visconti fought against Raimondo di Cardona, who now commanded the Papal and Angevin forces. He entered Quargnento, occupied, and sacked Solero and Novi Ligure.
………Piedmont, LombardyMarco Visconti was repelled from Alessandria. He then recaptured Valenza and Pontecurone. With the collaboration of Vergusio dei Landi and Ponzino Ponzoni, he besieged Pagano della Torre in Crema.
Feb. – Mar.PiedmontWith 200 crossbowmen, Marco Visconti attempted to ambush the papal inquisitors in Bergoglio, who had come to notify his father of the accusation of heresy. The ambush was thwarted by Angevin captains guarding the banks of the Tanaro. A crusade was preached against his family throughout Europe. The inquisitors moved to Valenza, where Matteo Visconti was condemned for 25 crimes: the father was found guilty of heresy, and the sons and grandsons were declared perpetually incapable of holding any dignity or honor. Bertrando del Poggetto raised the Church’s banner in Asti. The Milanese were declared enemies, deprived of their possessions, and it was declared that they would become slaves of anyone who captured them.
MayPiedmontMarco Visconti recaptured Pozzolo Formigaro. He then faced the crusading army alongside Gherardino Spinola.
JulyPiedmontMarco Visconti attacked Raimondo di Cardona at Bassignana with 2,200 cavalry and many infantry. At the same time, Gherardino Spinola led a fleet on the Po to supply the besieged fortress. The adversaries had only 1,200 cavalry and 2,000 infantry. The battle lasted several hours, from six or seven in the morning until two in the afternoon, according to sources. Marco Visconti was repeatedly pushed back from a bridge on the Po; his two additional attacks also ended with the loss of 300 cavalry (150 on the opposing side and many infantry). Ultimately, victory smiled upon him; among the Papal forces, 400 cavalry, including Raimondo di Cardona himself, were captured. However, the enemy captain managed to escape the same night.
Aug.PiedmontA truce was brokered between the parties through the mediation of Duke Frederick of Austria. Upon its expiration, two German commissioners handed over Bassignana to Marco Visconti according to the agreements.
Dec.LombardyMarco Visconti defended his brother Galeazzo Visconti, with whom he was not on good terms, from the plots of Lodrisio Visconti, who had allied with the Papal forces besieging Milan. Expelled from the city, Marco Visconti returned disguised as a friar. With the help of German mercenaries, he defeated Lodrisio and convinced him to abandon his plans. Francesco da Garbagnate and Simone Crivelli were expelled from Milan.
Feb.LombardyTogether with his brother Luchino, Marco Visconti approached the Adda River with 6,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry to block Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto, who was advancing from Caravaggio with 12,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. He arrived at Cassano d’Adda with 800 cavalry and many infantry. He noticed that Vergusio dei Landi (now in the service of the Papal States) had ventured too far from the main force with the Milanese exiles and 500 cavalry to cross the river.
Marco Visconti launched a vigorous attack. Vergusio dei Landi‘s brother was killed, and Simone Crivelli and Francesco da Garbagnate were captured and immediately executed. Papal forces under the command of Filippo Gabrielli and Urlimbacca Tedesco intervened, catching Marco Visconti‘s troops tired and scattered. He was routed, and a large portion of his men were killed or captured. Marco Visconti retreated to Milan.
Apr.LombardyMarco Visconti was excommunicated again. He left Milan with 1,000 cavalry and 2,000 infantry to destroy the bridges at Vaprio d’Adda and Cassano d’Adda, aiming to cut off the supply lines of the enemy army camped at Monza. From Monza, 1,200 cavalry and 3,000 infantry, led by Henry of Flanders, Giovanni della Torre, Castrone del Poggetto, Vergusio dei Landi, and Filippo Gabrielli, advanced against him. The clash occurred at sunset in Gorgonzola and lasted four hours. Marco Visconti placed the infantry under Gaudenzio Marliani in the center, while he and his brother Luchino positioned themselves on the flanks with the cavalry. He attacked the adversaries when he noticed the first signs of their fatigue.
The intervention of the Papal cavalry and Brescia infantry decided the outcome of the battle. Both Marco and Luchino Visconti were wounded, and according to Florentine sources, they left behind 400 cavalry, seventeen banners, and many infantry on the battlefield; the enemy losses were significantly lower, with only 25 cavalry. The Milanese account differed, claiming that the Papal forces suffered 1,000 men killed on the battlefield and another 600 cavalry died in the following days from wounds sustained in the battle.
JulyLombardyReinforcements arrived from Emperor Louis the Bavarian, consisting of 600 cavalry, as well as from Verona, Mantua, and Ferrara, with 500 cavalry and 1,000 infantry. Additionally, 500 cavalry deserted from the enemy camp and joined Marco Visconti. Due to the plague decimating his ranks, Raimondo di Cardona was forced to retreat to Monza.
