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

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Silvestro di Budes: A Tale of Valor and Violence in Medieval Europe

A great commander, the quintessence of chivalric valor, elegant, loyal, and pleasant in manners with ladies according to some French sources like Guillaume de la Penne and Froissart. Conversely, according to contemporary Italian sources, he was a brutal perpetrator of massacres alongside other captains of the Breton Company, such as Jean de Maléstroit. Indeed, he is co-responsible with the latter for slaughters in several cities of Romagna and Lazio, such as Cesena (from 2,500 to 8,000 people killed) and Bolsena (500 people)

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Last Updated on 2024/03/28

The contrasting views on Silvestro di Budes, celebrated for chivalric valor by French sources and accused of brutal massacres by Italian narratives.

Silvestro di Budes/Sylvestre de Budes (Silvestro di Boudes, Sylvestre Budes, Silvestro di Buda, di Bude), a Breton. Lord of Ussel. Cousin of Bertrand and Olivier du Guesclin.

Born: 1320 ca.
Death: 1380, January

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
1361FranceEnglandFranceHe fought in the Hundred Years’ War. He is noted to have been in Rouergue under the command of his cousin, Bertrand du Guesclin.
1364FranceAt Cocherel and Guingamp, where the Bretons are rallied by Du Guesclin. He is defeated in the disastrous battle of Auray.
1367TrastámaraCastile, EnglandSpainAt the service of King James of Majorca. He joins Bertrand du Guesclin (with 400 Breton cavalry) in supporting the claimant to the throne of Castile, Henry of Trastámara, against his brother, King Peter the Cruel, who was allied with the English. He carries his banner at Navarrette. Participates in the siege of Bagnères.
1368FranceEnglandFranceIn the service of Duke Louis of Anjou. He operates in favor of the King of France in the north of the country. In December, 200 gold francs are delivered to him in Toulouse for the expenses of his company.
Jan. – Feb.FranceIn Gascony. The Duke of Lancaster besieges Montpont-en-Bresse (Montpaon) in Périgord. Silvestro di Budes is found defending Saint-Bazile with Giovanni di Maléstroit, both also in the service of the Duke of Anjou. From this moment, their names are constantly linked to each other. Upon hearing this news, the two commanders leave the fortress to aid the defenders of the location. Their intervention proves to be in vain.
Dec.FranceHe takes possession of some castles belonging to the Queen of France and, in Dordogne, that of Saint-Jean-Cole. The possession of this last fortress, by the end of the year, brings him a lawsuit in Parliament. He is indeed attacked by the lord of the location, Pierre des Monts, for having seized such a castle and other properties. Silvestro di Budes accuses his opponent of having insulted him in the presence of the Duke of Bourbon. Condemned by Parliament, he is imprisoned in the Chatelet in Paris, until the fortress is handed over to the Duke of Anjou by March of the following year. Among the conditions imposed on him are also to remain in jail until the actual delivery within the established term and the payment of 20,000 livres tournois as a deposit. In any case, he must commit, even after restitution, to remain in Paris at the disposal of the judges. In the end, he is also ordered not to harass Pierre des Monts in the future under penalty of an additional fine of 10,000 livres tournois. Silvestro di Budes quickly frees himself of all obligations and remains in the service of Louis of Anjou with Giovanni di Maléstroit.
Apr. – Aug.FranceEngland46 lancesFranceIn April, Louis of Anjou rewards him for his service with the gift of 200 francs intended for the purchase of a mount. He is given command of 46 lances along with Affroy de Guécriant. At the end of August, the Duke of Anjou reviews the company at Agen. Alongside Bertrand du Guesclin, he clashes in Saintonge and Poitou with the English commanders Robert Mitton and Robert Scott, who are aiming to provide assistance to the garrison of Chizé.
JuneFranceIn Montpellier, still in the service of Louis of Anjou and in the company of his cousin, Bertrand du Guesclin.
Aug.MallorcaAragonFrance, SpainWith Giovanni di Maléstroit in the army of the King of Majorca, James, who is determined to reclaim his kingdom with the help of Breton captains. The troops enter Roussillon; they take possession of Prades, Mont-Canigou, Villefranche, and Cerdanya. In November, Urgel is occupied.
