Renaissance in Cesena

The Renaissance in Cesena was made to coincide with the seigniory of the Malatesta brothers: from 1378, the following year the terrible Sacco dei Brettoni, until 1465, the death of Malatesta Novello; and then continue briefly during the reign of Cesare Borgia.

Historical and cultural context
In February 1377 Cesena was involved in spite of himself in the war promoted by the Republic of Florence against the Papal State (the so-called ” War of the Eight Saints “, 1375 – 1378). Cardinal Robert of Geneva, future anti-pope Clement VII, unleashes a violent massacre in the city, to prevent Cesena from taking the side of the Florentines. The massacre is carried out by the Breton mercenary militias (faithful to Pope Gregory XI), led by the English condottiere Giovanni Acuto, which shave it to the ground. The chroniclers of the time report 4,000 dead and as many deported among the civilian population. Robert of Geneva is nicknamed in the local chronicles “Boia di Cesena”. The event marks a clear break with the past: the history of Cesena is now divided between “before” and “after” the sack of the Bretons.

The year after the tremendous Sacco dei Bretoni, the new Pope Urban VI finally assigns what remains of the city to the lord of Rimini Galeotto I Malatesta, in the Vicariate: the lordship of the Malatesta begins for Cesena, what will be the moment of greatest splendor in the history of Cesena. In 1385 Andrea Malatesta, who smoothes the slopes of Colle Garampo and gets the so-called Piazza Inferiore (nowadays the Popolo), takes place in Galeotto (where work has begun on the new fortress and the new cathedral).. It is then the turn of Charles and, in 1429, of Domenico Malatesta Novello. Passionate bibliophile, late patron, forced to give up early military life (the first source of wealth for the family), gives the city the splendid Malatesta Library.

At the death of Novello (1465), Cesena returns under papal rule, but already in 1500 the Romagna knows a new master: it is Cesare Borgia, called ” the Valentine ” (celebrated by Niccolò Machiavelli in his Il Principe) which constitutes a small but powerful duchy. The city, elevated to the rank of capital (Ravenna in fact is a Venetian possession), is visited by Leonardo da Vinci who makes reliefs to the fortress and provides the project for the port of Cesenatico. Once the ephemeral duchy has fallen, Cesena definitively returns to the Church and to a local dimension dominated economically by agriculture.

Architecture, urban planning, sculpture
After the terrible Sacco dei Bretoni winter of 1377, Cesena underwent under the Malatesta government a moment of great political, economic and cultural flowering, especially under the rule of Malatesta Novello. Starting from 1447 there is a sort of renovatio urbis and significant urban interventions are initiated such as the erection of defensive works but also that of monumental buildings such as the Hospital of the Santissimo Crocifisso and the Church of Santa Caterina, or the Church and the Convent of the Observance, today disappeared or visibly transformed. Instead, surely, the most important evidence of civil architecture, still preserved, is the Malatestiana Library (one of the best in Italy, according to the famous humanist Flavio Biondo) obtained inside the Franciscan friars’ monastery.

Malatestiana Library
Substantially, the Malatesta Library, an extraordinary work similar to the Malatesta Temple in Rimini, remained intact. As for the latter, also for Cesena the influence of the teaching of Leon Battista Alberti has been identified, which can be understood in the harmony of the proportions of the hall. At the same time, the quality of light can evoke the masterpieces of Piero della Francesca, whose presence in the city has been repeatedly hypothesized. The author is however Matteo Nuti da Fano, mentioned in the inscription of 1452, at whose side they workedCristoforo from San Giovanni in Persiceto, who signs the beautiful gateway (15 August 1454), and the sculptor Agostino di Duccio.

At the Library there is a bas-relief depicting St. George killing the dragon, flanked by two coats of arms and an inscription in Gothic characters that recalls the capture of Porta Vercellina in Milan by Andrea Malatesta. Variously attributed works (to Ottaviano di Duccio, to Jacopo della Quercia, to Nanni di Bartolo and, more recently, to a Venetian sculptor), was part of the complex of sculptures that originally adorned the southern façade of the Tower of the destroyed Castle of San Giorgio not far from the city, another important testimony of artistic fervor in the early fifteenth century.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
The church between 1443 and 1456 was equipped with a bell tower designed by the master Maso di Pietro della Val Lugano and by the will of Bishop Antonio Malatesta da Fossombrone; the latter was a central figure in the development of the cathedral and its current general appearance is due to its accommodation.

At his death, the Florentine sculptor Ottaviano di Antonio di Duccio sculpted his burial arch and started a prosperous period for the art of the church, which saw famous sculptors such as the Venetian brothers Lorenzo and Giovanni Battista Bregno who, from 1494 to 1505, under the arch, softened by the friezes of the columns, sculpted a valuable Renaissance work: the Altar of Corpus Domini, depicting the Christ, St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, theArchangel Gabriel, the archdeacon Carlo Verardi (the commissioner of the work) and his nephew Camillo (a papal knight).

At the turn of the 1400s and 1500s, the upper part of the façade was completed, designed by Mario Codussi. At the end of the 16th century bishop Gualandini revised the overall structure of the Cathedral and dedicated the small painting by Bartolomeo Ramenghi known as the Bagnacavallo to the Madonna del Popolo.

Source from Wikipedia