Matteo I Visconti

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Matteo I Visconti
Lord of Milan and Imperial Vicar
Visconti, Matteo Magno.jpg
Coat of arms 65px
Spouse(s) Bonacossa Borri
Noble family House of Visconti
Father Teobaldo Visconti
Mother Anastasia Pirovan
Born (1250-08-15)15 August 1250
Died 24 June 1322(1322-06-24) (aged 71)

Matteo I Visconti (Invorio, 15 August 1250 - Crescenzago, 24 June 1322) was the son of Teobaldo Visconti (nephew of the Archbishop of Milan, Ottone Visconti) and Anastasia Pirovano.

Matteo was a soldier and faithful servant of his great-uncle Ottone in his battles and conquest of power over Milan. In 1287, his uncle had him appointed capitano del popolo (Italian for "Captain of the People") of Milan. Rudolph I of Germany,[1] Adolf of Nassau, King of Germany,[2] Albert I of Germany,[3] and Henry VII, Holy Roman Emperor[citation needed] each appointed him Matteo as Imperial Vicar over the whole of Lombardy, an office he held until his death. His sphere of influence extended to the Piedmont, Emilia, Bologna, and Genoa.


The early years

Matthew was the son of Teobaldo Visconti, who was beheaded in Gallarate in 1276 after a contingent of the Visconti lost a battle to the Della Torre (or Torriani, Italian for "Of the Tower") family.[4] Teobaldo himself was the son of Obizzo Visconti, a brother of Ottone, Azzone, and Gaspare Visconti.[5] His mother, Anastasia Pirovano, may have been the granddaughter of Uberto Pirovano, Archbishop of Milan and an External Cardinal.

In August, 1269, Matteo married Bonacossa Borri, daughter of Captain Squarcina Borri. They had ten children together.[2][6]

In December 1287, when Matteo was 37 years old, his great-uncle Ottone appointed him Capitano del Popolo [Captain of the People]. That same year, he acted as the referee between the Camunni rebels guided by the Ghibelline [[{{{1}}}]][] and [[{{{1}}}]][], the Bishop of Brescia.

Two years later, the citizens of Milan re-elected him Captain of the people.[2] In 1288 or 1291, Rudolph I of Germany, King of the Romans (in effect, King of the Germans) appointed Matteo as his vicar general for Lombardy.[1]

The eternal struggle with the Torriani

File:DSC02617 - Milano - Sant'Eustorgio - Dettaglio del fianco - Scultura e stemma - Foto di Giovanni Dall'Orto - 15-jan-2007.jpg
The bust and coat-of-arms of Matteo Visconti at the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio, in Milan. It is located in the outer wall of the chapel of St. Thomas, also known as [[{{{1}}}]][]. Visconti had it constructed in 1297 when he was 47 years, and at this time his portrait was carved.

In 1294, Adolf of Nassau appointed Matteo as Imperial Vicar again.[2] The next year, after the death of Ottone, a period of struggle for domination of Milan began anew between the Ghibellines (the supporters of the Kings of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperors and thus also of Matteo as Imperial Vicar) and the Guelphs, the partisans of the Pope led by the traditional enemies of the Visconti, the Della Torre family. As part of these struggles, Matteo Visconti ordered the destruction of Lecco, traditionally the center of the Guelph and partisan Della Torre. In 1296, the entire population was deported, Lecco was razed and the order was issued that it should never be rebuilt. Matteo meanwhile relaunched the war against Lodi and Crema. In 1299, Albert I of Germany reappointed him as Imperial Vicar.[2]

Matteo managed to remain at the helm of the city until June 1302, when Guido della Torre again took the lordship of Milan, due to a league formed by the Torriani and the anti-Visconti families of the cities of Cremona, Pavia, Piacenza, Novara, Vercelli, Lodi, Crema, and Monferrato led by Alberto Scotti and Ghiberto da Correggio.[7] Matteo's home in Milan was attacked and looted. Thus forced into exile, Matteo remained for several years a guest of the Scaliger family at Nogarola (Motteggiana).

In November 1310, Matteo met the latest German King Henry VII at Asti and from this, received a mandate to reach a peace agreement in Lombardy. On 4 December that year, Matteo and the archbishop [[]][] signed an agreement, under which the Visconti and Torriani families shared official positions and expenses.

Between December 1310 and February 1311, the German King, who was also crowned King of Italy on 6 January, tried to find a common ground between the Torriani and Visconti. However, on 13 February, German soldiers of Henry VIII faced an armed Torriani led by Guido della Torre who did not accept the treaty between their cousin Cassono and Matteo. The King Henry’s forces prevailed and Guido della Torre fled Milan.[7]

On 13 July 1311, the King Henry sold the title of imperial vicar for Milan to Matteo, despite the fact that Matteo had not yet released the Torriani captured in the skirmish the previous month. They then organized a league that included Milan, Como, Novara, Vercelli, Bergamo, Brescia, Lodi, Cremona, and Piacenza, which had all become Ghibelline cities loyal to the Emperor. Pope Clement V's legates crowned Henry VIII Holy Roman Emperor on 29 June. Just over a year later, the Emperor died on 24 August 1313 at Buonconvento in Tuscany.