AutumnComp. venturaChurchFranceIn the autumn, numerous Breton adventurers attack the Rhone Valley, invading the Dauphiné and the Comtat Venaissin. Among them are Olivier du Guesclin and Silvestro di Budes with 1,000 lances. The adventurers are confronted without result by the Papal captain, Ferdinand de Héredia. The Bretons spread terror in the territory to such an extent that travelers, in order to reach Avignon, then the seat of the papacy, are forced to make long detours. The adventurers winter in the lower Rhone Valley where their numbers continue to increase. In December, Silvestro di Budes is reported alongside Olivier du Guesclin and Johel Rollant on the banks of this river. Meanwhile, negotiations begin between the adventurers and the Papal Curia, which, at the moment, do not lead to any concrete results.
Feb. – Mar.FranceThe captains of the company, with Olivier du Guesclin at the forefront, are all excommunicated by Pope Gregory XI. In the end, negotiations conclude positively in March with the departure of the adventurers.
June – Dec.CoucyDuke of Austria, Swiss CantonsFrance, SwitzerlandIn the pay of Enguerrand de Coucy against Duke Leopold of Austria. He moves towards Burgundy. The King of France, Charles V, encourages the adventurers to enter the service of de Coucy, who claims the Duchy of Austria on behalf of his mother. In September, a large number of men are gathered. After obtaining a ransom of 34,000 francs from the inhabitants of Metz, the troops sack Alsace; at the same time, they free the Rhine from the presence of German militias. The adventurers, marching in disarray towards Switzerland, are defeated by their opponents near Bern in three clashes at the end of December. De Coucy secretly leaves his comrades; the survivors take the road back to France. They descend the Rhone Valley to settle in the Comtat Venaissin.
MayChurchFranceHe is enlisted by Pope Gregory XI to fight in Italy during the War of the Eight Saints. He is given 4,285 florins for the first two months of service. He leaves France with 10,000 Bretons, English, and Genoese crossbowmen (6,000 cavalry and 4,000 infantry). He is noted in the Dauphiné and in the lands of the Count of Savoy. He crosses the Alps at the Susa Pass. During the march, he assaults Cuneo with Giovanni di Maléstroit: the Green Count, Amadeus of Savoy, does not intervene to defend the location.
JunePiedmont, LombardyHe roams through the territories of Nizza Monferrato, Asti, Alessandria, and Tortona. In Lombardy. He crosses the Po and the area around Parma.
JulyChurchFlorenceEmiliaAt the beginning of the month, they march along the banks of the Enza; advancing to Modena, always following Cardinal Robert of Geneva. During their journey, the Bretons devastate villages, live at the expense of the local population, burn, kill, and rape. With Giovanni di Maléstroit, he is pushed to oppose the Florentines and their allies. At the crossing of the Panaro, in an initial clash with the Bolognese at Bazzano, the Bretons suffer the loss (between dead and prisoners) of 67 men while 100 mounts fall into the hands of the opponents. Bologna is besieged, where Rodolfo da Varano is found in defense. He devastates the counties of Bologna and Imola with the help of local exiles. He captures two castles and massacres the inhabitants; other fortresses are obtained through negotiations. The company is now strong with 12,000 men.
Aug.Emilia, MarcheHe moves away from the Bolognese area and transfers to the Marche, still committing acts of cruelty. He obtains Montegiorgio through a treaty with a priest; the population of this center is exterminated.
…………Emilia, MarcheHe returns to besiege, again without result, Rodolfo da Varano in Bologna. Robert of Geneva urges him to devastate Tuscany. His passage is blocked in the Urbino area by Antonio da Montefeltro: his men move divided into two columns, one towards the coast to Ascoli Piceno, Camerino, and Matelica; the other through Ravignana di Fano towards the Candigliano and the upper Metauro. The action does not proceed because Budes is corrupted along with Maléstroit by the Florentines.
Oct. – Dec.RomagnaHe camps with Maléstroit outside Cesena. Provisions are scarce; the soldiers complain about the lack of food and forage for their mounts. The cold becomes more biting. In November, he rides with 200 lances into the territory of San Severino Marche. He captures inhabitants and appropriates everything that can be stolen. The booty is transported to Todi. At the end of December, Cardinal of Geneva decides to let the Bretons enter Cesena: everything is devoured. Silvestro di Budes with Maléstroit has command of the Papal army, strong with 1,844 lances.
