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The Story of Francesco Ordelaffi, a Ruthless Ruler

Of great courage and highly experienced in military art. Tenacious, ambitious, cruel to his opponents, faithless, and merciless, yet greatly loved by his subjects. Excommunicated multiple times, the Pope even declared a crusade against him. When his city, Forlì, was placed under interdict, he forced priests to perform religious ceremonies regardless. Those who refused were flayed alive, hanged, or killed in other ways. The same fate awaited the crusaders who fell into his hands, so they would not sin in the future.

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Last Updated on 2024/03/24

Untamed ambition meets cunning strategy: the life of Francesco Ordelaffi, the Ghibelline ruler who defied the Church and carved his own destiny.

Francesco Ordelaffi of Forlì, a Ghibelline. Father of Sinibaldo Ordelaffi, nephew of Fulceri da Calboli, son-in-law of Giovanni degli Ubaldini, and father-in-law of Gentile da Mogliano. Lord of Forlì, Cesena, Bertinoro, Forlimpopoli, Castrocaro Terme, Meldola, Oriolo dei Fichi, Cusercoli, Predappio, Dovadola, Roversano, Ponte Ronca, Fiumana, Sogliano al Rubicone, Formignano.

Born: 1310 ca.
Death: 1373, October

Marzia degli Ubaldini
Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
1324ForlìRiminiRomagnaHe confronts the Malatesta with his uncle Cecco. He occupies the castle of Roversano.
Apr.ForlìFaenzaRomagnaAlways by the side of his uncle Cecco, he enters into conflict with Francesco Manfredi, the lord of Faenza, over the possession of Lugo.
1327RomagnaThe Emperor Louis IV (Ludovico il Bavaro) recognizes his vicariates of Forlì, Forlimpopoli, and Cesena.
Feb.ForlìFaenzaRomagnaAlongside his uncle Cecco, he supports Alberghettino Manfredi in an attempt to usurp the lordship of Faenza from his father, Francesco, who has left the city to meet with Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto in Bologna.
July – Aug.ForlìChurchRomagnaUncle Cecco dies from a fall from his horse; Francesco Ordelaffi, despite much resistance, is hailed as the lord of Forlì. He has his mandate as imperial vicar of Forlì renewed by Emperor Louis IV (Ludovico il Bavaro). In early August, he is besieged in the city by the papal legate Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto, who leads the militias of Bologna, Ravenna, Rimini, Cesena, Faenza, and Imola under the command of Rector Aimerico di Chaluz. Several bastions are constructed around Forlì. During the siege operations, there is only one clash at the edge of a breach in the walls caused by the explosion of a mine.
Nov.RomagnaForced by hunger, he must surrender and accept the peace terms proposed to him in Faenza. The papal legate Cardinal enters Forlì at the head of 1,500 cavalry: Francesco Ordelaffi‘s lordship is reduced to only Forlimpopoli and Ronco.
Mar.RomagnaHe pays homage to the papal legate Cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto first in Faenza and then in Forlì.
Apr.ChurchFerraraEmiliaHe fights the troops of Rinaldo d’Este and the allies of the lord of Ferrara. He participates in the battle of Ferrara, where he is defeated and taken prisoner.
Aug.OrdelaffiChurchRomagnaReleased without the payment of any ransom, he harbors increasing resentment towards Cardinal del Poggetto, who refused to pay the initially demanded ransom for his release. He rebels against the papal forces.
Sept.RomagnaMid-month, he sneaks back into Forlì at night with the help of the Este family, hidden in a hay cart; the following morning, with his followers, he incites the population. He expels the legate Tommaso Formiglini and his family members, who take refuge in Faenza. The prisons are opened, and the Public Palace is looted; documents and decrees issued by the ecclesiastics are also set on fire. He also takes over Forlimpopoli; everywhere, the people move in his favor. By the end of the month, he moves to Roversano and gains control of the fortress of Sogliano al Rubicone; he enters Cesena with Count Ramberto Malatesta of Ghiaggiolo.
Oct.ForlìChurchRomagnaIn Cesena, he besieges the castle, where more than 130 people have taken refuge with the city’s podestà, Rodolfo Grassoni from Modena, using mangonels, trebuchets, and other war machines. He convenes a general council in Forlì and Cesena; he captures 5 knights suspected of being hostile to his policy, and one of them is instantly killed: the body is thrown from the window of the municipal palace into the square below; the other four are killed later in prison.
Jan.VenetoHe secures the surrender of the defenders of the fortress of Cesena. In the same month, he goes to Peschiera del Garda to attend a meeting of the lords of the Lombard League: the topic of the meeting is the continuation of the war against Cardinal del Poggetto and Emperor John of Bohemia.
Feb.RomagnaHe gets elected as the captain of Cesena for one year: he enters the city and expels the Malatesta from the podesteria as both aim for the lordship of the area. The bishop of Forlì, Giovanni Monti degli Acciaiuoli from Florence, is also forced to leave the city with the entire chapter. The houses of the clergy and the episcopal see are looted.
Mar.RomagnaHe repels a counterattack led by the Bishop of Sarsina, Francesco da Calboli, and Count Guido da Bagno; he attacks the belt of castles in the Apennines controlled by the Calbolis. He quickly conquers the fortresses of Lugareto, Tessello, Mercato Saraceno, Montecavallo, Monte Abate, Montecavallo, Bagnolo, and Sadurano; he besieges his uncle Fulceri da Calboli in Castrocaro Terme, who holds the place for the papacy. He lifts the siege from the location, perhaps due to the prayers of his mother Orestina, not before having captured and killed 30 men of the garrison. In the same days, he sends a flag of horses to Bologna to assist the inhabitants who have rebelled against the rule of the Papal States. Also in this month, he finds time to marry Marzia (Cia) degli Ubaldini, daughter of Giovanni, thus grandniece of Maghinardo da Susinana and Scarpetta Ordelaffi.
Dec.RomagnaHe reconciles with Fulceri da Calboli; he leaves Castrocaro Terme to him. Over the course of the year, he operates a clandestine mint in Cesena for the production of counterfeit currency. The necessary silver is procured for him by his agents in Venice.
Jan.RomagnaHis son Giovanni succeeds him in the podesteria of Cesena.
Mar.ForlìCalboli, ChurchRomagnaHe seizes Popiglio, which belongs to the Bishop of Ravenna. Francesco da Calboli wages war against him on behalf of the papacy.
