2: Ferrara II – The Devolution

… the City, which was previously the right eye of Lombardy, & the epitome of all the beauties, & delights of Italy, sits deformed, & wasted.
… la Città, ch’era lor prima l’occhio destro della Lombardia, & il compendio di tutte le bellezze, & delitie dell’Italia, a rimaner disformata, & guasta.
Agostino Faustini, Aggiunta, III, 133


The cultivation of music at the Ferrarese court during the last years of Alfonso II’s reign reflected the withdrawal of the duke and his court from increasingly menacing realities, such as the famine of 1591-92 and the ever-heavier burden of popular taxation necessary to support the brilliant life of the court. Alfonso II had suffered two major blows to his pride: his failure to win the elective crown of Poland in 1574 and his failure to achieve equal rank with the ruler of Tuscany, promoted to Grand Duke by the pope in 1576. Above all, there was the dilemma of the Este succession. The Estensi held Ferrara and Comacchio as fiefs of the papacy passing in the legitimate male line. Despite three marriages, Alfonso had failed to produce an heir (his private physician believed that the duke was genetically sterile). Alfonso’s nearest kinsman, Don Cesare, was of illegitimate descent (not himself illegitimate, as is often stated) and therefore unacceptable to the papacy. Nonetheless, from 1590 Alfonso attempted without success to have the pope accept Cesare as heir to Ferrara. The accession of Clement VIII Aldobrandini in 1592, after a series of short-lived papacies, revived the duke’s hopes, but the new pope repeatedly refused his embassies. Although Cesare could be invested by the Emperor with the fiefs of Modena, Reggio, and Carpi (Alfonso paid 300,000 scudi to secure their reversion), the pope still denied him the succession to Ferrara and Comacchio.

“[O]ld, without offspring, & unfortunate” (“vecchio, senza prole, & poco fortunato”), Alfonso tried to curb the growing popularity of Cesare, “the rising sun” (“il sol nascente”: Faustini 1646, II, 94). Perhaps impelled by supernatural warnings—noises from the tomb of the Blessed Beatrice d’Este in the Chiesa delle Monache di Sant’Antonio, which traditionally heralded family disasters—Alfonso had written and sealed his will in 1595. In October of 1597 he was taken ill; on his deathbed in the Castello Estense he ordered the document opened and read. In defiance of the pope and cardinals he had named Don Cesare heir to the entire duchy. He died the next afternoon, 27 October.

The events of the following months as narrated by Ferrarese and Roman historians are a confusion of rival claims, military expeditions, extravagant public ceremonies and private vendettas, all culminating in the defeat of Don Cesare[1]. His accession on 29 October, with the reluctant blessing of the bishop of Ferrara, was initially hailed by the Ferrarese without a concerted opposition by the papacy. But the forceful intervention of Clement VIII’s cardinal-nephew, Pietro Aldobrandini (1571-1621), provided a program of retaliation based on the excommunication of Cesare, a propaganda campaign to inculcate the benefits of papal rule, and the raising of an army to counter Cesare’s forces. The ambitious Pietro’s plan was to carve out a principality for himself as Paul III had done for the Farnese in Parma and Piacenza, either by marrying Alfonso’s widow Margherita Gonzaga (although a cardinal, Pietro was only in minor orders, conferred in October 1592, and therefore not vowed to celibacy) or by being named perpetual papal vicar of Ferrara. The pope promulgated Cesare’s excommunication on 23 December and the bull was smuggled into Ferrara and read aloud in the cathedral on 31 December[2]. The publication of the bull threw the city into a panic in which the sack of the town by Cesare’s mercenaries was narrowly averted.

Armed with the excommunication, Cardinal Pietro set out from Rome for Ferrara at the head of some thirty thousand troops. On 9 January 1598 Cesare abdicated, and on 12 January the situation was resolved in favor of the papacy by the signing at Faenza of the Convenzione Faentina, negotiated by Alfonso II’s sister, the embittered Duchess of Urbino, who returned to Ferrara on 15 January. Making the best of a bad situation, Cesare secretly shipped the finest furnishings of the Castello to Modena (there was plenty left for Rome to steal) and on 28 January he rode out of Ferrara and Ferrarese history through a dumbstruck crowd: “the trumpets of the Standard-bearers, and the drums, and the foot-soldiers, and the tongues of the bystanders were silent” “and while the carriage drove on he went on reading a letter, on which he always kept his eyes fixed; nor did he ever look anyone in the face.”[3]

Cardinal Pietro arrived to take possession of the city on the following day, Carnival Thursday, as papal legate a latere. He entered in the late afternoon on a chinea armellina, a dappled white horse, under a white silk baldacchino carried by eight of the twenty-some young noblemen appointed to attend him. He was followed by the city authorities, the Giudice dei Savi and the other Savi.

