Giovanni II Bentivoglio

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Portrait of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, c. 1480, by Ercole de' Roberti. Ercole de' Roberti 001.jpg
Portrait of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, c. 1480, by Ercole de' Roberti.

Giovanni II Bentivoglio (12 February 1443 15 February 1508) was an Italian nobleman who ruled as tyrant of Bologna from 1463 until 1506. He had no formal position, but held power as the city's "first citizen." The Bentivoglio family ruled over Bologna from 1443, and repeatedly attempted to consolidate their hold of the Signoria of the city.

A tyrant, in the modern English-language usage of the word, is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law, or one who has usurped legitimate sovereignty. Often portrayed as cruel, tyrants may defend their position by oppressive means. The original Greek term, however, merely meant an authoritarian sovereign without reference to character, bearing no pejorative connotation during the Archaic and early Classical periods. However, Plato, the Greek philosopher, clearly saw tyrannos as a negative word, and on account of the decisive influence of philosophy on politics, its negative connotations only increased, continuing into the Hellenistic period.

Bologna Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Bologna is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, at the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million people.

A signoria was the governing authority in many of the Italian city states during the medieval and renaissance periods.



Born in Bologna, Giovanni II was the son of Annibale I Bentivoglio, then chief magistrate of the commune, and Donnina Visconti. He was a child when his father was murdered by his rival Battista Canneschi in June 1445.

Annibale I Bentivoglio was a famous member of the Bolognese Bentivoglio family and the absolute ruler of the Italian city of Bologna from 1443 until his death.

Annibale I was succeeded in Bologna by Sante I, of uncertain paternity and origin, but alleged to be a son of Ercole Bentivoglio, a cousin of Annibale I. Originally an apprentice of the wool guild of Florence, Sante ruled as signore of Bologna from 1443. When Sante died in 1463, Giovanni II Bentivoglio successfully made himself lord of the commune, although it was nominally a fief of the church under a papal legate. [1] On 2 May 1464 he married Sante's widow Ginevra Sforza. In 1464 he obtained by Pope Paul II the privilege to be considered perpetual head of the city's Senate.

Guild association of artisans or merchants

A guild is an association of artisans or merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as a confraternities of tradesmen. They were organized in a manner something between a professional association, a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society. They often depended on grants of letters patent from a monarch or other authority to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as guild meeting-places. Guild members found guilty of cheating on the public would be fined or banned from the guild.

Florence Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.

Ginevra Sforza Italian noble

Ginevra Sforza was the wife and counselor of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, lord of Bologna.

Machiavelli writes that Annibale, "having been murdered by the Canneschi, who had conspired against him, not one of his family survived but Messer Giovanni, who was in childhood: immediately after his assassination the people rose and murdered all the Canneschi. This sprung from the popular goodwill which the house of Bentivoglio enjoyed in those days in Bologna; which was so great that, although none remained there after the death of Annibale who were able to rule the state, the Bolognese, having information that there was one of the Bentivoglio family in Florence, who up to that time had been considered the son of a blacksmith [Sante], sent to Florence for him and gave him the government of their city, and it was ruled by him until Messer Giovanni came in due course to the government." ( The Prince , Chapter XIX)

<i>The Prince</i> political treatise by Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince is a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From correspondence a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, De Principatibus. However, the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. This was done with the permission of the Medici pope Clement VII, but "long before then, in fact since the first appearance of The Prince in manuscript, controversy had swirled about his writings".

Ruler of Bologna

In order to secure the support of the other powerful families of Italy, Giovanni fought personally as condottiero. In 1467 he was at the service of Florence, Milan and Naples against Bartolomeo Colleoni, and in 1471 again for Milan, but his first military deeds occurred only in 1477 when he besieged Faenza for the Sforza. In 1482, during the War of Ferrara, he helped Ercole d'Este against Pope Sixtus IV and Venice. He later fought in small struggles for the Kingdom of Naples, but his personal interventions were always limited by the Bolognese institutions.

Bartolomeo Colleoni Italian condottiero

Bartolomeo Colleoni was an Italian condottiero, who became captain-general of the Republic of Venice. Colleoni "gained reputation as the foremost tactician and disciplinarian of the 15th century". He is also credited with having refurbished the Roman baths at Trescore Balneario.

Faenza Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Faenza is an Italian city and comune, in the province of Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, situated 50 kilometres southeast of Bologna.

The War of Ferrara was fought in 1482–1484 between Ercole I d'Este, duke of Ferrara, and the Papal forces mustered by Ercole's personal nemesis, Pope Sixtus IV and his Venetian allies. Hostilities ended with the Treaty of Bagnolo, signed on 7 August 1484.