Apr. – MayRomagnaHe occupies Linaro with the favor of its inhabitants; he takes control of Montelabbate; he secures Montecavallo after a brief siege, in which the Archdeacon of Sarsina, Francesco da Monte Abate, an enemy of Bishop Francesco da Calboli, also participates. In mid-May, he storms the castle, capturing 23 defenders; he attacks the nearby locality of Teodorano (razed to the ground); he has Bagnolo. Together with Giovanni degli Ubaldini, he besieges Paolo da Calboli in Meldola.
Oct.ForlìCalboli, Church, FlorenceRomagnaHe surrounds the area with trenches and ditches to prevent any reinforcements from reaching the defenders; mangonels hammer the castle. He continues operations until the early days of October. In an assault, he captures Ottolino Belga and has both his hands cut off. Pope Benedict XII sends the treasurer of Romagna, Guglielmo Truelli, to Florence and secures the support of the commune against the Ordelaffi. A Florentine column, under the command of Pietro Gianni da Siena, breaks the blockade and strengthens the garrison. In the course of this action, the Burgundian Oddolino di Bartolino and Benvenuto da Lugo are captured by the people of Forlì; both have their hands cut off. At the beginning of the month, an agreement is reached with the Florentines. Meanwhile, there is an initiative by the Archbishop of Ravenna, Francesco Michiel-Bianchi, who seizes Oriolo (Oriolo dei Fichi). He recaptures the castle, has the prelate beaten, then has him paraded half-naked on a donkey with his hands tied behind his back (mounted backwards) to lead him in triumph to Forlì to his seat (or to jail). The same treatment is reserved for those accompanying the bishop. He is immediately excommunicated, for the first time, by Pope Benedict XII for occupying cities and fortresses belonging to the Papal States. The cities under his control are placed under interdict.
Nov.ForlìMalatestaRomagnaA similar scene unfolds in Cesena. Near the castle, there is a house inhabited by some canons: they are accused both of refusing to celebrate Mass in the city because Francesco Ordelaffi and his supporters have been excommunicated, and of conspiring with the Guelphs Calesidio. He orders the leveling of the house and their expulsion from Cesena. Ordelaffi is attacked in the Rimini area by the Malatesta.
1336RomagnaHe obtains the castle of Valdinoce from its inhabitants. He has 7 priests who wish to enforce the papal interdict in his states strangled; others he parades naked through the streets; effigies made of paper and filled with hay, representing the cardinals and the pope, are burned. In March, Pope Benedict XII orders the rector of Romagna, Guglielmo dal Querco, to oppose him with arms.
Mar.RomagnaExcommunicated again and accused of heresy, he is summoned to appear in Avignon to defend himself and seek forgiveness. Francesco Ordelaffi promises the rector the payment of the taxes demanded by the Apostolic Chamber. The Pope lifts the excommunication and appoints him vicar of Forlì, Cesena, and Forlimpopoli, against an annual tax of 3000 florins and with the commitment to provide the legate, for any defensive purpose, with 500 infantry and 200 cavalry. He hurries to build the fortress of Castelnuovo near Meldola. The papal rector moves from Meldola to Castrocaro Terme near Fulceri da Calboli.
…………Having concluded peace with the Papal States, he sends several contingents of armed forces to support Mastino della Scala, who is at war with the Florentines and Venetians.
…………RomagnaHe sets the goal of territorial expansion in Montefeltro and the Marche, as well as the conquest of Calboli. The general council of Forlì does not accommodate his requests: Ordelaffi has the room occupied by his guards, arrests those resistant to his will, and, without trial, has them beheaded during the night.
Jan.ForlìGuidiRomagnaHe hands over the fortress of San Leo to Nolfo da Montefeltro, which was captured in a bold move by Niccolò da Montefeltro from Guido della Petrella.
Nov.RomagnaHe obtains the castle of Taibo from Zacco and Vecchio da Rontagnano, which had been stolen by the latter from the Archbishop of Ravenna.
Jan.RomagnaTogether with Niccolò da Montefeltro, he conquers through negotiation the fortress of Monte Leone, in which Nino della Petrella had barricaded himself: this stronghold is also handed over to Nolfo da Montefeltro.
July – Sept.ForlìCalboli, Faenza, BolognaRomagnaThe previous year, his uncle Fulceri da Calboli sold Castrocaro Terme to Riccardo Manfredi for 6000 florins. Francesco Ordelaffi is outraged by this; in the summer, he moves against Manfredi at the head of troops coming from Cesena, Rimini, and Ravenna. He raids into the territory of Faenza, seizes Nuzzo at the expense of Manfredi, and lays siege to Calboli. His opponents, reinforced by the Counts Guidi of Modigliana, the Este family, those from Imola, Florence, and Bologna with 300 cavalry, confront him. His allies are the Visconti, the da Carrara, and the Gonzaga. Defeated by 300 Bolognese cavalry led by Taddeo Pepoli, he is forced to retreat after suffering heavy losses.
Oct.RomagnaHe reconciles with the Calboli and Manfredi families under pressure from the Florentines.
1340RomagnaThe Pope from Avignon vainly demands the payment of taxes. He is once again subjected to ecclesiastical censures (second excommunication and interdict in Forlì, with a ban on all religious ceremonies). A conspiracy is woven against him in Forlì. Ghello dei Collisidi is beheaded: his head remains displayed for several days in an iron cage near the clock tower. At the same time, Guelph propaganda spreads the story of an Ordelaffi attacked by the people of Cesena while he is kidnapping a common woman, who, moreover, was willing to comply with his desires.
1341ForlìFlorence, Church, BolognaRomagnaHe allies with Luchino Visconti and the Gonzaga against the Florentines. To free himself from the influence of the Papal States, he is invested with Forlì by Louis the Bavarian and refuses to pay any tax to the Pope. In July, he is attacked by the Bolognese troops of Pepoli: the territories of Forlì and Cesena are devastated. The opponents reach the suburbs of Cesena, where they are repelled by the inhabitants themselves.
MayForlìChurchRomagnaHis refusal to pay the tax to the Church results in a third excommunication from the new Pope, Clement VI. The papal legate, Cardinal Almerico di Chatelux, attempts the diplomatic route without success.
JuneForlìFlorenceTuscanyWith the Tarlati, the lord of Cortona, the della Faggiuola, the Pazzi di Valdarno, and the Ubertini (300 cavalry and 3000 infantry), he attempts to enter Arezzo by negotiation.