Aug.LombardyMarco Visconti left Milan with 3,000 cavalry and a large number of infantry to besiege Monza. Passerino della Torre was guarding the city. Upon hearing of Visconti‘s approach, the Guelph captain tried to preemptively confront the enemy but was defeated. Among his men, 200 cavalry were killed or captured.
Monza had a strong garrison of Germans and Italians, including pro-papal exiles from Florence, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Brescia, Lodi, Cremona, Bergamo, Como, Tortona, Novara, Alessandria, Vercelli, Genoa, Pavia, Crema, and Milan. One day, a colossal brawl erupted among these men, and suddenly they all turned against the Germans, resulting in 50 dead left on the ground.
Sept.LombardyMarco Visconti occupied Vimercate, defended by the Provençals. Upon learning that Passerino della Torre had seized the Tigurso Tower on the Martesana with 1,000 cavalry and infantry, he forded the Lambro River with 400 German cavalry and positioned himself on the embankment.
Oct.LombardyMarco Visconti defeated a column of papal forces at Albiate that was returning to Monza laden with spoils. Three hundred soldiers of Passerino della Torre, mostly wounded, fled towards the city, while another 300 were killed. With this victory, Marco Visconti forbade his men from taking any loot and quickly returned to Desio.
Nov.LombardyWith 1,500 cavalry, Marco Visconti besieged and captured the fortress and bridge over the Adda River at Cassano d’Adda. The defenders surrendered, possibly for money, as they received no assistance from Cardona, who remained in nearby Gorgonzola. In Milan, Marco Visconti faced internal dissension among the mercenaries, with the Rhenish Germans and the better-paid Swabians divided. As a result, 500 of the Rhenish mercenaries left, either to return to Germany or to join Henry of Flanders in the opposing camp.
Feb.LombardyTogether with his brother Galeazzo, Marco Visconti left Milan with 1,200 German cavalry and numerous infantry to recapture Vaprio d’Adda, which had fallen into Cardona‘s hands. The Papal captain was besieged, without provisions, and had fewer cavalry (1,000) than his adversaries. He sought a pitched battle, was defeated, and captured along with Henry of Flanders. The latter was released by the German mercenaries upon paying a ransom, spreading the tale that his “escape” was aided by the apparition of Saint John the Baptist, allowing him to return to defend Monza. Cardona, however, was taken to Milan where, in November, he was also “helped” to escape and find refuge in the same locality. During the conflict, Simone della Torre drowned in the Adda River. Marco Visconti pressed to attack Monza, but his brother Galeazzo, who favored a more conciliatory approach, disagreed, giving the crusaders time to recover.
Sept. – Nov.LombardyVergusio dei Landi and Mermeto di Verdun advanced against the bastion of San Fedele al Lambro to aid Monza. Marco Visconti responded with 500 cavalry, ambushed the adversaries, and inflicted a loss of 380 men. In November, the defenders of Monza surrendered under the condition that they would not receive aid from Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto within ten days.
Dec.LombardyMarco Visconti entered Monza with his brother Galeazzo Visconti, and the crusaders departed. The city was sacked by the German mercenaries as a reward for their efforts.
Sept.LuccaFlorenceTuscanyMarco Visconti took part in the Battle of Altopascio. He positioned himself at the center of the formation, leading 5,000 men, alongside Castruccio Castracani, who commanded another 5,000.
JulyLombardyMarco Visconti besieged Viadana unsuccessfully for 15 days with Ponzino Ponzoni and the Marquis of Este. He then met with other Ghibelline leaders of northern Italy in Verona.
Feb. – MayLombardyTogether with Lodrisio Visconti, Marco Visconti accused their brother Galeazzo of treason before Louis the Bavarian in Trento, Como, and finally in Milan, due to his relations with Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto. Marco aimed to gain control over part of the state, while Lodrisio sought to recover a large sum of money he claimed to have spent on behalf of Galeazzo. Their other brothers, Luchino, Giovanni, and Stefano, were hostile to both Marco and Lodrisio. At the end of May, Louis the Bavarian was crowned emperor in the Church of Sant’Ambrogio.
JulyGaleazzo Visconti was appointed imperial vicar. Shortly after receiving this appointment, it was announced that Stefano Visconti had died and Galeazzo, Luchino, Marco, Azzone, Giovanni, and Lodrisio Visconti were arrested. Galeazzo was imprisoned in the Forni di Monza, where he remained for eight months. The accusation was based on alleged correspondence with Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto. However, it is likely that the true reason was Galeazzo‘s refusal to deliver 150,000 florins to the emperor, which he had promised during the meeting in Trento. Marco and Lodrisio were released without having to pay any ransom.
Aug.ViscontiEmpireLombardyDisappointed in his hopes, Marco Visconti rebelled against Emperor Louis the Bavarian and allied with Luchino and Azzone Visconti at Iseo. Together, they waged war against Milan.
……..EmpireLazioMarco Visconti reconciled with Louis the Bavarian. He entered his service and accompanied him to Rome.