Feb.RomagnaAt the beginning of the month, Cesena rises in rebellion due to the killing of 4 butchers by some Bretons. It is the moment long awaited by the population to rebel. Between 300 to 400 adventurers are killed in the narrow streets of the city. Immediate is the revenge. With the arrival of John Hawkwood, Silvestro di Budes leaves the citadel and bursts into the populated center. A massacre of the inhabitants ensues, also with the participation of the men of Alberico da Barbiano: according to various chronicles, between 2,500 to 8,000 people are slaughtered. Old people, children, the sick, men, women, no one is spared. Pregnant women are disemboweled, their entrails torn out and thrown into the fire. Young women are pursued and raped. The city gates are closed. Inhabitants trying to flee through the walls are thrown into the moat. “Wound, wound, kill, kill” is the battle cry of Silvestro di Budes.
Apr. – MayMarcheThe Bretons demand their wages. Cardinal Robert of Geneva, to fulfill this obligation, is forced to pawn his silverware, his cushion, and 8 rings for a value of 416,000 florins. Silvestro di Budes is directed to the March of Ancona, while Giovanni di Maléstroit remains in Cesena. He moves between Ancona, Osimo, Macerata, Camerino, and Fabriano. He assaults Camerino. Defeated, he retreats with the loss of 480 horses captured by the opponents. Mid-month, the Bretons garrisoning Osimo, Recanati, Montefano, and other cities of the March concentrate at Sant’Elpidio a Mare. They defeat the troops from Fermo, engaged in the siege of that place, near Monte San Savino (8 dead and 300 prisoners among the opponents). The enemies retreat hastily towards Fermo without even setting fire to their quarters. De Boudes arrives at Montesanto (Potenza Picena). Under the city walls, a large brawl breaks out between the Breton and German adventurers, all in the pay of the Papal State. The chosen solution is a challenge between 10 champions of the two nationalities. The names of the Bretons are preserved. They are Trémagon, two Treffilys, Bourdat, Halmon, Calvaric, Le Carias, Jacques Le Noir, Televerne, Chiquet, and Kerouvare. The Germans fare worse (5 dead). Throughout the countryside, bonfires are lit. From everywhere, men come to congratulate the victors. In May, he returns to Osimo, received with all honors. He then moves to Serra San Quirico. He seizes a bastion and occupies the center. Meanwhile, the Bretons are terribly distressed by the lack of provisions, also because the ally, Gentile da Varano, fails to maintain the right level of supplies. They leave the Marche to rejoin the rest of the Papal militias in Spoleto. At the subsequent review, held by the chancellor of the Kingdom of Naples, Raoul de Lestrange, the following captains are under de Boudes’ command: Jean de Blary (80 lances), Guillaume Pansart (50), Trogorant (60), Aimon Treffily. Other captains like Florimond Daviz, Roger de la Briqueville, Geoffrey Le Vizier each have 40 lances. In May, 6,000 florins are delivered to Silvestro di Budes for his provision. Each lance is given 18 florins if consisting of 3 horses, 14 florins if of 2 horses, and 10 florins for those consisting of a single rider.
June – Aug.Lazio, UmbriaHe heads towards San Severino Marche. As he approaches, the inhabitants take refuge in the nearby mountains, blocking the passes. Silvestro di Budes assaults the town. Soldiers of the league, Germans and Hungarians, emerge from the walls to confront him. Budes attacks them. The battle resumes the next day. The siege of the center lasts six days, during which the outskirts of the town are completely devastated. Repelled, he retreats to Matelica and Camerino, where he joins forces with Rodolfo da Varano, who in the meantime has changed sides and has been appointed general captain of the Papal State (mid-July). This causes displeasure in Silvestro di Budes, so Pope Gregory XI sends him with Giovanni di Maléstroit to the Patrimony at the head of 1,000 Breton cavalry. In early August, he is near Bevagna, Bettona, and Torgiano. After failing to take Bevagna, he returns to Foligno, where the Cardinal of Bourges is located. Silvestro di Budes leaves Foligno and heads towards Spello. He enters the town following fierce combat with the troops of Lucio and Everardo Lando. Crossing the Tiber near Casalina, he reaches Ponte Nuovo, 8 miles from Perugia, and advances on Todi. Throughout his march, he is closely followed by Lucio Lando’s militias, whose main concern, however, is looting. Mid-month, he leaves Todi. He arrives at Montefiascone; he stops before the walls of Viterbo. Francesco di Vico comes out of the city with 600 men, all poorly armed. At the first attack, they manage to push back the Bretons. Silvestro di Budes reorganizes his cavalry and launches an assault on the opponents, massacring them. 200 inhabitants of Viterbo are left dead or captured. The others save themselves by fleeing. That same night, Budes returns to Montefiascone, welcomed as a liberator with bonfires and various celebrations by the inhabitants, who thank him for having avenged them of the prefect. There is also pressure from the citizens to