Oct.ForlìChurchRomagnaOn behalf of the Visconti, he leads the “Great Company” of Guarnieri di Urslingen into Romagna: with the support of these mercenaries, he is able to repel the intervention of the papal rector on Cesena and Forlì. He bursts into the Rimini area, reaching Santa Giustina and Gatteo with his raids.
…………RomagnaHe repels an attack on Cesena carried out by Astorgio di Durafort.
Dec.He sends troops to support Obizzo d’Este in defending his claims on Parma, which are contested by the Visconti and the Gonzaga.
1345He abandons old alliances with the Gonzaga and Visconti to join forces with the traditional opponents, the Este family and Pepoli. Along with Ostasio da Polenta and Malatesta Malatesta, he supports the Marquis of Ferrara against Filippino Gonzaga.
Dec.RomagnaHe is knighted in Forlì by King Louis of Hungary along with his sons, Giovanni and Ludovico.
Jan. – Feb.HungaryNaplesRomagna, Kingdom of NaplesHe leaves Rimini and follows the King of Hungary into the Kingdom of Naples with 300 cavalry and 500 infantry. He is forced to return to Forlì due to a sudden assault on his states by Astorgio di Durafort, who used the delayed payment of taxes to the Papal States as a pretext.
Mar.RomagnaHe reconciles with the Count of Romagna; he pays the required taxes and all censures against him are lifted. The ongoing plague facilitates the truce.
JuneEmiliaHe goes to Ferrara with Malatesta Malatesta to ask Obizzo d’Este to arbitrate a dispute that the two lords of Romagna have over the ownership of the castles of Montecchio and Mondaino: the Marquis refuses the task. Ordelaffi then proceeds to Bologna to meet with Giovanni and Giacomo Pepoli: they persuade him to agree to a truce with his rival until they express their opinion.
MayForlìChurchRomagnaHis son Ludovico attacks Bertinoro: he seizes the suburbs, occupies two gates, and takes control of the municipal palace. Mid-month, with mangonels and other siege engines (after three months of siege), he captures the castle and the fortress.
Feb.RomagnaHe provides assistance to Giovanni Manfredi, who has taken control of Faenza; he recalls to Romagna the company of Guarnieri di Urslingen, which had left the Kingdom of Naples with 500 barbute (helmeted soldiers).
MayRomagnaHe repels the attempts of the papal forces commanded by Astorgio di Durafort.
JulyRomagnaHe assaults Castrocaro Terme. He forces the defenders to surrender after a seventeen-day siege.
Aug.RomagnaHe invades the territory of Meldola; he conquers the locality along with the fortress. He suspects a treaty between the inhabitants of this center and the Guelphs of Florence. Francesco Ordelaffi marches determinedly on Meldola with the intention of setting it ablaze. The inhabitants take refuge in the church and pray to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the saint of the day, to protect them. Their prayers are answered; a thick fog arises, causing the Forlì army to lose their way and instead lead them to Teodorano. To commemorate the event, the inhabitants of Meldola decide to celebrate a solemn mass on this day.
Jan.RomagnaHe hosts in Cesena the Prince of Taranto, the Duke of Durazzo, and Filippo d’Angiò, just released by the King of Hungary and heading towards the Kingdom of Naples.
Apr.ForlìMalatestaRomagnaHe is welcomed in Argenta along with Malatesta Malatesta Guastafamiglia by the Marquis of Ferrara. He returns to his lands and organizes an attack against Count Francesco Malatesta of Ghiaggiolo and Count Carlo of Dovadola: his ally on this occasion is the Abbot of Galeata, whose properties Malatesta holds while refusing feudal service at the same time. Francesco Ordelaffi with his son Ludovico conquers Fontanafredda and Cusercoli.
MayMilanChurch800 cavalryRomagnaHe occupies Ghiaggiolo. His son Ludovico attacks Dovadola; he is severely injured in a clash with Carlo di Dovadola and his forces are put at a disadvantage. From Cesena, Ludovico Ordelaffi‘s mother, Cia degli Ubaldini, comes to his aid. The battle reignites; Dovadola surrenders after 16 days of siege; its lord, defeated and captured, is taken to Forlì. At the same time, Francesco Ordelaffi enters the service of the Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Visconti. Along with Giovanni Manfredi, the da Polenta of Ravenna, and the Ubaldini, he leads an attack against Imola, defended by Roberto Alidosi. A bastion is constructed; the operations are unsuccessful, and the siege is lifted within the same month.
JulyLombardyThe allies conquer Lugo. Clement VI renews the excommunication and interdict against him. Francesco Ordelaffi travels to Bologna and Milan.
…………His son Ludovico goes to Fermo to convince Gentile da Mogliano (husband of his daughter Cristina) to join the Ordelaffis in a common alliance against the forces of the Papal States.
Mar.ForlìRiminiMarcheHe sends 12 flags of cavalry to aid the lord of Fermo: his men fall into an ambush by Malatesta Malatesta during the march.
MayRomagnaThe news of the excommunication and interdict reaches Forlì. The two measures are solemnly announced to the population in the abbey of San Mercuriale. When Francesco Ordelaffi hears the sound of the bell tower’s largest bell, in a burst of rage, he orders the monastery to be set on fire. The archive, with all its stored documents, pays the price.
Nov.Marche, LombardyHe allies with Fra Moriale and forces the Malatesta to lift the siege from Fermo. Together with Gentile da Mogliano, he acknowledges the payment of 30,000 florins to the company of the French condottiero. In the same month, he goes to Milan for the baptism of Marco Visconti, son of Bernabò.
Mar.He is summoned to Rome by Pope Clement VI.
JuneThe new Pope, Innocent VI, excommunicates Francesco Ordelaffi along with the Manfredi once more. When the lord of Forlì hears the bells announcing his fourth excommunication, he burns some straw-filled paper effigies in the square that depict the Pope and the cardinals: a mock priest excommunicates the Pope and the cardinals and throws their effigies into a large bonfire. Ordelaffi forces the clergy to celebrate Mass. 14 religious figures who refuse to obey his order are martyred: 7 are strangled, and 7 are flayed. The Bishop of Forlì escapes his wrath only by fleeing.
JulyRomagnaHe and his son Ludovico are summoned over the possession of Cesena and for having imposed taxes and duties on the clergy in his territories. In response, Francesco Ordelaffi attacks Teodorano, whose castle is conquered after a four-day siege.
Oct.RomagnaHe is declared a heretic along with the Lord of Fermo, Gentile da Mogliano, and the Lord of Ravenna, Bernardino da Polenta.
Nov. – Dec.RomagnaUnder his orders, the castles of Monte Borro, Sogliano al Rubicone, and Formignano are destroyed, whose inhabitants are suspected of wanting to adhere to the ecclesiastical cause.