Mar.Together with Castruccio Castracani, Marco Visconti exerted pressure for the release of his brother Galeazzo. After being freed, Galeazzo went to Lucca.
Apr.EmpireChurchEmiliaMarco Visconti entered Borgo San Donnino (Fidenza).
JulyLombardyOperating in the Pavia area, Marco Visconti, along with Azzone Visconti, seized the castle of Barga. They intercepted a papal convoy from Avignon transporting 60,000 florins intended for the wages of Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto‘s troops. During this operation, many Florentine, Sienese, and Lombard merchants were also robbed of their belongings.
Oct.TuscanyEight hundred Saxon mercenaries, under the command of the Duke of Brunswick, arrived in Pisa with Ludovico the Bavarian. Having not received their pay for some time, they gathered, refused to obey any orders, and formed a company called the Company of Saint George (Compagnia di San Giorgio). They barricaded themselves in the mountains of Vivinaia and survived through raids on the fortress of Cerruglio (Montecarlo), a strategically important area for controlling the road from Florence to Lucca. The emperor sent Marco Visconti as his emissary to pacify them. Despite being treated with the utmost courtesy, he was held prisoner until their payment of 60,000 florins arrived. The condottiero offered to take them into his service and lead them to Lombardy, where they would be paid both their overdue and future wages.
Jan.Emilia, TuscanyIn Milan, Azzone obtained the imperial vicariate and his brother, Giovanni Visconti, received the cardinalate from the antipope. At the same time, the Visconti allocated 25,000 florins to the imperial burgrave for the release of Marco Visconti. However, the official went to Germany, keeping the sum for himself.
Apr.Comp. venturaTuscanyMarco Visconti is acclaimed by the rebels as their captain. The emperor abandons Lucca to confront the Visconti in Lombardy. Marco Visconti, leading the German mercenaries from Cerruglio and the exiles, reaches an agreement with the German garrison controlling the fortress of Agosta. Departing by night from the Val di Nievole, he defeats a contingent of cavalry, pursuing them for 5 miles, and surprises Lucca and its fortress. The city boroughs are sacked. The inhabitants and the imperial vicar Francesco Castracani surrender. Marco Visconti declares himself lord of the city, terrorizing the surrounding territory with continuous violence, theft, and killings.
MayTuscanyHe sets Camaiore ablaze. Over 400 inhabitants are killed, guilty only of having offered some resistance to the abuses. He sacks Pescia.
JunePisaTuscanyHe assists Fazio della Gherardesca in freeing Pisa from the imperial garrison of Tarlatino Tarlati. At the end of the month, he goes to Florence with 30 horsemen; he finalizes the last agreements for the sale of Lucca to the Pisans and Florentines for 80,000 ducats. As the latter are in disagreement, he sells the city for 30,000 florins to Gherardino Spinola.
JulyTuscany, Emilia, LombardyMarco Visconti left Florence, where he was gifted 1,000 florins for his vigorous efforts in subjugating the Val di Nievole and restoring Pistoia’s alliance with the Florentines. He stopped in Bologna to negotiate with Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto for an agreement to overthrow Azzone Visconti‘s lordship in Milan. He then traveled through Parma and reached Rosate.
Aug. – Sept.LombardyIn mid-month, he goes to Milan to claim his rights. He is very well received by his relatives and exceedingly well by the population. At the beginning of September, he attends a banquet held at the Palazzo del Broletto Vecchio, with his brothers Luchino and Giovanni also in attendance. He is called back by his nephew Azzone Visconti under a pretext; he is led to a room for a private conversation and is strangled and thrown from a window by his nephew and, probably, by his brother Luchino. Only the next day is his body found at the foot of a window of the palace.
There are some variations regarding his demise connected to his love life: as the lover of Bice del Balzo, wife of Ottorino Visconti, he drowns the woman in the moat of the castle of Rosate because she mocked him by making him believe she had conceived a child by him. Frustrated in his ambitions and deceived in his private life, one day he enters the arena in Milan with some armed men and begins to sack the square.
There are other versions of his death. The main one is as reported, namely the killing by suffocation by the assassins of Azzone Visconti, followed by the throwing of his body from a window. Others speak of his suicide, and still others of his defenestration by the assassins of Ottorino Visconti. It is not even known where he was actually buried because in Milan, the murder is not talked about out of fear: some say in the church of Sant’Agnese, others in the church of Sant’Eustorgio (in a hidden place since he was excommunicated), and others in Monza in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.
He is the protagonist of the eponymous novel by Tommaso Grossi and the melodrama by Domenico Bolognese, with music by Enrico Petrella. Films titled after the condottiero were made in 1909 (Mario Caserini), 1911 (Ugo Faleri), 1923 (Aldo de Benedetti), 1941 (Mario Bonnard), and 1975 (a television series directed by Anton Giulio Majano).
He marries a Spinola.