recognize him as governor. The commander prefers to leave the city with the looted livestock and prisoners. The next target (September) is Bolsena, near which Raymond of Turenne was captured by Francesco di Vico in April. The men of Giovanni di Maléstroit arrange with some Franciscan friars and some exiles; they are thus secretly introduced into the fortress and the nearby convent of San Francesco. This is followed by the assault on the walls and the conquest of the city. Houses are burned, and all goods are looted; 500 inhabitants of every sex and age are killed; those who escape death must recognize a ransom to the adventurers. The castle is set ablaze. The stay is brief because he is called back to Bevagna, where Lucio Lando is besieging the citadel. At the news of his arrival, the league’s troops prefer to abandon their operations. Silvestro di Budes enters the locality abandoned by the opponents. Failing in his attempt to block their march, he returns to Foligno. In the meantime, there is a lack of money for the pay of his men.
Sept. – Oct.UmbriaThe lord of Foligno, Trincia Trinci, expels the Papal militias from the city and closes the gates behind them due to their indiscipline. Rejected, Silvestro di Budes heads towards Assisi and camps 3 miles from the city walls. A conspiracy is organized in the city against the local lord, Guglielmo di Carlo, a supporter of the league. The conspiracy is discovered. The ecclesiastical troops once again take revenge by devastating the neighboring countryside, while Pope Gregory XI excommunicates Assisi. The Bretons now plan to cross the Tiber, whose banks are defended by the militias of John Hawkwood. Heavy rain prevents Silvestro di Budes from crossing the river. He then retreats to Bettona to join forces with the troops of Giovanni di Maléstroit, while other companies gather in Orvieto and Todi to concentrate on Foligno. He is ordered by Cardinal Robert of Geneva to join forces with Raymond of Turenne and Giovanni di Maléstroit and to conduct a joint action in Tuscany against the Florentines. The three captains refuse, preferring each to pursue objectives of their choice. Malèstroit demands from the prelate 10,000 florins that were promised to him and, in the meantime, bursts into the Duchy of Spoleto at the head of 4,000 men; Silvestro di Budes, as well as Raymond of Turenne, instead target Todi, also because at the end of the month his contract ends.
Nov.Marche, LazioBrought back by the Papal forces, he heads with Giovanni di Maléstroit towards the Marche. He returns to Osimo with 800 Breton cavalry: the inhabitants are robbed of their goods and the women are violated. He goes to Rome to pay homage to the new pope who is coming from Avignon; he returns to Osimo and from there marches to Sant’Elpidio A Mare, which he frees from the siege of the opponents. Attacked in turn, he repels an attack in which he captures more than 300 men. He is still in Osimo where he is welcomed as a triumphant hero.
JulyAntipopeChurchLazio, UmbriaHe fights in the service of the antipope Clement VII (Cardinal Robert of Geneva). He joins forces with Piero di Sagra and reaches Anagni at the head of 2,000 Breton and Gascon cavalry. He rides towards Rome, takes control of the Salaria bridge, and there defeats the inhabitants who came out from the city. He enters Rome; takes possession of Castel Sant’Angelo where he leaves a garrison of 150 men. Many are the dead among the opponents. He attempts to enter Orvieto with the help of exiles.
Apr.LazioHe is defeated and taken prisoner by Alberico da Barbiano in the battle of Marino.
…………FranceReleased upon the payment of a substantial ransom, he escorts the antipope Clement VII with his troops to Avignon. He sets up his winter quarters in Burgundy, resuming his adventurous existence. He remains disillusioned in his hopes for new honors for the campaign conducted in Italy. After six months, he is arrested by the royal bailiff of Macon, Oudart d’Attainville.
Jan.FranceIn the early days of the month, he is arrested. He is beheaded in Macon, along with his squire Guillaume Boileau, on the orders of Cardinal Jean de la Grange of Amiens because years earlier, in Romagna, Silvestro di Budes’ soldiers had seized some mules carrying gold and silver vessels belonging to the prelate. After his execution, the Breton troops under his command avenge him by pillaging the Comtat Venaissin for weeks, until they disperse into small bands, many of which return to Italy to rejoin under the banner of Maléstroit. According to other sources, Silvestro di Budes dies in Avignon following a brawl. His deeds are commemorated by Guillaume de la Penne in a verse poem titled “Gesta Britonum in Italia sub Gregorio papa undecimo.” He marries Renée Goyon, daughter of Etienne, Lord of Matignon, and Jeanne.