The Cardinal’s entry had elements of the comic. His imposing retinue of five thousand men and a thousand horse, “more for convenience than for need,”[4] did not blind the Ferrarese to the fact that “[h]e was a young man of about twenty-seven, short of stature, his face ruined by smallpox, very reddish, with little beard, & that fiery in color” (fig. 2.1).[5] He also suffered from asthma. At his entry he was greeted by a triumphal arch, dedicated to Glory, “raised, but not all finished, for the shortness of time and because it had rained on almost all of these days.” For the same reason the second and third arches, dedicated to Eternity and Felicity, were also incomplete. As the cardinal passed the first arch, “there were heard various musical instruments and voices exalting his praises, as also happened in his passing the other two Arches made to honor him.”[6]

From the outset Cardinal Pietro me no secret of his aims. In a letter to Rome, 9 February 1598, he described diverting the populace of Ferrara by pandering to their traditional taste for masking and giving them the illusion of sharing power:

The people would like their own part in the government and they are doubtful of being overborne by the nobility, and they deserve something, because it is they who sustain the side of the Apostolic See more than the others. They were most afflicted, but I had a mascherone stuck up outside, and thus they happily did their maskings. It seems to me that they have forgotten Cesare d’Este, and one might say ‘their memory is perished with its sound.’ This as far as the Populace is concerned, but as for the nobility it is undeniable that part of them remember them [the Estensi], but with the benefits [of papal rule] this will be worn down.[7]

While the citizens—somewhat reassured by the cardinal’s dismissal of many of his forces, “the greater part [of them] the dregs of the Roman stables” (“la maggior parte auanzume delle stalle di Roma,” Faustini 1646, IV, 147)—gave themselves over to the pleasures of Carnival (encouraged by the cardinal), Pietro began to court popularity by lightening taxes of the former regime on grain, fodder, wine, fresh-water and sea fish, salt, bread, and workers. On Sunday, 8 February (Lent I) Cardinal Pietro heard mass in the cathedral and witnessed the oath of allegiance taken by the Giudice and the Savi. The funeral of Lucrezia d’Este, who had died unexpectedly on 13 February, was celebrated in the cathedral with splendid decorations commissioned by Pietro. As a final gesture of contempt for her family Lucrezia had left the cardinal not only 128,000 scudi in cash but also her picture collection and the chief Estense pleasure-palace, the Belvedere.[8]

In Rome Clement VIII granted a jubilee absolving Ferrara from its excommunication. On Sunday 12 April he consecrated a Host at a low mass sung, exceptionally, by the Cappella Giulia rather than by the papal chapel. The Sacrament was placed in a tabernacle carried by a chinea and set out for Ferrara, accompanied by a Compagnia del Santissimo Sacramento of over two hundred. On Monday, having withdrawn 150,000 scudi from his cash reserves in Castel Sant’Angelo to finance the trip, the pope followed with a retinue of cardinals, clerics, soldiers, and servants numbering about fifteen hundred (Annibaldi 20112, 24; Mitchell 1990).

The activities of the Cappella Pontificia for the months April-December of 1598 are recorded in the diary of the ceremoniere Giovan Paolo Mucante, which lists the members of the Compagnia del Santissimo Sacramento, including nineteen singers of the Cappella Pontificia (Annibaldi 20112, 98). The Compagnia traveled with its own staff and furnishings, moving a day in advance of the pope.[9] At each day’s halt the Sacrament was installed with prayers and music by the Cappella. For example, on 21 April, stopping at the shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, the Cappella sang the litanies of the Virgin composed by the maestro di cappella, G. M. Nanino.

The Sacrament arrived in Ferrara on Thursday, 7 May, the feast of San Maurelio, the patron saint of the city (a touch presumably not lost on the Ferrarese). Clement VIII entered the city the next day. His procession began with eighty-five mules, each draped in red with the papal arms, followed by troops of soldiers. The baggage of the twenty-seven cardinals present preceded the prelates’ mace-bearers; four papal traveling-cases (valigie pontificali) were accompanied by twelve white horses, two litters, and a sedia gestatoria (portable throne) of crimson velvet. There followed six mounted trumpeters, the households of the cardinals, and various ecclesiastical dignitaries, nobles, and ambassadors. Six more mounted trumpeters announced priests and bishops and officials of the papal household. The Sacrament was preceded by two clerics with lanterns and was borne under a white silk canopy; there followed its guardian Sacristan and the cardinals on muleback. A papal groom carried a silver basin on which reposed the keys to the city, followed by thirty pages in cloth of silver and black velvet. The pope, vested pontifically with the triple crown, was carried on his sedia by eight citizens under a canopy of red and gold. He was surrounded by guards and followed by forty prelates on mules (fig. 2.2: Entry of Clement VIII).[10]

Like Cardinal Pietro, Clement was greeted by three triumphal arches as he processed through streets thick with crowds and decorated with precious cloths, tapestries, leather hangings, and paintings. One arch depicted the Po with a dry water-jug, a symbolic suggestion that the new administration attend to Ferrara’s ongoing hydraulic problems. The second arch was decorated with trophies of greenery, and a third depicted Peace. Other decorations included three smaller arches and a replica of Trajan’s column with statues of Peter and Paul. When the procession reached the duomo the Cappella Pontificia intoned the Te Deum, to whose sound the pope proceeded to the high altar.

Whatever the feelings of the fifteen-year-old Frescobaldi about the annexation of his native city by the papacy, he must have relished the pomp and noise of the Sovereign Pontiff’’s entry: “For his coming the City was in great celebration, & jubilations of fires, of noise, of drums, sounds of trumpets & bells, which deafened the heavens.”[11] Ferrara had never fallen to a pope in battle, but Clement VIII and his astute nephew had finally redeemed the great oath of Julius II, “Ferrara, Ferrara, by the Body of God, I will have you!” (“Ferrara, Ferrara, corpo di Dio, ti avrò”).

On its arrival in Ferrara the Cappella Pontificia resumed its daily Roman routine and preserved the impronta romana throughout its sojourn. After the Te Deum at Clement VIII’s arrival in the cathedral, Mucante’s diary mentions a few more musical events: on 14 May a Te Deum for the peace of Vervins (2 May) between France and Spain, with a procession “for the happy news of the conclusion of peace” (“pro felici nuntio de pace conclusa”); and a festal mass for Corpus Domini (21 May).