Feb.RomagnaThe excommunication is renewed by the Patriarch of Grado and Archbishop of Ravenna, Fortunier. Francesco Ordelaffi tries to bind the lords of Romagna and the Marches (Manfredi, Malatesta, Gentile da Mogliano) to a common alliance against the papacy. The Lord of Fermo, despite having recently concluded specific agreements with Cardinal Albornoz (including his appointment as the standard-bearer of the Church), accepts Ordelaffi‘s proposals and allows 200 of Ordelaffi’s horses under the command of his son Ludovico, who is also Gentile da Mogliano’s brother-in-law, into the fortress of Girifalco in Fermo. In February, Ordelaffi goes to Pisa to confer with Emperor Charles of Bohemia. He passes through the Guelph city of Florence, where, despite the excommunication, he is received with all honors, while in the Ghibelline city of Pisa, for the same reason, he is prevented from entering the city.
Mar. – Apr.MarcheHe rides with 200 cavalry into the March of Ancona. He is informed by an informer that 400 horses of Rodolfo da Varano have prepared an ambush for him: he sends 100 horses ahead as scouts. The papal forces are convinced that Francesco Ordelaffi is in this group and they attack it. The knights of the Lord of Forlì resist vigorously until Ordelaffi arrives with the rest of his troops. The enemies flee; more than 200 of their horses are captured.
May – JuneTuscanyHe attempts to persuade Emperor Charles of Bohemia to his cause: he requests an audience, travels to Pisa; but is not received. The granting of a vicariate to the Malatesta and da Polenta by Cardinal Egidio Albornoz, along with the weak support offered to him by the Manfredi, soon leaves Francesco Ordelaffi alone against the papal forces led by Galeotto Malatesta.
Aug.RomagnaAlong with his son Ludovico, he attacks Savignano sul Rubicone, defended by Carlo di Dovadola. He prepares an ambush nearby (Noce) and there defeats the papal forces: in the clash, Carlo di Dovadola dies, and 2 sons of Ramberto Malatesta, Francesco and Niccolò, are captured.
Dec.RomagnaHe lays siege to Montalbano, Sogliano al Rubicone, and Formignano, which have rebelled against him.
Feb.RomagnaThe Company of the Desperate, under the command of Captain Antrimarzio and another 10 constables, begins to damage the countryside of Faenza in support of the exiles from Forlì and the horses of Count Andrea di Cunio.
Mar.RomagnaThe excommunication of him and Giovanni Manfredi is reiterated by Cardinal Albornoz. A crusade against him is preached in the church of San Pietro in Bologna. The taking up of the cross is promoted with the granting of a plenary indulgence to those who take up arms or contribute money to the maintenance of the troops. Furthermore, the plenary indulgence is accompanied by a series of exemptions from debts, taxes, and usury, as well as the annulment of any sentence. Special envoys are sent to all locations of the legation; the Bishop of Narni goes to preach in Tuscany; the Patriarch of Grado and Ravenna in Romagna and the provinces of Aquileia, Grado, and Ravenna. The crusade is proclaimed not only in Italy but also in Brandenburg. Innocent VI addresses warm words to the King of Hungary, describing the cruelties of the Manfredi in Faenza and the Ordelaffi in Forlì, with the aim of inviting him to provide his support to the Papal States. The people, especially women, rush in crowds to bring goods and money. The collectors extend the indulgences beyond the Pope’s grant, forgiving sins of every kind for a fee. Ordelaffi strengthens the defenses of the cities under his control by accumulating supplies in the storages and bringing all the livestock of the territory into the populated centers. He improves the defenses of Meldola and Castrocaro Terme; in Cesena, the church of Santa Maria del Monte is transformed into a fortress surrounded by a deep moat. The Bishop of Sarsina, Francesco da Calboli, and Azzo degli Orgogliosi join forces with the troops of Cardinal Albornoz.
Apr.RomagnaHaving refused the latest settlement proposals from the papal legate Egidio Albornoz, Francesco Ordelaffi is attacked without significant results around Cesena and Forlì by Galeotto and Malatesta Malatesta. During this period, his opponents establish a reward of 1000 florins for whoever captures him or his son Ludovico alive, and 500 florins for the capture of Giovanni or Guglielmo Manfredi.
May – JuneRomagnaRoberto Alidosi encamps at Ronta in the Cesena area with the entire crusader army, comprising 12,000 men and 3,000 sappers. In mid-June, the castellan of Montevecchio surrenders the fortress for money, and a few days later, Malatesta cunningly conquers Cusercoli and Ghiaggiolo by spreading the false news of Ordelaffi‘s death.
JulyRomagnaFrancesco Manfredi, the exiles from Forlì such as Azzo degli Orgogliosi, and Galeotto Malatesta Ungaro ravage the Forlì area, while Galeotto Malatesta and Roberto Alidosi conduct a similar devastating action in the Cesena area. He is besieged in Forlì. Francesco Ordelaffi orders the cutting of the stone bridge (known as della Livia) that connects Porta Valeriana with the banks of the Montone river; he has 4 city gates walled up (Valeriana, that of Santa Chiara, that of San Biagio, and the Portone della Rotta), leaving the other 4 open. He makes a sortie with many infantry from Porta Schiavonia and attacks with heavy cavalry the ecclesiastical lodgings at the serraglio of San Giorgio. The papal forces retreat to the Faenza area.
Aug.RomagnaThe inhabitants of Forlì send their own ambassadors to the Pope to seek peace. Francesco Ordelaffi, on the other hand, categorically refuses any possible surrender negotiation.
Sept.RomagnaHe visits Cesena, Bertinoro, Meldola, Riolo Terme, Castrocaro Terme, and Forlimpopoli to check the state of their fortifications. A surprise sortie of his strikes the ecclesiastical army. The enemies move away from the Forlì area. He supplies the capital with provisions to continue the campaign effectively.
Oct.RomagnaOnce the enemy’s offensive was exhausted, he took the initiative and had 2 bastions built, one in Villafranca, facing Cosina, defended by 400 cavalry, and another at the church of San Bartolomeo, also equipped with a strong garrison. He brought arms into the Rimini area, entered the village of San Giuliano and sacked it. He returned to Cesena laden with spoils.
Nov.RomagnaFaenza surrenders to the papal forces. Francesco Ordelaffi is approached by Cardinal Albornoz.