-“A former comrade in arms of Bertrand Du Guesclin.” BAYLEY

-“Di là sloggia Silvestro, e ad Osmo torna,/ Ov’ebbe già con sua milizia stanza:/ Escono incontro a lui gli abitatori/ Per fargli a prova onore, e riverenza,/ Esclama ognun dinanzi al suo aspetto!/ Viva la Chiesa, e tu, che sei quel prode/ Valoroso guerrier, che non ha pari./ Altri pur lieti gridano: quel desso/ Tu sei, signor, che di bontade il vanto/ Porti sovra ciascun, che Dio ben cole./ A tal grido onorato intorno sparso/ Venian le genti ancor lontane a schiere,/ Per onorare un uomo di sì gran merto./ Giù dell’alta città gli sono intorno/ Più di duemila giovanetti, uniti/ A scelto stuolo di primati, e tutti/ Per sì orrevol venuta e voci, ed inni/ Sciolgon, sembrando el canto esser sirene: Tutti in somma si pregiano a vicenda/ Di festeggiare un così fausto giorno/ Con nobil pompa, e di dar laude a lui/ Degno di onore, e di memoria eterna.” Da un poema di Guglielmo de la Perene tradotto dal TALLEONI

-Con Jean Maléstroit “Ils acquirent une sinistre réputation. le massacre qu’ils organisèrent en répresailles contre la population de Cesena .. resta dans les mémoires.” BUTAUD

-“Chief of a Briton company which had been the bane of the Pope and to scourge of Avignon, when it plumdered even the wheat sent by the to relieve a famine.” TUCHMAN

-“In “Gestes des Bretons en Italie”, un poema scritto da Guillaume de la Penne, un esponente della piccola nobiltà dell’Anjou che milita col comandante bretone Sylvestre Budes, narrano le peregrinazioni in Italia di uno di questi contingenti di cavalieri al servizio del papa tra il 1376 e 1379. Tutti chiusi nel loro antiquato conformismo ideologico fatto di onore militare e di disprezzo per i “vilains” e, più in generale, per gli italiani ritenuti fanfaroni codardi, traditori e inesperti del mestiere delle armi, questi “soudiers” mostrano un’ impassibile crudeltà, e mantengono ignoranza e diffidenza per il mondo urbano.” VARANINI

-Con Giovanni di Maléstroit “Rien n’égalait la brutalité et l’outrecuidance des ces aventuriers.” DURRIEU

-Ingresso in Osimo dopo la vittoria contro gli abitanti di Fermo presso il monte di San Savino “(lo aspettano i bambini) avec les genz d’estat,/Pour il donner plus grant esbat,/En chantantdeissez quo fussent seraines.” Da un poema di Guillaume de la Penne ripreso da MIROT

-“Coraggioso e in una certa misura leale, Budes era un capobanda che viveva della sua spada, un combattente vecchio di mestiere, alla ricerca di fortuna e di bottino. Saccheggiò la Francia dal 1374 al 1376. Devastò l’Italia dal 1376 al 1379.. Senza scusarlo, senza giustificarlo, riconosciamo che meglio di tanti suoi simili, uomo di guerra, saccheggiatore, crudele, facendo pagare i suoi servigi , era un condottiero, uno che sapeva meglio di tanti altri mantenere la sua fede. Fedele a Carlo V, fedele a Gregorio XI e a Clemente VII, non servì mai due padroni. E né lui né i suoi compagni furono meno indegni di tutti quelli che dopo di loro dalla Francia vennero nelle pianure d’Italia a cercare onori e gloria.” MIROT

-“Grande condottiero e grande soldato, Guillaume de la Penne lo descrive come “vaillant bon chevalier”, quintessenza del valore cavalleresco “beau de corps, élégant, plaisant en société, agréable aux dames, loyal autant que vaillant.. dévot enver Madame sante  Catherine.” BULTRINI

-“Un moult vaillant chevalier de Bretagne.” FROISSART


Léon Mirot. Sylvestre Budes e i bretoni in Italia

Featured image: wellcomecollection

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