Music formed part of the daily routine of Clement VIII. In the dedication of his 1612 Canoni vari to Giulio Caccini, Antonio Brunelli (1577-1630) declared: “the same Clement VIII treasured you [Caccini] for several months in Ferrara, willingly refreshing himself with your singing every day in the hours of his rest.”[12] On 15 July 1598 the pope celebrated mass at S. Vito (Fabris 1997, #6), where the “angelic music” of the nuns had the power to draw “copious tears from the eyes of the Supreme pontiff Clement VIII, for tenderness.”[13] During a visit to Belriguardo on the evening of 19 August, returning from a walk the pope “went directly to his little chapel and, when the litanies were finished, the singers of his chapel sang a motet and this is customarily done every evening and every morning at mass.”[14] On 26 September the pope visited Comacchio, where his Cappella sang a Te Deum in the cathedral.

The reconquest of Ferrara was commemorated musically in a mass dedicated to the pope by the maestro of the Lateran, Curzio Mancini (1550/53-after 1611): “Mass of Pope Clement VIII With Six Voices [for] Ferrara restored into the power of Holy Mother Church” (“Missa Papa Clemens VIII Cum Sex Vocibus Ferraria in potestatem S. M. E. redacta”). The six stars of the Aldobrandini arms were translated into a canon on Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La: “Canon or Manner of singing the said mass” ([miniature of Clement VIII] “Canon seu Modus canendi dictam missam”: Annibaldi 20112, facing p. 1: fig. 2.3).

On 8 May the Imperial envoy arrived in Ferrara, and a week later the ambassador of Lucca made his entry. On 30 May four Venetian ambassadors appeared with two hundred carriages, and on June 5 Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, entered with four hundred horse and two hundred carriages (NARRATIONE / DELLA SOLENISSIMA / ENTRATA IN FERRARA / DEL SERENISSIMO / DVCA DI MANTOA / Rome, Bo[n]fadino, 1598: facsimile in Mitchell 1990).[15] On 29 June Ranuccio Farnese, Duke of Parma—a somewhat nouveau sovereign—arrived with an entourage that included 760 staffieri and pages, the San Marco composer and organist Claudio Merulo, and eight trumpeters (LA REALE/ENTRATA/Del Serenissimo/ DVCA DI PARMA, /ET PIACENZA, &C./IN FERRARA / Ferrara: Baldini, n.d.: facsimile in Mitchell 1990). The papal feast of Peter and Paul fell on the same day. Representing the King of Spain, the Duke of Sessa (Antonio Fernández de Cordoba y Folch de Cardona, 1550-1606), Spanish ambassador to Rome, presented the pope with the traditional white horse (chinea) and a purse of gold in homage for the kingdom of Naples. On 13 October a requiem mass for Philip II, who had died on 13 September, was celebrated “with special feeling by the Pope, & with extraordinary splendor in the Cathedral of this City …”[16] On 10 November the pope welcomed Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici on his return from France.

The most important event of the pope’s visit was his celebration on Sunday 15 November of a double wedding: Philip III of Spain was united by proxy with the fourteen-year-old Archduchess Margherita of Austria (1584-1611) and her cousin the Archduke Albert (1559-1621), a younger brother of the emperor Rudolph II, married Philip’s sister, the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633). The ceremony had originally been planned for Cremona, without the pope’s participation: only on 10 Aug. 1598 did Cardinal Pietro inform the Duke of Sessa that the pope was disposed to celebrate the marriage personally. Archduke Albert was to stand proxy for Philip III and Sessa substituted for the Infanta (for descriptions of the two see Guido Bentivoglio 1629 [Relazioni], 115-16, 118-19).

The visit of Clement VIII and the papal celebration of the double royal wedding have been seen as a continuation of the splendors of Estense Ferrara. Although the pope ordered his royal guests to be sumptuously lodged in the former ducal palace, as late as October his nephew Giovan Francesco Aldobrandini, Capitano Generale dell’armi di Santa Chiesa, wrote his wife: “As to celebrations for the moment nothing is yet being prepared in order to spare people excessive expenses, and I see that […] nothing more can be done than some fine banquets, and some dances because there will not be time…”[17] A pall had been cast over the wedding celebrations from the outset. Owing to to the recent death of Philip II, the Habsburg party entered Ferrara dressed in mourning, and the Ferrarese feared that their Transalpine visitors might carry the plague.

Two principal accounts of the wedding festivities were published: Faustini 1646 and the RELATIONE / Dell’entrata solenne fatta in Ferrara à dì / 13. di Nouembre 1598. / PER LA SERENIS. D. MARGARITA D’AVSTRIA (Rome: Nicolò Mutij. M.D.XCVIII.) by Giovanni Paolo Mocante [sic], the ceremonarius traveling with the Cappella Pontificia (Mitchell 1990: unpaginated, supplemented in Annibaldi 20112 by Mucante’s 1598 Latin diary. Where the sources diverge, I have preferred Mucante as being closer in time to the events.)