Dec.RomagnaThe papal forces repeat their demands for surrender; they offer him the lordship of Forlì and the title of general captain in exchange for the handover of Castrocaro Terme, Meldola, Bertinoro, and Cesena. An assembly is convened by Ordelaffi; the people advise him to seek an agreement with the pope; this provokes his anger, and he almost has the ambassador, who brought the request, killed. He sends his wife Cia degli Ubaldini to Cesena with their children and supplies all the castles with provisions; at the same time, he evacuates from Forlì all those unable to defend (women, elderly, and children).
Jan.RomagnaLudovico, his son, dies in Cesena. Guelph publicists seize the opportunity to attribute his death to his ferocity: Francesco Ordelaffi would have stabbed his son in the back in a fit of rage because he had shown favor towards an agreement with the papal forces.
Feb.RomagnaHe strengthens his position in Forlì; he delegates the defense of Cesena to his wife. He orders her to have 4 citizens of Cesena suspected of conspiring in favor of the papal forces beheaded. Cia degli Ubaldini, on the advice of Sgariglino da Pietracuta and Giorgio Tiberti, initially chooses not to proceed with the execution. To the garrison of the bastion in Villafranca, which complains about the winter harshness and continuous rain, Ordelaffi provides numerous mats made of papyrus and reeds, as well as large quantities of wicker and construction timber. He places a Spaniard in charge of the bastion of San Bartolomeo. At the general muster of his troops, he finds himself with only 900 cavalry and 1500 infantrymen at his disposal.
Apr.RomagnaThe papal forces are in Faenza with the new legate, Cardinal Androino de la Roche: Francesco Ordelaffi goes against them, falls into an ambush, and loses 100 men, mostly cavalry. Castelvecchio is conquered by them.
MayRomagnaHe rejects an attempt at mediation by the Florentines. The inhabitants of Cesena rebel against the government of his wife, who barricades herself in the fortress (la Murata) with 400 cavalry and many brigands. Cia degli Ubaldini defends herself courageously along with her son Sinibaldo from the attacks of the crusading cavalry, in which her father Giovanni degli Ubaldini serves. She captures 3 leaders of the opposition in Cesena and has them executed; moreover, she vents her anger by setting fire to the cathedral’s bell tower and the surrounding houses. Cesena is hit by 8 mangonels. The besiegers prop up the castle walls with a series of underground tunnels aiming to collapse them at the most opportune moment.
JuneRomagnaCia degli Ubaldini surrenders on terms; the defenders are released while she is taken with her children to Ancona. Now, Francesco Ordelaffi himself is besieged in Forlì: some papal forces enter the city under a treaty, which he manages to repel. He brands the prisoners with the sign of the cross on their chest and forehead using hot irons; others are flayed.
JulyRomagnaHis son Giovanni abandons the castle of Bertinoro after the defenders’ water supply is cut off and several underground tunnels are dug to bring down the walls. The young Ordelaffi escapes from the stronghold through secret passages and finds refuge in Forlimpopoli. With the connivance of the Visconti, Francesco Ordelaffi recalls the Great Company, currently commanded by Amerigo del Cavalletto; in Forlì, he is also joined by another German company of 2000 barbute led by Lucio Lando and Anichino di Baumgarten. The mercenaries plunder the nearby territories to avoid overburdening the city. He loses Bertinoro.
Aug.RomagnaWith the return of Count Lando to Lombardy, he is besieged again in Forlì by 2000 cavalry and many more infantrymen.
…………RomagnaHe takes from the Calboli the fortress of Elmo and the castles of Predappio, Castrocaro Terme, and Fiumana; lays siege to Meldola; and brings precious supplies of provisions into Forlì.
Apr.RomagnaCardinal de la Roche promises pardon to all those who abandon the city of Forlì: the papal forces resume the siege of the city.
MayRomagnaThe opponents construct 2 bastions around Forlì, one on the road leading to Faenza and one on the Ronco bridge.
JuneRomagnaThe Abbot of Cluny has an agreement with some guards of Forlì for the delivery of the battlements: 600 men, including infantry and cavalry, take possession of them and enter the city. The prompt reaction of the citizens repels the attackers and captures many prisoners, among whom is the son of Count Bandino di Montegranelli.
JulyRomagnaThe papal forces occupy Meldola. They encamp at San Varano.
Aug.RomagnaOnce again, the Great Company of Count Lando comes to his aid. Forlì is freed from the siege.
Sept.RomagnaHe exits from the Porta di San Pietro with Count Lando. Together with the same commander, he confronts the opponents at the bastion of San Bartolomeo and at Villanova. There are many losses on both sides. Having received new reinforcements from Forlì, he attacks the papal forces along the two fronts of Cassirano and San Lazzaro: the opponents flee towards Riolo Terme while the camp at Cosina, where Galeotto Malatesta Ungaro is fortified, withstands his assaults. His situation soon becomes precarious again because, instead of the 15,000 florins promised to the mercenaries, he can only pay them 2,000; he pledges to the soldiers some prisoners such as the son of Count Bandino di Montegranelli and two sons of Ramberto Malatesta, whose release is valued by Konrad Von Weitingen (Corrado Lando) at 4,000 florins. Meanwhile, Pope Innocent VI relaunches the crusade and entrusts the preaching again to Cardinal Albornoz: a harsh indictment is pronounced against him, in which he is defined as a “son of damnation”.
Jan. – MayRomagnaHe once again welcomes the Great Company into Forlì, returning from some raids in the Rimini area. In a skirmish with the papal forces, he is wounded in the body by a blow from an iron club delivered by Nicoluccio da Calboli. He obtains a truce thanks to the pressure from Count Lando. Famine reigns in Forlì; Francesco Ordelaffi continues to refuse every prospect of peace.
JuneRomagnaUpon the expiration of a truce, he is attacked in Forlì. He has 2 relatives of the exile Bartolo Codiferri beheaded, who had attempted to incite the city against him.
JulyRomagnaThe inhabitants of Forlì increasingly openly rebel against him. Francesco Ordelaffi seeks a diversion and attacks the ecclesiastical camp with all his men: after 5 hours, he is forced to retreat with significant losses. Only the intervention of his squad leaders saves him from capture; his men have to slaughter the inhabitants opposing their entry to return to the city. The siege resumes; in the same month, he is forced to surrender: the mediation is provided by the Lord of Bologna, Giovanni Visconti da Oleggio. He goes to Faenza: in a public assembly, he kneels before Cardinal Albornoz, acknowledges his faults, and submits to the state of the Church. He is required to undertake a pilgrimage of expiation to the city’s churches. He is pardoned. Days later, mid-month, he is in Cesena to pay homage to the Cardinal in front of all the nobles of Romagna. Always on his knees, the honor of knighthood is restored to him, and he is readmitted to communion. His wife and children are released; he must renounce Forlì; he is granted the lordship of Castrocaro Terme, Forlimpopoli, and Meldola for 10 years. Finally, he is granted a pension for 10 years: the first installment (2000 florins) is immediately paid to him.
