Giovanni dalle Bande Nere


Giovanni dalle Bande Nere

Giovanni de' Medici, also known as Giovanni dalle Bande Nere (April 5, 1498 - November 30, 1526) was an Italian condottiero.

Biography

Giovanni was born in the Northern Italian town of Forlì to Giovanni de' Medici (also known as "il Popolano") and Caterina Sforza, one of the most famous women of the Italian Renaissance.

From an early age, he demonstrated great interest and ability in physical activity and especially the martial arts of the age: horse-back riding, sword-fighting, etc. He committed his first murder at the age of 12, and was twice banished from the city of Florence for his unruly behavior.

He married Maria Salviati, and had a son, Cosimo (1519-1574), who was destined to become Grand Duke of Florence.Giovanni became a "condottiere", or mercenary military captain, in the employ of Pope Leo X (Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici) and underwent his baptism by fire on March 5, 1516 in the war against Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbino. Giovanni won after 22 days. He thenceforth formed a company of his own, mounted on light horses and specializing in fast but devastating skirmishing tactics and ambushes. In 1520 he defeated several rebel barons in the Marche. The following year Leo X allied with Emperor Charles V against King Francis I of France to regain Milan, Parma and Piacenza; Giovanni was called in under the command of Prospero Colonna, defeating the French at Vaprio d'Adda in November.

As a symbol of mourning for the death of Pope Leo X (December 1, 1521), Giovanni added black bands to his insignia, whence comes his nick-name, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere (or Giovanni of the Black Bands). In the August 1523 he was hired by the Imperial army, and in January 1524 he defeated the French and the Swiss at Caprino Bergamasco. In the same year another Medici became Pope as Clement VII. The latter paid all Giovanni's debt, but in exchange ordered him to switch to the French side; he did not take part in the battle of Pavia, but was severely wounded in a skirmish soon later and had to move to Venice to be cured.

In 1526 the War of the League of Cognac broke out. The League's captain general, Francesco della Rovere, abandoned Milan in face of the overwhelming superiority of the Imperial army led by Georg von Frundsberg. Giovanni was able to defeat the Landsknechts rearguard at the confluence of the Mincio with the Po River. However, in the evening of November 25 he was woefully wounded by a falconet ball at a battle near Governolo and had to be carried to Mantua.

There Giovanni de' Medici died of septicemia on November 30, 1526. Giovanni's premature death signaled the end of the age of the "condottieri", as their mode of fighting (which emphasized armored knights on horseback) was rendered practically obsolete by the introduction of the mobile field cannon. He is therefore now known as the last of the great "condottieri". His lasting reputation has been kept alive in part thanks to Pietro Aretino, the (in)famous Renaissance author, satirist, playwright and "scourge of the princes", who was Giovanni's close friend. Aretino accompanied Giovanni on some of his exploits and was present at his deathbed; in a famous letter he describes the scene and Giovanni's courage in the face of death.

Later references

*A cruiser of the Regia Marina was named after Giovanni delle Bande Nere in 1930.
*Ermanno Olmi's 2001 film, "Il mestiere delle armi", faithfully follows Giovanni dalle Bande Nere in his last week of life, as he engages in battle with the Imperial forces amidst the cold, damp fields of the Lombard countryside.

Ancestors

Descendants

ee also

*Italian Wars
*Condottieri
*Black Bands


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