Wars in Lombardy

Wars in Lombardy

The wars in Lombardy were a series of conflicts fought in central-northern Italy between the Republic of Venice and the Duchy of Milan, and their different allies. They lasted from 1425 until the signing of the Treaty of Lodi in 1454. During their course, the political structure of Italy was transformed: out of a competitive congeries of communes and city-states, emerged the five major Italian territorial powers that would make up the map of Italy until the Italian Wars. Important cultural centers of Tuscany and Northern Italy—Siena, Pisa, Urbino, Mantua, Ferrara—became politically marginalized. The wars, fought in four campaigns, were a struggle for hegemony in Northern Italy that ravaged the economy of Lombardy and weakened the power of Venice, whose leaders failed to heed the words of warning in doge Tommaso Mocenigo's famous farewell letter (1423)::"Beware of the desire to take what belongs to others, and of making unjust war, for God will destroy you."

The war, which was both a result and cause of Venetian involvement in the power politics of mainland Italy, [Venice subdued Verona in 1402, Padua in 1405, and the rest of eastern Lombardy, the Venetian "terra ferma" ("mainland"), the following year. Previously Venice had been strictly a maritime power: her battles with the Republic of Genoa, culminating in the battle of Chioggia, were all fought at sea.] found Venetian territory extended to the banks of the Adda and involved the rest of Italy in shifting alliances but only minor skirmishing. The shifting counterweight in the balance was the allegiance of Florence, at first allied with Venice against encroachments by Visconti Milan, then switching to ally with Francesco Sforza against the increasing territorial threat of Venice. The Peace of Lodi, concluded in 1454, brought forty years of comparative peace to Northern Italy, [See however the brief War of Ferrara (1482–1484) that was settled by the Peace of Bagnolo.] as Venetian conflicts focussed elsewhere. [The extension of Ottoman power into the Balkans and in the Aegean had involved Venice in intermittent warfare since 1415.]

First campaign

The first of four campaigns against the territorial ambitions of Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan, was connected to the death of the lord of Forlì, Giorgio Ordelaffi. He had named Visconti the trustee of his nine-year-old heir, Teobaldo II. The latter's mother, Lucrezia degli Alidosi, daughter of the lord of Imola, did not agree and assumed the regency for herself. The Forlivesi rebelled and called in the city the Milanese Visconti's condottiero, Agnolo della Pergola (May 14 1423). Florence reacted by declaring war to Visconti. Its captain Pandolfo Malatesta therefore entered Romagna to help the Alidosi of Imola, but he was defeated and the city stormed on February 14 1424. The young Luigi degli Alidosi was sent captive to Milan and a few days later the lord of Faenza, Guidantonio Manfredi, joined the Visconti party. The Florentine army, this time commanded by Carlo Malatesta, was again defeated at the Battle of Zagonara in July; Carlo, taken prisoner, was freed by Visconti and joined him too. Florence thus hired Niccolò Piccinino and Oddo da Montone, but the two were also beat in Val di Lamone. Oddo was killed but Piccinino was able to convince Manfredi to declare war against Visconti.

After the failure in Romagna, Florence tried to defy the Visconti from the Ligurian side, by allying with the Aragonese of Naples. However, both a fleet of 24 Aragonese galleys sent in Genoa to move it against the Milanese, and a land army, were unsuccessful. In the meantime, Piccinino and the other condottiero Francesco Sforza had been hired by Visconti, who also sent an army them to invade Tuscany under Guido Torello. He subsequently defeated the Florentine army at Anghiari and Faggiuola.

The Florentine disaster were countered by the pact signed on December 4, 1425 with the Republic of Venice. By the agreement the war was to be pursued at the common expense of both: the conquests in Lombardy to be assigned to the Venetians; those in Romagna and Tuscany to the Florentines; and the condottiero Carmagnola was appointed Captain General of the League. In the ensuing fighting seasons (1425-26), Carmagnola, recently in the pay of Visconti, retook Brescia, which he had recently taken by Visconti, after a long siege which saw massive use of artillery (november 26 1426). Meanwhile the Venetian fleet on the Po River, under Francesco Bembo, advanced as far as Padua and the Florentines regained all their lands in Tuscany. Visconti, who had already ceded Forlì and Imola to the Pope to gain his favour, called a mediation. Through the intervention of the Papal legate, Niccolò degli Albergati, the peace was signed on December 30 1426 in Venice.

Visconti regained the lands occupied by Florence in Liguria, but had to renounce to the area of Vercelli, conquered by Amadeus VIII of Savoy, and Brescia, which went to Venice, and to promise to stop encroaching himself in Romagna and Tuscany.

econd campaign

The peace did not last much. Under advice by the emperor Sigismund, Visconti refused to ratify it and the war broke out n May 1427. The Milanese were initially victorious, taking Casalmaggiore and besieging Brescello; the fleet sent there was set on fire by the Venetian one by Bembo, but Niccolò Piccinino was however able to defeat Carmagnola at Gottolengo on May 29. The Venetian commander pushed him back and conquered Casalmaggiore on July 12, while Orlando Pallavicino, lord of several castles near Parma, rebelled against the Visconti while Amadeus VIII and John Jacob of Montferrat invaded Lombardy from East.