…………Romagna, MarcheThe agreements are not honored by Cardinal Albornoz, who incites revolts in various locations, so much so that within a few months, Francesco Ordelaffi (imprisoned and threatened with death in Ancona) finds himself forced to resume the conflict.
Feb.MilanGeneral captainIn the service of the Lord of Milan, Bernabò Visconti.
Apr.OrdelaffiChurchRomagnaAfter the failed attempt by the Visconti to take Forlì by surprise through a treaty, he is besieged in Forlimpopoli. He surrenders. He promises to go into exile in Chioggia in exchange for the release of his wife and his family members, as well as an annual provision of 6000 lire. When Cia degli Ubaldini informs him that she has arrived safely in the Venetian city, he leaves Forlimpopoli under cover of night and joins her in the lagoon. The papal forces now also control Castrocaro Terme and Meldola.
Mar.MilanChurchRomagnaHe breaks his confinement and enters the service of the Lord of Milan, Bernabò Visconti. He is appointed captain of Lugo.
MayEmilia, RomagnaHe invades the Bolognese territory with 2000 cavalry; secures the castle of Piumazzo; moves to Lugo with 300 barbute to quell an insurrection in favor of the papal forces; approaches Bologna and supports the action of Francesco d’Este, who engages the city from the Reno bridge. He connects with Giovanni Manfredi; encamps between Faenza and Imola; together, the two commanders plot against the Lord of Imola, Roberto Alidosi. Ramberto Alidosi, tasked with killing his relative Roberto, is discovered and hanged from the battlements of the city walls. The two captains observe from afar the symbol of their failure and depart.
JuneRomagna, MarcheAt the beginning of the month (2000 cavalry and 500 Hungarians), he approaches Forlì in hopes that some tumult in his favor might arise in the city. His hopes are dashed: 2 German constables, who had conspired against the state of the Church, are beheaded. Francesco Ordelaffi leaves Forlì and positions himself in front of the gates of Rimini for a diversionary action that, in fact, reduces the number of Visconti forces around Bologna: there are rumors of a fake treaty organized by Cardinal Albornoz in the city of the Malatesta that made him believe the end of his hated enemies in Rimini was near. He encamps at Santa Giustina; lays waste to all the territory up to the outskirts of the city. With the defeat suffered by the Visconti forces at the bridge of San Ruffillo by Galeotto Malatesta and Galeotto Malatesta Ungaro, Francesco Ordelaffi raids the March of Ancona; he then retreats towards Romagna and reaches Lugo in 24 hours with a march of 56 miles.
SummerRomagnaHe remains stationed at Lugo. Once again, he plunders the Rimini area.
…………RomagnaHe reinstates the Alidosi in Imola, who had been expelled by the papal forces.
MayRomagnaDefending Bagnacavallo. He exits the city and confronts the papal and Estensi forces. He attacks them with such fervor that he puts them to flight; he particularly pursues the papal forces and has any Cesena residents that fall into his hands killed. Sixteen carts loaded with the bodies of enemy soldiers are brought to Cesena.
Oct.RomagnaHe positions his quarters at San Valeriano near Forlì. Through a treaty, he enters the city under cover of night with many Ghibellines at Scampacecca: discovered, he retreats due to the resistance encountered.
Feb.LombardyWith the end of the war, he moves to Milan. He remains in the service of Bernabò Visconti, who uses him as his lieutenant in Cremona.
Mar.Through Cardinal Androino de la Roche, with Giovanni and Riccardo Manfredi, he is absolved by Pope Urban V from all excommunications.
1366MilanGenoaLombardy, LiguriaHe holds the office of Podestà of Cremona. He supports Galeazzo Visconti in a conflict with the Genoese.
Mar.EmiliaIn the service of Bernabò Visconti in Parma. The garrison is composed of German and Italian soldiers. At the beginning of the month, in the evening, a brawl erupts in the town square between soldiers of the two nationalities. In the fight, which lasts 2 hours, the Italians kill 32 Germans. Francesco Ordelaffi intervenes to quell the riots. The spirits are temporarily calmed with the signing of a 3-month truce between the parties.
MayLombardyDefending the bastion of Borgoforte with Pagano di Panico, Federico Gonzaga, and Guido Savina da Fogliano (200 cavalry and 1000 infantrymen). The fortress is besieged by a coalition army of 20,000/40,000 men under the command of Emperor Charles of Bohemia. The defenders are forced to surrender.
Mar.VenetoIn Chioggia. His agent negotiates with the treasurers of the Serene Republic a loan of 1000 ducats, with the commitment to repay it upon the Doge’s request.
Dec.VenicePaduaVenetoIn the service of the Venetians against the Carraresi. He assaults the tower of Curano. He compels the defenders to surrender.
Feb.General captainVenetoHe temporarily holds the position of General Captain of the armies of the Serene Republic following the resignation of Rinieri da Baschi from the mandate.
JulyGeneral captainVenetoUnder the command of Giberto da Correggio, he defeats the Carraresi near the bastion of Buon Conforto where Stefano Unghero, the Voivode of Transylvania, is captured: he is awarded 1000 ducats for having seized the flag of the Hungarian commander. He is named General Captain following the death from plague of Giberto da Correggio, which occurred in mid-July in Venice.
Oct.VenetoHe has the bastion of Medicina rebuilt with a moat connecting it through the marshes to that of Buon Conforto. Falling ill with the plague himself, he is taken to Venice or Chioggia where he dies in the same month. Solemn funerals are granted to him in Venice. With the recovery of the lordship by his son Sinibaldo, he will be buried, after solemn funeral rites, with his wife in Forlì, in the church of Sant’Agostino, in June 1381. A friend of Giovanni Boccaccio (who was his guest for some time in Forlì), who, for his great passion for hunting, calls him Faunus and places him among the interlocutors in the third eclogue. Also remembered by Franco Sacchetti in a novella.