-“Uomo valoroso, animo indomito e nato a signoria.” CIPOLLA

-“Questo messer Marco fu bello cavaliere e grande della persona, fiero e ardito, e prode in arme e bene avventuroso in battaglia più che niuno lombardo ai suoi dì; savio non fu troppo, ma se fosse vissuto avrebbe fatto di grandi novitadi in Milano e in Lombardia.” VILLANI

-“”Rondinella pellegrina” canta Tremacoldo con romantici accenti e gli fa eco il sirventese di un menestrello lucchese in morte di Marco Visconti; Tommaso Grossi offre probabilmente in questi squarci lirici non solo il meglio del suo romanzo storico intitolato al capitano della grande famiglia milanese, ma soprattutto il leitmotv della vita del protagonista. Gloria e morte nella Lombardia dei primi anni del XIV secolo, con riferimenti storici precisi come la calata di Ludovico il Bavaro e l’assedio di Milano; per il resto, il travisamento ad arte di una violenta passione cortigiana, con lo scopo forzato di fare dell’amante di Marco, Bice del Balzo, moglie del cugino Ottorino Visconti, un’eroina secondo il più lineare cliché di certi romanzi. Il nostro personaggio è in realtà un violento uomo d’arme, non un donnaiolo che tiene dietro a sotterfugi.. La relazione va avanti nel castello di Rosate, finché Bice non inventa di essere incinta per ricattarlo e Marco la uccide. La reazione rapida e spietata ci dà appunto la misura dell’uomo, che ha alle spalle un passato, “forte, animoso, di far soldatesco”, secondo le parole del Ricotti.” RENDINA

-Con Gherardino Spinola “Capitanei et duces partis Ghibellinae.” ALFERIO-G.VENTURA

-“Di propria natura uomo sopra ogni dovere torbido e feroce, siccome quello che era stato compagno di tutti i pericoli, e singolare aiuto di tutta la vittoria, non poteva per alcun modo sopportare che il fratello (Galeazzo) fosse signore e padrone ancora ch’egli fosse maggior di tempo, e miglior per autorità di prudenza.” GIOVIO

-“Era el più bello cavalliero e più ardito in facti d’arme che fusse della casa di Veschonti.” CORPUS CHRONIC. BONOMIENSIUM

-“Qui miles fuit imperterritus et viginti bellis interfuerat, in quibus sibi victoria pre ceteris ascribebatur.” E. DI DIESSENHOVEN

-“Che gli altri tutti in probità superava…Non era sposato ma aveva molti figli bastardi. Era robusto, rozzo e crudele ma amico con gli amici. Le cose che faceva erano mal sopportate e così una notte, mentre si trovava nella sua camera, fu ucciso e della sua morte si ignora la verità.” AZARIO