The clashes began anew and the Torriani repeatedly engaged Milanese troops, attacked the city, urged the Ghibellines to arise against the Visconti. The sons of Matteo had to travel between the mountains and valleys to restore peace and subdue the rebellious cities. In 1313, they defeated the supporters of the Della Torre at the battles of Gaggiano and Rho.

The Guelph league took the opportunity to appoint Robert of Anjou, King of Naples and Count of Provence and Forcalquier, as the Duke of Milan. Robert was of French nobility, and Pope Clement V, who was also French, appointed him pontifical vicar for Italy in March 1314, from Clement's Papal Curia at Avignon, just a month before the death of the pontiff.

In 1314 the Torriani pillaged the [[{{{1}}}]][] and besieged Piacenza in vain. [[{{{1}}}]][], Matteo's second son, led the Visconti in defeating the sénéchal (steward) of Robert of Anjou. The following year, Uguccione Faggiuola, supported by Marco and Luciano Visconti and travelling from the Scrivia River near Voghera, defeated the Tuscan Guelps at Montecatini Terme.

File:4886 - Milano - Loggia degli Osii - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto, 23-Jan-2008.jpg
A plaque on the Osii Loggia in Piazza Mercanti ("Merchant square") in Milan, built in 1316 by Scoto da San Gimignano for Matteo I Visconti. Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto

The alternating defeats and victories continued. Pope John XXII, also French and another Avignon pope, ascended in 1316, and decided to eliminate the Ghibellines from northern Italy.[7] Robert of Anjou conquered Pavia by surprise, although he withdrew soon afterward. Marco Visconti occupied Alessandria. Later that same year, a popular uprising in Parma and Vercelli expelled the Angevin vicar, the Guelph Gilberto de Correggio.

In 1317 the Avignon papacy began a war by excommunication with Matteo. The pope first appointed two emissaries to investigate the Ghibelline cities. Starting with Milan, Verona, and Mantua, they placed the respective Lords under interdict to force them to abandon the title of imperial vicar. The emissaries then extended the interdict to all who had received this title from the late Emperor Henry VII. In August, Giovanni Visconti was elected archbishop of Milan from the cathedral chapter. However, the pope refused to confirm the decision of the chapter and instead appointed Archbishop [[{{{1}}}]][] a Franciscan close to the Torriani.[2] In January 1318, the bishops of Asti and Como accused Matteo of heresy and excommunicated him with the final decision due the following month of April, which the Pope ratified and extended to Cangrande I della Scala, Lord of Verona and [[{{{1}}}]][], Lord of Mantua.

By this time, Matteo had also involved the great families of Genoa in the conflict, setting the Guelph Grimaldi and Fieschi families against the Ghibelline Spinola and Doria.

Final Years

In 1320 at Avignon, Pope John XXII raised the charge of necromancy against Matteo, claiming that he had tried to cause the death of the Pope with the complicity of Dante Alighieri. Matteo refused to appear before the court in the papal city, citing his age and the precarious state of health. In January 1321, Matteo's wife, Bonacosa Borri, died. The next month the court convicted Matteo in absentia of necromancy.[2] In December, the Pope asked his appointee, the de jure Archbishop of Milan, Aicardo Antimiani, to open a new case of heresy against Matteo and his son, Galeazzo. Archbishop Antimiani judged them as heretics, condemned Matteo, and ordered the confiscation of his property and the vacating of all his offices. In early 1322, the papal legate, Cardinal Bertrand du Poujet, fought against those convicted of heresy in Lombardy, and proclaimed from Asti a holy crusade against the Visconti, bringing together the Crusaders at Valenza.

Meanwhile the disputes between the Guelphs and Ghibellines continued throughout Lombardy, and the accusation of heresy was extended to all of Matteo's children. Summons were sent to the allies of the Visconti of Milan, and the citizens themselves were threatened by the Inquisition.[2]

In the end of May, Matteo ceded power to his son Galeazzo and retired to Crescenzago. A month later, Matteo died at the age of 71.[2][5]


His marriage with Bonacossa Borri had the following children:

Monuments related to Matteo Visconti

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Milan by Thais". 9 April 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2012. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Tolfo, Maria Grazia; Colussi, Paolo (7 February 2006). "Storia di Milano ::: Matteo". Storia di Milano (in Italian). Milano: Storiadimilano. Retrieved 10 March 2012. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Storiadimilano" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Beck, Sanderson (July 25, 2011). "Italian City States 1250-1453 by Sanderson Beck". Literary Works of Sanderson Beck. Retrieved 27 February 2012. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[better source needed]
  4. "Some history..." The Church of San Sisinio - Foundation Prioria della Torre dte=19 May 2005. Retrieved 27 February 2012. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Marek, Miroslav (9 January 2011). "Visconti Family 1". Genealogy.Eu. Retrieved 1 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[self-published source][better source needed]
  6. Marek, Miroslav (9 January 2011). "Visconti FAmily 2". Genealogy.Eu. Retrieved 1 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[self-published source][better source needed]
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Williams, Henry Smith, ed. (1904). The historians' history of the world. Vol. 9, Italy. New York: The Outlook Company. pp. 127–132. OCLC 606500928. Retrieved March 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Williams" defined multiple times with different content

External links

Italian nobility
Preceded by
Ottone Visconti
Lord of Milan
Succeeded by
Guido della Torre
Preceded by
Guido della Torre
Lord of Milan
Succeeded by
Galeazzo I Visconti