Niccolò III d’Este came from the family that had ruled Ferrara from the mid-14th c., one of the most successful ruling dynasties in Italy. He ruled the city, during the period 1393-1441, first with the assistance of a regency council for ten years and then on his own for an additional forty years (Rosenberg 1997, 50). He directed important reconstruction and reinforcement of the city’s fortification system, the earliest of these projects starting during his minority, in order to protect the city from the threat of his cousin Azzo and his supporters (Rosenberg 1997, 46). His architectural activity within the city walls included the construction of the Castelnuovo, a defensive structure built in 1428. He also built the Villa Belriguardo on the outskirts of Ferrara, one of the most splendid of the Este villas (Rosenberg 1997, 48). In addition to these projects, he also completed a number of well-publicised acts of piety such as the foundations for the cathedral bell tower (1412), his pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1413), Loreto (1414) and the shrine of St Anthony in Vienna (1414), and the founding of the Dominical monastic complex (1437), Santa Maria degli Angeli, which created an important religious centre in the countryside of the city, associated particularly with the Este family (Rosenberg 1997, 49-50). The proximity of the city from Venice by sea, the abilities of Niccolò as a political strategies and these carefully selected act of personal piety all played a major role in the selection of Ferrara by Pope Eugenius IV as the place where the Eastern and Western churches would meet for their council. Issues of succession arose at the end of Niccolò d’Este’s reign, since he did not have any legitimate sons from his first two wives. He chose as his heir first the eldest of his illegitimate sons, Ugo, and then his younger brother, Leonelo, for whom he also secured an important military and political alliance by marrying him to Margherita Gonzaga, daughter of the lord of Mantua (Rosenberg 1997, 51). Even with the birth of two legitimate sons from Niccolò’s third wife, Leonelo remained heir and was guaranteed to inherit the majority of Niccolò’s possessions and titles (Rosenberg 1997, 50-53).













The Translation is © Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, IAA, University of Birmingham 2008


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Last updated 19 June 2008