The somber wedding party entered in procession on 13 November and was welcomed by a papal consistory in one of the two great rooms of the Castello Estense. The pope seems to have felt the need of embellishing the customary ecclesiastical rite of obedience, in which each cardinal offered three ceremonial kisses to the pope, foot, knee, and mouth:

… because this had to be a Consistory unlike the other ordinary ones, His Holiness willed that there be also something extraordinary, to wit a platform for the musicians, so that, while the homage was rendered, & at the arrival & departure of the Queen, one should hear some sweet harmony: & the said platform for the singers and Musicians of His Holiness was fitted above the great door of the said Great Hall.[18]

During the obedience, “they sweetly sang several motets” (“suaviter plura motecta cantaverunt”). At the Queen’s exit “they again began sweetly to sing certain motets in which they often repeated the name of the Queen, and the singing lasted while the Queen left the said hall.”[19]

On Saturday, November 14, having heard her customary two daily masses, one for the living and one for the dead, the Queen and the other royalties dined with the pope.

For the wedding on November 15 the cathedral of Ferrara, following the uncompromising Romanism of the papal court, had been transformed into “that same form as it is arranged at Rome in the basilica of St. Peter” (Mucante: “ea forma ut Romæ disponitur in basilica Sancti Petri”). The nave was covered with a platform (tavolato) ascended by nine steps with a freestanding altar erected in the center and behind it the papal throne in front of the permanent high altar. Behind the temporary altar on the tavolato were erected two palchetti (boxes). One on the right of the altar opposite the organ accommodated the Queen and her mother; a palchetto on the opposite side under the organ was provided for the archduke. In the crossing, at the same level as the presbytery, after the stools of the cardinal priests was erected “a large and capacious palco adorned with rich cloths for the singers of the pope,” who were directed by G. M. Nanino (fig. 2.4: print in Cavicchi 1983 showing a balcony with singers and loud instruments).

For the ceremony the Queen put aside her mourning for a richly embroidered dress of cloth of silver “adorned with many jewels,” and her suite changed into gala livery (fig. 2.5).[20] Clement VIII celebrated a votive mass of the Holy Ghost, “which was solemnly sung by the musicians of the Pope” (“che da i musici del Pontefice fù solennemente cantata” [Faustini 1646, IV, 179]). The service followed the form of a solemn papal mass, with the lections chanted in both Greek and Latin. The royal weddings took place after the Creed and the Offertory. “Then [after the first wedding] the Pope sitting without the miter but with the zuchetto read psalm 127 that is Blessed are all those who fear the Lord &c., which the singers sang in music” (perhaps the Palestrina setting à 12) (“Dipoi il Papa sedendo senza mitra, ma col berettino lesse il salmo 127. cioè Beati omnes qui timent dominum, &c., quale i cantori cantorno in musica”). Before the concluding benediction the Golden Rose, which the pope had blessed on Laetare Sunday the previous Lent, was bestowed on the Queen.

Festivities followed: Mucante, Relatione:

I shall not linger now to tell of the celebrations, & dances that were done the same evening [15 November] in the aforementioned hall where the public Consistory was held, in which there appeared more than a hundred Ferrarese gentlewomen almost all dressed alike, masked with caps, and white plumes, who then danced almost until midnight, nor the other celebrations … of the maskings, which were seen for three continuous days on the corso, of some games with boats performed in the moat of the castle by women of Comacchio dressed in liveries of various colors, who danced, & ran boat races [16 November]. Of the play of Judith, & Holofernes [17 November], which was recited by the students of the Jesuit Fathers in a hall of the Castle …[21]

All the entertainments for the adolescent queen were presented by women or beardless boys at most:

[Monday 16 November] the Pope desired, that certain Women from Comacchio compete in rowing in certain boats, that he had had prepared in the moat of the Castello, which they did, playing timbrels, in his presence, & that of the Queen, to whom was then recited the Story of Judith, & Holofernes, done into Latin verses, by the scholars of the Jesuit Fathers.[22]

The Queen combined devotion and musical entertainment:

Relazione: … and Monday morning the 16th of the present [November] she went to visit a most devout Church called Santa Maria in Vado, where she heard a mass of the dead, & and saw the relic of a famous, & outstanding miracle of the blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ… Then Her Majesty went to the monastery of the Nuns of S. Vito, where she heard another Mass for the living, that is the one of the current feria, & she entered into the monastery, where she heard a beautiful music of voices, & various instruments, which those Nuns perform with wonderful art, & great delight of the listeners, and then she went to visit another monastery of the Nuns of Corpus Christi, where are buried all the Dukes, & Princes of the House of Este; & there also she heard a most fine concert of music, but especially one of those nuns, who was formerly the Lady in Waiting of the recently deceased Duchess of Urbino, who with such harmony, & sweetness of voice sang with the organ, that one could not hear anything of the sort of greater delight.[23]

Faustini’s account of the visit to S. Vito (misdated to November 15):

… where those Nuns made them hear the beautiful ensemble of instruments, & voices so praised by Artusi. The Queen, the Archduchess, and the Archduke had the greatest satisfaction in hearing them sing, & play, & she [the Queen] dealt most familiarly with them all, & although some said, that she invited Madre Suor Raffaella the Organist to go to Spain with her, but it wasn’t true…[24]

Later the same day Luzzaschi and Fiorino accompanied the two remaining members of the concerto delle dame, Livia d’Arco and Laura Peverara, who performed for the Queen despite the recent brutal murder of the third member, Anna Guarini, by order of her husband, Count Trotti.[25] On 18 November the Queen departed.

Certainly the minimal festivities for the royal weddings could not compare even with the celebrations for the marriage of Gesualdo with Don Cesare d’Este’s sister in 1594. Despite this, Ferrara “became for several months the primary Italian political setting, the site of visits and meetings of Italian and European princes” (“divenne per alcuni mesi il primo scenario politico italiano, luogo di visite e incontri di principi italiani e europei”: Visceglia 2010, 97 and notes). The presence of more than twenty cardinals with their entourages and the state visits of the ambassadors of the Empire, Lucca, and Venice, and the dukes of Mantua and Parma, culminating in the royal entry, provided seven months of pageantry for the Ferrarese populace.