Visconti could count on some of the best condottieri of the time, such as Sforza, della Pergola, Piccinino and Guido Torello. But, as they were jealous, he named supreme commander Carlo Malatesta. The latter led the Milanese at Maclodio (October 4, 1427), being crushed by the Venetians under Carmagnola. The victory was however undecisive, and Visconti managed to reconciliate with Amadeus by ceding him Vercelli and marrying his daughter Maria. However, as Sforza was defeated by some Genoese exiled and Sigismund's help was wanting, Visconti sued for a treaty. With the mediation of the Pope, the peace was signed at Ferrara on April 18 1428. A Venetian governor was established at Bergamo and Crema (1429) in addition to confirming the Venetian possession of Brescia and its "contado" (neighbourhood). The Florentines recovered the strongholds they had lost, apart Volterra who rebelled to the new settlement. The troops sent to reduce that city, under Niccolò Fortebraccio, were later sent to invade the Lucca, whose lord, Paolo Guinigi, had sided for the Visconti previously.

Third campaign

The third war (1431-1433) started therefore when Visconti took up the Lucchese cause, by sending them, with 3,000 horse, Francesco Sforza; the latter, however, was eventually bought off with fifty thousand ducats from the Florentines, who continued the siege of Lucca after the condottiero had left. Called in by the besieged, Visconti managed to have the Republic of Genoa [Milan controlled Genoa since 1421.] declare war against Florence. The subsequent defeat on the Serchio banks of their commander, Guidantonio da Montefeltro (december 2 1430, encouraged the Florentines to engage the aid of Venice once more and re-erect their League, with the favour of the new Pope, Eugene IV, a Venetian. Visconti replied hiring again Piccinino and Sforza, who were again to face Carmagnola.

The League's army was first beat at Soncino (May 17 1431), while Luigi Colonna defeated the Venetians at Cremona, Cristoforo Lavello pushed back the Montferrat troops, and Piccinino established strong positions in Tuscany. Also dismayal for the League was the destruction of the Po Fleet under Niccolò Trevisani near Pavia (June 23). In 1431 Visconti also found a precious ally in Amadeus VIII of Savoy in exchange to help against John Jacob of Montferrat.

Venice won a naval victory over Genoa at San Fruttuoso on 27 August 1431, but on land his commander Carmagnola moved catiously, avoiding a pitched battle and raising the suspicion he could have been bought by Visconti, while the latter was also joined by Sigismund who had entered Italy to receive the imperial crown. In the end Carmagnola was suspended; recalled by the Council of Ten, he was arrested in March 1432, tried for treason and beheaded outside the Doge's Palace. In the November 1432 a Venetian army was crushed by Piccinino at the Battle of Delebio by a collegate army of Milan and Valtellina, which had been invaded by the Serenissima in 1431.

The peace of Ferrara in May 1433 institutionalized an unsteady status quo. The Florentine war with Lucca and her allies likewise resulted in a return to the previous status quo, but the major League leader's lack of successes had lost much other charisma: the Venetian doge Foscari was on the verge of resigning, while Cosimo de' Medici was imprisoned and confined in Padua. Another aftermath was the reduction of Montferrat to a satellite of Savoy.

Fourth campaign

In the so-called "fourth war" broader questions were personalized in the combats among antagonistic condottieri: Gattamelata, and later Francesco Sforza fought nominally for Venice, while the Visconti side was led by Niccolò Piccinino, who had promised to Eugene IV to reconquer the Marche for him. But, in a typical reversal of the time, when he captured Ravenna and Bologna he forced the to recognize the Milanese suzerainty.

Piccinino, backed by Gian Francesco Gonzaga, had invaded the Lombard possessions of Venice. In September 1438 he laid siege to Brescia and assaulted Bergamo and Verona. In response to this Venice signed an alliance with Florence and Francesco Sforza, including some notable captain of the time such as Astorre II Manfredi, Pietro Persaliano and Niccolò III of Ferrara, who was also returned the Polesine in exchange of his support.

The Milanese were repeatedly defeated in Tuscany and at Soncino (June 14 1440). The war seemed won for Venice, and Sforza went to Venice to receive the triumph. However, Piccinino returned from Romagna in February 1441 and crushed Sforza's garrison at Chiari. Sforza besieged Martinengo, but when Piccinino cut him off from any possibility of retreat the situation looked again favourable to Milan. Believing that the victory was now in his hands, he asked to Visconti the seigniory of Piacenza in exchange of it. The lord of Milan preferred instead to appeal for an agreement with Sforza.

On the field of Cavriana, Sforza acted as mediator between the two sides accomplishing the act for which Carmagnola had lost his head. No large territorial changes were made in the ensuing Peace of Cremona of 20 November 1441: Venice kept Ravenna, Florence the Casentino. Piccinino was awarded with the lands of Orlando Pallavicino in the Parmense, while Filippo Maria Visconti recognized the independence of Genoa and again promised to stop interfere with the situation in Tuscany and Romagna.


Off the battlefields, important dynastic and political changes occurred: Francesco Sforza entered the service of Visconti and married his daughter, while Florence took a new turn under Cosimo de' Medici. After Visconti died in 1447, Francesco Sforza, backed by Lorenzo de' Medici, entered Milan in triumph (May 1450). [after the demise of the short-lived Ambrosian Republic.] Two coalitions now formed: Sforza Milan allied with Medici Florence on the one hand, faced Venice and the Aragonese Kingdom of Naples on the other. The main theater of war remained Lombardy, where both sides joined in the Peace of Lodi (May 1454), a compromise peace that formed the basis for a general accord among the four contenders, Venice, Milan, Florence and Naples, under the blessings of Pope Nicholas V, representing the fifth power in Italy. The peace of Lodi is often marked as the emergence of a consciously expressed political principle of balance of power.

ee also

*War of Ferrara
*Italian Wars



* [http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/m/machiavelli/niccolo/m149h/chapter24.html Niccolò Machiavelli, "History of Florence" Books IV.i-VI.vi] The wars in Lombardy from the Florentine perspective.
* [http://www.veneto.org/history/serenissima3.htm Veneto.org: History of Venice]

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