Rimini Renaissance

The Renaissance in Rimini had a short but intense season that coincided with the lordship of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, from 1432 to 1468.

Historical and cultural context
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta was a famous 15th century captain of fortune. Militò in command of the Papal troops, Florentine and in the service of the Serenissima. He was knighted and legitimized in his power by the emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg in 1433. A man of remarkable culture and connoisseur of military art, he distinguished himself among the leaders of the period, succeeding also in enlarging his possessions between the current Romagna and Marche. The fragility of his state, however, was manifest as it was divided in two by the Signoria of Pesaro, true “chimera” for Sigismondo. This awareness always made him very prone to subterfuge with the enemy to avoid staying away from his land for too long and not infrequently, led to the breaking or suspension of the treaty of conduct stipulated.

The huge expenses required to modernize the fortresses set up to defend the territory and above all to increase personal prestige through the creation of public works and a court that would magnify the deeds, led him to always be very inclined to receive rather than to give. But this led to his marginalization by the other Italian powers who saw him as an ambiguous and unreliable character. With the Peace of Lodi his lordship entered a period of crisis, mainly due to the lack of income due to the termination of the contracts of conduct and the poverty of the rural and urban economy. Agriculture was in fact rather backward, while the city trade was in the hands of foreign merchants, mostly Florentines, Venetians and Jews.

With the election of Pope Pius II he had to undergo the confiscation of some territories for the benefit of his eternal rival, Federico da Montefeltro. With the beginning of the war between the Angevins and the Aragonese for the throne of the Kingdom of Naples, a conflict that will affect most of the Italian states, Sigismondo decided to clash with the papacy to resume its territories. Following the brilliant Battle of Nidastore in which he defeated a papal army three times larger than his own, he suffered the reverse of the Angevin fortunes. Before the last battle in the south, Sigismondo found himself against a papal army led by Federico da Montefeltrothat he defeated him near Senigallia during an attempt to retreat at night from his rival. The defeat of his army led to the dissolution of his territories, which were subsequently absorbed by the neighboring states linked to the pope and the papacy itself.

The Renaissance season of Rimini was in many ways similar to that of Urbino by Federico da Montefeltro, depending solely on the initiatives of the lord, who for his ambitious and important projects called artists from other regions of great importance, some of which (Leon Battista Alberti, Piero della Francesca ), were also active in Urbino. The self-congratulatory characters of the Malatesta were, however, more accentuated and, both for the brevity and for the different intellectual stature of its protagonist, the Renaissance in Rimini failed to originate a culture endowed with its own, precise, physiognomy, so much so that at death of Sigismondo the factories remained interrupted and there were no further artistic developments.

Architecture, urban planning, sculpture
The actions of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta on Rimini were not part of a unitary urban project, but were limited to dominate the town, unequivocally signaling the presence of power. To prove this suggestion we can mention the castle of Rimini, a defensive work built near the ancient Gattolo gate and strangely facing the city. The cannoners of the towers were in fact for the most part turned towards the city center. This structure was probably the result of the young experiences of Sigismondo who had to deal with two popular uprisings when he had not yet reached the age of majority. Of Castel Sismondo remains today only part of the central core, with the stripped towers apart from the interior rooms, which still manage to suggest the original grandeur of the manor with six towers over the village.

The Malatesta Temple
The most significant achievement was the arrangement of the ancient church of San Francesco, the ancient burial place of the Malatesta family, who since 1447 was entrusted to the projects of Matteo de ‘Pasti. Sigismondo initially took care of the construction of a funerary chapel inside and it was only in the years immediately following, perhaps at the suggestion of Alberti and following prestigious victories and recognitions, that it was decided to transform the entire sacred building into a funeral monument that celebrated Sigismondo and his family. Inside the large single nave was left intact, adding lateral chapels and classical decorations that were however free from proportional calculations. Protagonist was the rich plastic decoration, which comes to overshadow the architectural structure, such as the pillars at the entrance to each chapel, divided into sectors with allegorical or narrative reliefs. He directed this decoration Agostino di Duccio, Which had developed its own fluid style starting from stiacciato Donatello, favor a bit ‘cold, ” neo-Attic “. The themes are mostly profane and intertwine complex allegories probably decided by Sigismondo himself. He often recurs in his whole monogram within garlands.

The glorification of the client has the culmination in the fresco by Piero della Francesca Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta in prayer before Saint Sigismondo (dated 1451 ), where the religious frame is intertwined with political and dynastic aspects, as in the features of Saint Sigismund which conceal those of emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg, who in 1433 invested Malatesta as a knight and legitimized the dynastic succession, ratifying the seizure of power.

The exterior of the building was designed by Leon Battista Alberti, who thought a marble enclosure that left the pre-existing building intact. The work, unfinished, envisaged a tripartite façade with arches punctuated by Corinthian semi-columns forming niches designed to accommodate the mortal remains of Sigismondo and his ancestors. In fact the tomb arks had to be placed here. The possibility of a collapse of the structure, however, pushed De Pasti to change part of the original project, walling the niches in two blind arches. At the top there was a sketch of a pediment with arch in the center flanked by pilasters. The sides of the temple are marked by a sequence of arches on pillars, intended to accommodate the sarcophagi of the highest dignitaries of the court and beyond. Among these we find in fact the tomb of Giorgio Gemisto Pletone, whose remains were taken by Sigismondo during his crusade in Morea. Flanks and façade are unified by a high plinth that isolates the building from the surrounding space. It is interesting to note how Alberti drew inspiration from classical architecture, but relying on local ideas, such as the Arch of Augustus, whose form has tripled in the façade.

A medal by Matteo de ‘Pasti of 1450 shows the original appearance that the temple should have had, with a large roundabout covered by a hemispherical dome similar to that of the Pantheon. If completed, the nave would then assume a role of simple access to the majestic circular building, and the celebratory function of the building would have been much more evident, also in relation to the city landscape.

Source from Wikipedia