On 26 November the pope set out on his return to Rome, where he arrived on 20 December. Cardinal Pietro escorted the new Queen of Spain to Milan and then followed his uncle southward.[26] Owing to the failure of Pietro’s plan to found an independent dynasty in Ferrara, a project vetoed by the college of cardinals, on December 12 he was ordained to the priesthood—and thus vowed to celibacy—by his uncle at Loreto.

The musicians Rinaldo Trematerra/Buonagrazia “dall’Arpa” (who made off with a harp from the Este collection) and the Piccinini brothers (at a total of seven hundred scudi a year) followed Cardinal Pietro to Rome. In 1600 Pietro sent the lutenists to the Arciconfraternita della Trinità dei convalescenti e dei pellegrini to play during Lenten services, at which the melomane Cardinal Montalto provided “bellissima Musica”: “there participate three brothers from Ferrara who reside with Cardinal Aldobrandino, who play the lute most excellently, and he has promised to send them three times a week” (10 March 1600).[27]

After the departure of the papal court, the life of Ferrara seemed to continue as before, and the Ferrarese celebrated Carnival of 1599 with the customary jousts, comedies, maskings, and music. But the final destruction of the civilization of Renaissance Ferrara by the imposition of the Roman Counter-Reformation had already begun. The aim of the papacy was not to establish a continuity with Estense culture, “but openly to take its place and to erase even the memory of it” (Annibaldi). As early as the arrival of Cardinal Pietro the papal government had decided to build a fortress in the western part of the city, not so much for the defense of the new papal state as for impressing its power on the Ferrarese. This project involved the destruction of one of the most beautiful sections of Ferrara, the Belvedere, the island-palace which was the loveliest of Alfonso’s delizie (and incidentally also involved the demolition of a house belonging to Luzzaschi).[28] As well as replacing the Belvedere by a fortress, the papal program of eradicating the achievements of the Estensi and obliterating their memory included the ongoing sack of the city’s artistic treasures into Roman hands, the absorption of Este musicians into Roman service, and the proliferation of Roman-style religious houses for “the transplant of austere Roman devotional practices into what until six months earlier had been the capital of a secular court among the most brilliant and worldly in Italy.”[29]

The papal repression was such that the piazza of Ferrara “had become a slaughter-house full of blood.”[30] Fifty Ferrarese women had been living as concubines with members of the papal court who took them along to Bologna on leaving Ferrara: “when this was reported to His Holiness they were all imprisoned, whipped, and branded, and among them one who had left four children was hanged together with her paramour.”[31]

In reordering the Ferrarese government, the papal Bolla Centumvirale curbed the power of the Ferrarese nobility by setting up a puppet senate, reconstituting the government as a Consiglio centumvirale, a council of one hundred consisting of twenty-seven nobles nominated by the pope, fifty-five borghesi, and eighteen representatives chosen from the most prestigious guilds or arti. A Magistrato decemvirale, a group of ten magistrates, was formed of seven representatives from the second order and one from the third, presided over by a Giudice de’ Savi from the first order.[32] This whole organisation was subject to the papal legate.

Many members of Alfonso II’s establishment had fled to Modena with Don Cesare d’Este (including Roberto Obizzi, whom we will meet later), but the artistic patrimony of Ferrara was not safe even there: as late as 1608 Scipione Borghese, the cardinal-nephew of the new pope Paul V, was negotiating with Don Cesare through Enzo Bentivoglio for items from the Este collections. The cordial relations that Enzo maintained with the papacy contributed both to his nomination as Ferrarese ambassador to Rome and to his brother Guido’s appointment as nuncio to Flanders.

Despite some recent attempts at rehabilitation, the papal government of Ferrara has generally been regarded as a disaster: “… eighteen years [1597-1615] of ruin, repression and plain stupidity” (Southorn 1988, 113). The chronicler Cesare Ubaldini judged that “The government of Legates has no other aim than to leave this city as they found it, or a little less, when they depart, and so deteriorating in the hands of each it inevitably follows that it loses its beauty, and lies miserable, as all the other cities of the States of the Church.”[33] The reign of the papacy is still commemorated in Ferrara with a savagery rare even in the former papal states.

The decline of Ferrara epitomizes the general decline of the smaller Italian courts as centers of cultural influence, a waning reflected in their artistic production. The musical publications of the 1580s and 1590s, including the important ones issued in Ferrara, represented above all the courtly and Renaissance art of the madrigal. The Italian prints around the turn of the century, however, pointed in new directions: the keyboard experiments of the Neapolitans Trabaci and Mayone, the small sacred concerti of Viadana, the monodies and dramatic works of the Florentine composers Peri, Caccini, and Cavalieri. These all demonstrate the concentration of effective musical patronage in the larger courts: Venice, Florence, Naples, and above all Rome. Clearly, Ferrara was no longer in the mainstream of musical activity, and both its past connections with Roman musical life and the new political orientation of the city impelled Ferrarese musicians toward Rome rather than Venice.