-“Questo misser Marco fu bello cavaliere e grande de la persona, fino e ardito e prode in arme, bene aventuroso in battaglia, savio non troppo; ma se fosse vissuto, averebbe fatto grandi novità in Milano e in Lonbardia.” A. DI TURA

-“Lo quale era molto prode e gagliardo in fatti d’arme ed era tenuta la sua gente la migliore dell’oste e la sua la miglior lancia a quel tempo che cavalieri che ripisse in sella.” STORIE PISTORESI

-“Con la nobiltà fu valoroso soldato.” PELLINI

-“Co’ suo’ soldati e altri d’oltremonte,/ Corse la terra (Lucca) con villane prove./ Co’ suoi amici a rubar furon pronte./ Ché pur udendolo dir pietà mi muove.” Da un poema riportato dal SERCAMBI

-“Celebre capitano de’ suoi tempi.” LITTA

-“Questo nella militia fu de’ primi guerrieri della sua età…In armis et bellis vir industriae.” MORIGI

-“Qui dum pro patris salute et regni incolumitate pugnavit, semper victor adversus domesticos et externos hostes evasit.” MERULA

-“Capitano di chiarissimo grido.” DEZA

-“Uno dei più celebrati capitani del suo tempo.” BOSI

-“Erat Marcus inter Matthaei filios strenuus manu, consilio bonus.” RIPAMONTI

-“Prode capitano.” I. CANTU’

-“Egli è Marco! quel turbin di guerra,/ Quella luce d’eccelso consiglio,/ Che de’ Guelfi per l’itala terra/ Rintuzzò tante volte l’artiglio;/ De’ Lombardi la gloria, l’amor.” GROSSI

-“Rinomato.. tutti superò in abilità e bravura.” SAGLIO

-“Avea fama di buon capitano.” VARESE

-” Fu, come (succede) altre volte nel primo Trecento, una figura di transizione. Uomo d’azione, ma non più (esclusivamente) di fazione, dedito all’attività militare, ma non ancora pienamente strutturato come uomo d’arme di professione, fu un fondamentale braccio armato della signoria viscontea, e per il medesimo motivo fu anche un elemento fortemente destabilizzante.” BOZZI

-“Uomo cupo e turbolento.” PIZZAGALLI

-“Opprimeva a dir dell’Azario i nobili e i contadini del contado del Seprio, regione sita a Nord-Ovest di Milano nella valle dell’Olona. Si dicevan di lui molte cose che non faceva e molte, che non si dicevano, faceva. Era celibe, ma aveva intorno a sé molti bastardi. Buon soldato, apprezzatissime erano dai competenti le sua qualità militari; la robustezza del corpo, l’asprezza del carattere e la crudeltà erano tutte doti positive per un soldato. Aveva però dei tratti buoni: e con le truppe sapeva fare, tanto che i suoi soldati lo amavano. Ed aveva un’altra qualità positiva: era amico con gli amici e non li tradiva.. Marco fu, secondo il Grossi, un eroe sentimentale; e i suoi due platonicissimi amori, prima con la madre e poi con le figlie, inventati con tanta dolcezza e disprezzo della realtà storica dal Grossi, ne fecero un idolo; una vittima della “forza del destino”…Marco Visconti passò nella leggenda romantica come un uomo passionale.. Lo sfortunato amante di Ermelinda del Balzo si accese in età matura per Bice la castissima sposa di un suo cugino Ottorino Visconti.. Il spiega anche come Bice.. se ne stava con lui tutt’altro che di mala voglia e che Marco l’amava con grande passione.. Un uomo ambizioso a cui la scena della politica gretta delle signorie e delle repubbliche italiane era troppo poca cosa per l’anelito possente della sua anima eroica. Egli annegò il suo amore in un fossato del castello; e la sua immensa ambizione finì soffocata dalle mani di sicari e il suo corpo gettato dalle finestre del palazzo da Azzone.” A. VISCONTI

-“Uomo di grandi capacità era questi, ma di scarsa ponderatezza.” COGNASSO

-“La morte dell’audace Marco è poco chiara: nelle diverse cronache se ne hanno versioni divergenti, prova questa della cortina di silenzio che è stata stesa sull’argomento dagli stessi Visconti. Si va dall’efferato omicidio.. all’incidente o al suicidio.” CIUCCIOVINO

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