-Il cardinale Egidio Albornoz predica la crociata nei suoi confronti “.. potendo il cavaliere e il pedone partecipare in due anni il servigio d’un anno in arme contro a loro. Ordinati furono i predicatori, e’ collettori delle provincie e delle città, e incontanente l’avarizia de’ chierici cominciò a fare l’uficio suo, e allargarono colla predicazione l’indulgenza oltre alla commissione del papa, e cominciarono a non rifiutare danaio da ogni maniera di gente, compensando i peccati e i voti d’ogni ragione con danari assai o pochi come gli poteano attrarre; e per non mancare alla loro avarizia, sommoveano nelle città e ne’ castelli e nelle ville ogni femminella, ogni povero che non avea danari, a dare panni lini e lani, e masserizie, grani e biada, niuna cosa rifiutavano, ingannando la gente con allargare colle parole quello che non portava la loro commissione; e così davano la croce, e spogliavano le ville e le castella più che non poteano fare le città, ma nelle città le donne e le femmine valicavano tutta l’altra gente, e per questa maniera davano la cosa.” VILLANI

-“Huomo di grand’animo, e nell’arte militare molto esperto.” CORIO

-“Era guerriero di provato valore.” UGOLINI

-“Soldato e conquistatore memorabile, ogni ragione poneva nel brando e nell’acume delle astuzie, per le quali era callidissimo. La bramosia di regno, e non è a dir poco, superava la perversa libidine de’ suoi costumi. Iroso, pertinace, crudele, femminaiolo oltre il credere. Profuso coi soldati per cattivarseli ministri efferati alle sue furie. Provvidente, poi, costante ed animoso così che impavido il credevi in qualunque sorta di pericoli, da lui dominati con insoliti conati di corpo e di mente; robusto com’era delle membra e di subiti non avvertiti scampi feroce…(Si racconta che) nelle ore di ozio stillasse potentissimi veleni: delle virtù dei quali si narrano prove che toccano l’incredibile. ” ROSETTI

-“Forolivii tyrannum pestilentissimo.” D’INUNDA

-“Suorum virtute belli et potentia major.” MARCHESI

-“Uno dei più intrepidi e prodi guerrieri che avesse l’Italia nel secolo XIV.” BOSI

-“Eius aevi scriptores, et posteri non sane definierunt utrum virtutes, an dominandi mores excesserint: fuit scilicet adeo strenuus, constans et providens, ut nec illi in certaminibus robur, nec inconcussus in periculis animus, nec in adversis rebus consilium unquam defecerunt.. Erat disciplinae militaris admodum studiosus, ut ipsa pacis tempora in ludicris bellis collocaret. At per otium componere venenum acutissimi generis conserverat, quod super prunas effusum, ex vi pestiferae naturae, per nares ad cor descendus, repentinam adstantibus necem inferebat. Fuit ille statura mediocris, sed lacertosa, frons cogitabonda, et severi vultus lineamentis discriminata, quam cutis ignea obducebat, animi ad iram proclivis index, capilli et barba nigra. Bireto (beretto) et vestibus nigris coloris utebatur, baltheo praecinctis, cui ensem et crumenani aptare consueverat, ut secum ultionis, et praemii instrumenta gestaret, pallio usque ad genua fluente; quemadmodum eius imago in meis edibus asseverata estendit.” VIVIANI

-“Pessimo uomo, capace d’ogni delitto, ma valente in guerra ed arditissimo.. Fece ardere per dispetto fantocci che rappresentavano il papa ed i cardinali; scomunicato, volle costringere a forza i sacerdoti a celebrare durante l’interdetto; di coloro che si rifiutarono sette ne fece scorticare vivi, sette impendere alle forche, altri otto ne uccise in vari modi.” ARGIOLAS

-“Era un valente gintilomo.” COBELLI

-“(Muore con) fama di

uUno dei più grandi condottieri del suo tempo.” ARGEGNI

-“Uomo fiero.. d’indole aspra e bizzarra.. Fu valentissimo capitano, ed è uno de’ primi che abbia nell’armi illustrato Forlì. Era estremamente atrabiliare ed impetuoso, sebbene verso li suoi cittadini si rendesse amabile e cortese; ed a sistema di chi aspira al dominio fu liberalissimo con li soldati. Crudele e vendicativo con li nemici, fabbricava una sorta di veleno, che al solo odorarlo uccideva, specialmente poi se, sparso sulle brage (braci), venivano gli astanti a riceverne il fumo.” P. BONOLI