Luzzasco remained in Ferrara, paid a monthly companatico salary of sc. 3 June-November by Cardinal Pietro. At the end of 1598 he dedicated to the cardinal a collection of Sacræ cantiones (Venice: Gardano, dated 1 November 1598: Durante 2007) and attempted unsuccessfully to interest the Duke of Mantua in a publication of madrigals. In late March of 1601 Cardinal Pietro passed through Ferrara on return from his legation to France and took Luzzaschi with him to Rome.[34] After a two months’ stay in Rome, on 1 June 1601 Luzzaschi received 100 scudi from the cardinal’s accounts “for so much given to Lugnasco Lugnaschi Musician and player, to return to Ferrara” (“per tanti dati al Lugnasco Lugnaschi Musico et sonatore, per ritornarsi a Ferrara”).[35] In October Luzzaschi’s virtuoso accompanied madrigals, originally written for the concerto delle dame principalissime, were published in Rome, beautifully engraved on copper by Simone Verovio and dedicated to the cardinal (dated from Ferrara, October 1601).

The course of Ferrarese music in the years 1580-1600 laid down the outlines of Frescobaldi’s future career. Until 1628 he worked in the categories cultivated by his Ferrarese teacher and contemporaries: keyboard compositions in both strict and free styles, the instrumental canzona, the polyphonic madrigal, and sacred and secular concertos for voices and continuo. He never attempted opera or oratorio, and it was only after his arrival in Florence in 1628 that he experimented extensively with affective monody.

The devolution of Ferrara to the papacy and the resultant absorption of its musical and artistic culture into the Roman sphere was the turning point in the life of more than one participant. For Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini it meant the foundation of his fortune and influence, commemorated in the inscription on his villa at Frascati (significantly called Villa Belvedere).[36] The devolution opened to Enzo Bentivoglio the great society of Rome, with its possible resources both for his financial enterprises and for his talents as an artistic arbiter and impresario of public spectacles. By bringing Guido Bentivoglio, who went to take up his post as cameriere segreto in the papal household in December of 1599, to the notice of the pope and his nephew the devolution started him on a career as courtier, diplomat, and historian that was cut off just short of the papacy. The devolution impelled Frescobaldi from the backwater of Ferrarese musical life into the main stream of Roman activity in the wake of his Ferrarese patrons. The strands that intertwine in Girolamo’s Roman career—his study with Luzzaschi, his service with both Bentivoglio, his succession to Ercole Pasquini at St. Peter’s, his years in the service of Cardinal Aldobrandini—can all be traced back to the period of Ferrara’s final flowering and its Roman subjection. For all four men, the city’s final gifts came as a legacy.