In 1488, his daughter Francesca poisoned her own husband, Galeotto Manfredi, ruler of Faenza. The latter's citizens considered the feat as an occult move to conquer the city, and rebelled. When Giovanni reached the city to suppress the revolt, he was captured. He was freed only through the intercession of Lorenzo de' Medici. In the same year he was made Capitano Generale (Chief of Staff) of the Milanese army, but this was an almost honorific position as Giovanni left the command duties to his sons. In 1488 Giovanni had also to crush a plot against him, led by the Malvezzi family, whose members were almost all hanged or exiled. In 1501, the same fate struck the Marescottis.

Galeotto Manfredi was an Italian condottiero and lord of Faenza.

Lorenzo de Medici Italian statesman and de facto dictator of the Florentine Republic

Lorenzo de' Medici was an Italian statesman, de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic and the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of Renaissance culture in Italy. Also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent by contemporary Florentines, he was a magnate, diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets. As a patron, he is best known for his sponsorship of artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo. He held the balance of power within the Italic League, an alliance of states that stabilized political conditions on the Italian peninsula for decades, and his life coincided with the mature phase of the Italian Renaissance and the Golden Age of Florence. The Peace of Lodi of 1454 that he helped maintain among the various Italian states collapsed with his death. He is buried in the Medici Chapel in Florence.

Bentivoglio had managed to resist the expansionist designs of Cesare Borgia, but on 7 October 1506 Pope Julius II issued a bull deposing and excommunicating Bentivoglio and placing the city under interdict. When the papal troops, along with a contingent sent by Louis XII of France, marched against Bologna, Bentivoglio and his family fled. Julius II entered the city triumphantly on 10 November.

Giovanni moved first to Busseto, host of the Pallavicino family. An attempt led by his sons Annibale II and Ermes to reconquer Bologna in 1507 failed. The Bolognese subsequently rioted against his possessions in the city, destroying the palace.

Excommunicated, Giovanni ended his days as prisoner of Louis XII in Milan. He died in 1508 in the Castello Sforzesco of that city.

Giovanni Bentivoglio is said to have consulted in 1504 the famous astrologer Luca Gaurico about his and his sons' destiny. Displeased with Gaurico's negative prophecy, Bentivoglio subjected him to the torture of mancuerda , and exiled him from Bologna.


Giovanni II Bentivoglio ruled with a stern sway for nearly half a century, [1] maintaining a splendid court and beautifying Bologna, in particular developing its waterways. The misery of the city's poor, however, stood in stark contrast to the splendor of the city and its festivities.

Among the projects he commissioned were the frescoes depicting the life of Saint Cecilia in the Oratorio di Santa Cecilia through the archway of San Giacomo. These frescoes were painted by artists living in the city at the time: Francesco Francia, Lorenzo Costa the Elder and Amico Aspertini. Lorenzo Costa's Bentivoglio Altarpiece, housed in the Bentivoglio Chapel in the church of San Giacomo Maggiore, was commissioned by Giovanni Bentivoglio as a votive offering of thanks for the family's escape from an attempted massacre by the Malvezzi family. Bentivoglio also ordered the Palazzo Bentivoglio (City Hall) to be built by the architect G. Nadi, starting in 1498. The Bolognese architect Aristotile Fioravanti, who later settled in Russia, created the plans for the reconstruction of the Palazzo del Podestà, but the reconstruction was not carried out by Bentivoglio until 148494.

Family and descendants

On 2 May 1464 Giovanni married Ginevra Sforza (1440–1507), the illegitimate daughter of Alessandro Sforza, Lord of Pesaro and the widow of his cousin and predecessor, Sante Bentivoglio. [2] There was probably a relationship between them before their marriage. [3] She was, among other things, his counselor. Ginevra gave her husband sixteen children, of whom five died in infancy. The others were:

Bentivoglio family by Lorenzo Costa Lorenzo Costa 006.jpg
Bentivoglio family by Lorenzo Costa

Giovanni also had another daughter (whether illegitimate or not, it is unknown), Camilla Bentivoglio, whose mother is said to be a 'Lucrezia D'Este'. [4] [5] Whether this 'Lucrezia' was the same as his daughter-in-law, daughter of Ercole I d'Este, is a matter of speculation. Camilla went on to marry Pirro Gonzaga, a scion of the House of Gonzaga (a male line grandson of Ludovico III Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua). It is unknown how many children she had, but 3 of them are known:

Through Isabel and Carlos, Camilla and her father Giovanni are ancestors of Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and his first cousin, King Philippe of Belgium.


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  1. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bentivoglio, Giovanni"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 749–750. This also cites:
    • P. Litta, Le Famiglie celebri Italiane, vol. iii. (Milan, 1834)
    • P. Villari, Machiavelli (Eng. trans., London, 1892)
    • M. Creighton, History of the Papacy (London, 1897)
    • A. von Reumont, Geschichte der Stadt Rom, vol iii. (Berlin, 1868).
  2. Ginevra e Gentile.
  3. Samoggia 2013.
  5. "Camilla Bentivoglio: Genealogics". Retrieved 17 April 2018.