-“Che era molto potente in armi.” COLUCCI

-“Guerriero fortissimo, fu tiranno benefico, caritatevole, alla mano, tanto che, esaurita ogni più atroce calunnia partigiana, l’anonimo è costretto a dire di lui “Era incarnato con Forlivesi ed amato caramente; dimostrava modo di pietosa caritade; maritava orfane, allocava pulzelle e sovveniva a povera gente di sua amistade.” PASOLINI

-“La figura di più forte rilievo del suo casato ed una delle più potenti del trecento romagnolo e italiano..Francesco, a detta dei suoi biografi, aveva proprio natura di gran tiranno, energico e crudele, odiatore acerrimo dei preti ed eretico ostinato. Egli non riconosceva autorità alcuna ed aveva l’ardire di applicare a sé la formula:” Superiorem non recognoscens est imperator in regno suo.”” PECCI

-“Natura di gran tiranno, energico e crudele, odiatore acerrimo dei preti.” FILIPPINI

-“Nei quarant’anni di dominio signorile, Francesco eccelse in una sola disciplina, quella delle armi e il suo carattere fu sempre connotato da tenacia, ambizione, cinismo e scarso realismo. Le fonti guelfe lo definiscono perfido tiranno, senza fede e senza pietà. Altre, invece, lo descrivono amato dal popolo di Forlì, adorato dai suoi guerrieri e rispettato dalla maggior parte del clero forlivese, sordo alle disposizioni del papa..Seppur colpito più volte da scomuniche e battuto sul campo, terminò la sua vita in esilio, sempre impugnando la spada per vivere fino all’ultimo istante nel vento caldo delle battaglie.” DAL MONTE

-“Un personaggio al tempo stesso fosco e straordinario, che per mezzo secolo combatté incessantemente tanto le forze papali che volevano togliergli la sua città, quanto i vicini con cui la discordia era perenne.” SCARDIGLI

-“La figura più rilevante del Trecento romagnolo.” BALZANI MALTONI

-“In perenne conflitto con i papi per il riconoscimento del suo dominio sulla città romagnola, contò spesso su armate mercenarie, locali o da territori vicini, per difendere la signoria dal legittimo dominio papale. Quando non potè combattere da solo contro il papa fu condottiero al servizio dei nemici del pontefice: le vesti in cui agiva erano diverse, il fine restava lo stesso.” TANZINI

-“Gli atti di liberalità ricordati dalle cronache rimandano alla caratterizzazione del principe misericordioso e fanno pensare a un’attenzione specifica per la costruzione dell’immagine del signore, sulla base appunto di moduli principeschi, che non ha riscontri nei suoi predecessori, e nemmeno nei successori, fino alla seconda metà del Quattrocento…Nelle fonti filopapali Francesco è rappresentato come un tiranno non solo antipapale, ma irriducibilmente anticlericale, capace di inaudita crudeltà nei confronti degli uomini di Chiesa.” POLONI

-Atti conseguenti la prima scomunica “Gli atti successivi a questa effimera riabilitazione spirituale.. mettono in luce nel personaggio di Francesco Ordelaffi una personalità che oggi definiremmo dissociata, preda di inspiegabili contraddizioni.. Negli anni successivi, quello che abbiamo conosciuto come guerriero insofferente e spietato, come politico intraprendente e privo di scrupoli, fu protagonista di singolari slanci devozionali. Slanci che non gli impedivano di proseguire nell’attività di espansione territoriale ai danni dei possedimenti della Chiesa e di collezionare nuovi richiami e nuove scomuniche.. Francesco l’eretico, l’Anticristo, il demone, non combatteva una personale battaglia contro il cattolicesimo, ma contro le gerarchie ecclesiastiche, a partire dai semplici preti per arrivare sempre più in alto, fino al preteso Vicario di Cristo in Terra.” SPADA

-“Egli è persona di straordinario valore. Si è costituito una fama di grande condottiero. Si è cattivato l’animo degli abitanti della città capoluogo con un’intelligente azione politica verso il popolo. Un contemporaneo (T. Fiortifiocca) lo dice “incarnato coi forlivesi, amato caramente, perché demostrava muodo come de pietosa caritate, maritava orfane, allocava polzelle, sebbeneva a povera iente de sia amistate.” SOZZI

-“Era incarnato (strettamente congiunto) con Forlivesi, amato caramente. Demostrava muodi como de pietosa caritate. Maritava orfane allocava poizelle, soveniva a povera iente di soa amistate… Avea odio insanabile a prelati, recordannose che ià fu male trattato dallo legato antico, missore Bettranio dello Proieto (Bertrando del Poggetto), cardinale de Uostia.. Non voleva de cetero vivere a descrezione de prieiti. Staieva perfido, tiranno ostinato… (Assediato in Forlì) In questo assedio sopra Forlì fuoro presi assai volte delli crociati, li quali per meritare (essere perdonati dei propri peccati) erano iti a commattere (combattere) contra de quelli scismatici. Li crociati presi erano menati davanti a Francesco, lo quale diceva queste parole: “Voi portate la croce. La croce ène de panno. Lo panno se infracida. Io voglio che portiate croce che non se infracida”. Allora era apparecchiato un ferro cannente (riscaldato nel fuoco) in forma de croce. Questo fierro lo poneva sotto alle piante delli piedi e così li lassava derobati ire. Moiti aitri crociati prese, alli quali disse queste paravole (parole): “Site venuti per guadagnare l’anima. Se ve lasso, forza tornarete alli primi vuostri peccati..”. Ciò detto, li faceva scorticare, appennere (impiccare), decapitare e aghiadiare (strozzare), tenagliare (torturare con le tenaglie), de diversi martirii morire.” ANONIMO ROMANO


L. Mascanzoni. La crociata contro Francesco II Ordelaffi (1356-1359) nello specchio della storiografia

Featured image: Catalogo Beni Culturali

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