[1] The account of the devolution of Ferrara is based mainly on Faustini 1646, III-IV, Guarini 1598, I, 310-50, Bentivoglio 1807, Pastor 1886, and Durante 1998, I, 9-47. See also Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea Ms. Classe 1, 26: Scalabrini, Metropolitana di Ferrara, 1766; Gasparini 1959; and Chiappini 1967.
[2] Annibaldi 20112, 61, n. 1 on the various papal pronouncements, in descending order of solemnity: a Bolla begins with the name of the pope, “Episcopus servus servorum Dei,” its promulgation implies the consent of the consistory of cardinals. A Breve begins “Ad perpetuam rei memoriam” and closes “sub annulo Piscatoris” (“under the ring of the Fisherman”). A Motuproprio begins “Motu proprio,” with the signature of the pope at the end in ink [calce].
[3] Narratione della partenza del Sereniss. Sig. D. Cesare da Este, Mitchell 1990: “le trombe delle Cornette, & di tamburi, di pedoni, & le lingue de’ circonstanti erano muti.” Guarini 1598, 347: “… e mentre la caroza caminaua egli andaua legendo una lettera, nella quale sempre tene gli occhi fissi; ne mai guardò niuno in faccia.” The situation was complicated by the fact that Cesare retained possessions in Ferrara, notably the Palazzo de’ Diamanti and its contents.
[4] “… più per convenienza che per bisogno…”: Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini to Clement VIII, Durante 1998, I, 10; Pietro’s suite included one musician, Ruggero Giovannelli, who dedicated his Madrigali III/5 (Ferrara, 1598) to the cardinal.
[5] Faustini 1646, IV, 145: “Era egli giouine di vintisette anni in circa, piccolo di statura, il volto guasto dalle vaiuola, rubicondo assai, con poca barba, & questa color di fuoco.”
[6] Faustini 1646, IV 145: “… vidde vn arco Trionfale alzato, mà non tutto finito, per la breuità del tempo, & perch’era quasi sempre in questi giorni piouuto”; Faustini IV, 146: “per la già detta cagione non finiti.” Narratione: “entrati sopra il primo Arco trionfale, furono sentiti vari musici instrumenti, & voci esaltar le lodi sue, come anco auenne nel paßar gli altri dui Archi fatti per honorarlo.”
[7] “Il popolo vorrebbe la parte sua nel governo e dubita non essere soprafatta dalla nobiltà, et merita qualche cosa, perché è quello che tiene la parte della Sede Apostolica più dall’altri. Era afflittissimo, ma ho fatto cacciar fuori un mascherone,* e così sono fatte le maschere allegramente. Mi pare si sia scordato di Cesare d’Este, e si possi dire ‘periit memoria eorum cum sonitu.’ In quanto al Popolo, ma quanto alla nobiltà non si può negare che ci sia qualche parte che si ricordi di loro, però con i beneficj si anderà allettando” (Durante 1998, 10-11). *mascherone: literally, “big mask”: Durante 1998, 11, n. 7: on the visit of Carlo Borromeo to Ferrara in 1580: “but when the arrival of the Cardinal was understood they removed from the piazza the Mascherone, or statue, that was publicly exposed as a sign of the licence that they were allowed to take during the Carnival celebrations…” (“ma intesa la venuta del Card. fece levare di piazza il Mascherone, o vero statua, che stava esposto in publico, per segno della licenza, che si dava d’essercitare le feste Carnavalesche…”).
[8] Durante 1998, I, 11, n. 8, cites a more sympathetic view of Lucrezia: Gisella Castagnari, Alcuni nuovi studi su Lucrezia d’Este Duchessa d’Urbino (Florence: Carnesecchi, 1905).
[9] Annibaldi 20112: 97, 265-68: Diario of ceremoniere Giovan Paolo Mucante April-Dec. 1598 (Diarii Sistini 33) 98: the papal singers brought to Ferrara: five sopranos: F. Soto, J. Santos, D. Vasquez, P. Montoia, Fr. Espinosa; five altos: L., O. Crescenzi, T. Benigni, G. L. Conforti, A. Manni; four tenors: G. M. Nanino, O. Griffi, G. Bianchi, L. Orfei; five basses: Facconi, O. Malvezzi, S. Ugerio, E. Ferruzzi, M. Palontrotti; 266: Soto “rediit’; G. M. Nanino maestro di cappella.
[10] FELICISSIMA/ENTRATA/ di N.S PP. Clemente VIII./nell’Inclita Città di Ferrara./ … Ferrara: Baldini, 1598 (unpaginated), probably by Filippo Rodi, a Ferrarese doctor; facsimile in Mitchell 1990.
[11] Faustini 1646, IV, 168: “Per la venuta di lui la Città fù in grandissime feste, & allegrezze di fuochi, di rumori, di tamburi, suoni di trombe, & di ca[m]pane, ch’assordiuano il Cielo …” The account of Clement VIII’s entry is taken from Bentivoglio 1807, 25-26. For other contemporary accounts and depictions see Cavicchi 1983, which contains a rare engraving of the royal weddings, Faustini 1646, and Mitchell 1990.
[12] “l’istesso Clemente Ottavo la [Caccini] ten[n]e cara alcuni mesi in Ferrara, volentieri ricreandosi del suo ca[n]to ogni giorno nelle hore del suo riposo” (Annibaldi 20112, 84; see further his Chapter 2.3 and notes).
[13] Solerti cxxviii: Compendio istorico on S. Vito Augustiniane, “la cui Angelica melodia hebbe forza di trarre da gli occhi del Sommo Pontefice Clemente VIII copia di lagrime, per tenerezza.”
[14] “… se ne andò diretto nella cappelletta e, finite le litanie, li cantori della sua cappella cantorno u[n] motetto et questo è co[n]sueto ogni sera di farsi et ogni mattina alla messa”: Annibaldi 20112, 112, n. 52.
[15] His suite included Claudio Monteverdi, the indirect occasion of the famous madrigal performance witnessed by Artusi.
[16] Faustini 1646, IV, 174: “con sentimento particolare del Pontefice, & con istraordinaria pompa nel Duomo di questa Città alli tredici d’Ottobre”; Annibaldi 20112, 112.
[17] “Quanto a feste qui per ancora non si prepara cosa alcuna per non mettere la gente in spesa a sproposito, et io vedo che […],non si potrà fare altro che qualche bel banchettto, et qualche ballo per che non ci sarà il tempo ..”: quoted in Annibaldi 19871, 57.
[18] Mucante Relazione in Mitchell 1990: “… & perche questo haueua da essere vn Concistoro non come gli altri ordinarij, volse Sua Santità, che vi fusse anco qualche cosa di estraordinario, cioè vn palco per i musici, accioche, mentre si rendeua l’obedienza, & a venire & partire della Regina si sentisse qualche armonia suaue: & fu accomodato detto palco per li cantori & Musici di S. Santità sopra la porta grande di detto Salone.”
[19] Mucante, Diario, in Annibaldi 20112, 104: “iterum suaviter cantare coeperunt quaedam motecta in quibus nomen Reginae saepe replicabant, et cantus duravit donec Regina ab aula praedicta discessit.” The motet with the queen’s name must have been run up for the occasion.
[20] A portrait of Margherita in wedding dress c. 1605 in Isabella 2011, fig. 57, p. 123; the dress was dotted with the bride’s monogram of M enclosed by P and S. In 1606 the dress was given to the English court on the occasion of the Treaty of London (1604). Annibaldi 20112, 112, n. 56: a plan in Alaleona’s diary shows the palco of the Cappella Sistina and the palchetti of the sposi, but not the cantoria and organ tribune, which are to the right and left of the central nave, near the palchetti of the archduke and archduchess.
[21] Relatione: “Non starò hora à raccontare la festa, & danze, che furono fatte l’istessa sera [Nov. 15] nel salone sopradetto doue fu fatto il Concistoro publico, nel quale comparuero più di cento gentildonne Ferrarese quasi tutte di vn simile habito immascherate con berrette, & pennacchiere bianche, che danzarono poi quasi fino à meza notte, ne meno dell’altre feste … delle mascare, che si sono viste per tre giorni continoui per il corso, di alcuni giochi fatti nelle fosse del castello con barche dalle donne di Commacchio riuestite à liurea di diuersi colori, che ballorno, danzorno, & corsero il palio in barca. Della rappresentatione di Iuditta, & Oloferne, che fu recitata dalli scolari de Padri Gesuiti in vna sala del Castello,…” Of the authorities, only Giovanni Francesco Aldobrandino was present. On Sunday the Queen refused to show herself in a carriage on the Giovecca, having previously communicated. Boat-races in the castle moat were filmed as recently as 1936.
[22] Faustini 1646, IV, 180: “volle il Pontefice, ch’alcune Donne Comacchiesi à gara vuoghassero in certe barchette, ch’hauea fatto preparare nella fossa di Castello, il che fecero, suonando Ce[m]bali, alla presenza di lui, & della Regina, à cui fù poscia recitata l’Historia di Giudith, & d’Oloferne, fatta in versi latini, dalli scolari di Padri Giesuiti.”
[23] Relazione: “… & lunedì mattina alli 16. del presente andò à visitare vna diuotissima Chiesa chiamata Santa Maria in Vado, doue vdì vna messa de morti, & vide la reliquia di vn miracolo celebre, & insigne del sangue di N. S. Iesu Christo… Dopoi andò S. Maestà al monastero delle Monache di S. Vito, doue vdì vn’altra Messa de i viui, cioè quella della feria corrente, & entrò dentro al monastero, doue vdì vna bellissima musica di voci, & varij instromenti, che sonano quelle Monache con arte mirabile, & delettatione grande di chi l’ascolta; & poi ancora andò à visitare vn’altro monastero delle Monache del Corpo di Christo, doue sono sepolti tutti i Duchi, & Prencipi di casa da Este; & iui ancora sentì vn buonissimo concerto di musica, ma specialmente vna di quelle monache, che fù già Damicella della Duchessa di Vrbino vltimamente defonta, la quale con tanta armonia, & suauità di voci cantò sopra all’organo, che non si poteua sentir cosa di maggior delettatione in simil specie ….”
[24] Faustini 1646, IV, 180: “…oue quelle Monache fecero loro udire il bellissimo concerto di strumenti, & di voci, tanto celebrato dall’Artusi. Hebbe la Regina, l’Arciduchessa, insieme con l’Arciduca grandissima soddisfatione ad udirle à cantare, & à suonare, & familiarissimamente trattò ella con tutte, & se bene fu chi disse, ch’ella inuitasse allora ad andare seco in Spagna la Madre Suor Raffaella [Aleotti] Organista, non fu però vero…”
[25] Monday 16 November, ambassador Giglioli to Cesare: “after the said visits rendered to Her Majesty [by Ferraarese ladies] there appeared before her Signora Livia d’Arco and Signora Laura Peverara, who together with Fiorino and Luzzasco sang in her presence for the space of an hour with such pleasure of Her Majesty, as she could not show greater” (“dopo le sudette visite rese alla maestà Sua comparvero innanzi a lei la Signora Livia d’Arco et la Signora Laura Peverara, le quali insieme col Fiorino et col Luzzasco per lo spacio di un hora cantarono alla presenza di lei con tanto gusto della Maestà Sua, sì come ella mostrò che niente di più”: Durante 1979, 93-94).
[26] The splendors of the queen’s entry and reception in Milan on 30 November, including five triumphal arches and a special choreography, throw into relief the niggardly character of the Ferrarese reception (see Cesare Negri, Le gratie d’Amore [1602] and the rich account in Kendrick 2002, 3-9).
[27] Kirkendale 2001: “intervengono tre fratelli ferraresi che stanno con il Sig.r Car.l Aldobrandino, che sonano eccellentissimamente di leuto, et ha promesso di mandarli tre volte la settimana.” In February of 1600 Emilio de’ Cavalieri’s, Rappresentatione di Anima, e di Corpo, ed. Alessandro Guidotti (Rome: Muti, 1600), dedicated to Aldobrandini, was performed in Rome at San Filippo Neri’s church of the Vallicella.
[28] Castel Tedaldo, S. Giovanni Battista, and S. Agata were demolished for the fortress; for a prospect of demolished churches and houses see ChiappiniA 1988, 18.
[29] Annibaldi 20112, 98-99: “… il trapianto di austere pratiche devozionali romane in quella che fino a sei mesi prima era stata la capitale d’una corte laica fra le più brillanti e mondane d’Italia.”
[30] Faustini 1655, V, 14: “… la Piazza era diuenuta una carnificina piena di sangue ….”
[31] “… nel suo partir di Ferrara a Bologna da alcuni della sua corte furono condotte dietro 50 donne ferrarese [!] lor concubine; il che riferito a S. S.tà furono tutte carcerate, frustate et bollate; et tra esse una c’aveva lasciati 4 figliuoli impicata insieme co’l bertone”: Annibaldi 20112, 113, n. 63
[32] ChiappiniA 1988, 10.
[33] Quoted in translation by Southern 1988, 124. Cf. also the engineer G. B. Aleotti (1631): “And it is to be noted that the ruin of the state of Ferrara has never been understood or warned by any sort of expert … whence the State of Ferrara must remain submerged as I have always predicted [from] the bad government of past legates; and the judges and magistrates who have governed the people” (“E da nottare che la ruina dello stato di Ferrara non è mai stata intesa ne avvertita da nissuna sorte di periti … ond’è necessario che lo Stato di Ferrara resti sommerso com’havi sempre pronosticato i mal governi de i legati passati; et de giudici e magistrati che hanno governato il publico”).
[34] Palisca 1963, 353: On 6 April Emilio de’ Cavalieri reported the arrival in Rome of Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini with Luzzaschi; the latter was still there on 25 May (Florence, Archivio di Stato [FAdS], Mediceo del principato, filza 3622, fols. 348r, 280v): unfortunately, Palisca did not give the original Italian texts; Durante 1998, II, 26-30.
[35] Durante 1998, I, 30.
[36] See Annibaldi 2010.