Alberto Scotti

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Albert Scotti  was probably born in Piacenza or in its territory, to Giovanni Scotti and Mabilia Fontana (so Racine, 1981, p. 144, who was able to consult the Scotti Anguissola archive), around the middle of the thirteenth century, perhaps shortly before, being politically active since the early seventies.

The date, not implausible, proposed by the historiographical tradition is 1252. A contemporary chronicle (Guerino) says he was octogenarian in 1313, therefore referring to 1233, but objections have been raised ( ibid ., p. 144 ) .

Scotti and Fontana were among the leading families of the city, often at odds with each other. The Fontanas, of Guelph orientation, were leaders of the aristocratic line. In 1260 the Scotti thwarted Alberto Fontana's attempt to become lord of Piacenza ( Annales Placentini , edited by GH Pertz, 1863: «multa enim bona in expelendo dictum Albertum fecerunt Scoti», p. 513); ambition still cultivated in 1271 when only for political opportunism the Scotti supported the passage of the city of Charles I of Anjou («maior pars sicut sunt Scoti et ceteri mercatores et Paratici affectant dominium regis ut evictent dominium Alberti de Fontana et ceterorum scelus», p 551). The Scotti, with a mercantile tradition, have always been at the forefront of popular politics.

Rinaldo I Scotti was consul of the merchants in 1184 ( The «Registrum magnum»... , edited by E. Falconi - R. Piveri, 1984, 30, p. 52), while Lanfranco was part of the societas populi in 1221. The lineage supported the pro-popular government of Antonio Saviagatta in 1250, while Scotti's uncle, Rinaldo II, was captain of the people in 1260, following the foiled attempt at lordship by Alberto Fontana. The rise of the Scotti to lead the city took its cue from Rinaldo, which took place thanks to the leadership of the popular movement, but which also benefited from the support received from joining the pro-papal and Angevin axis. In 1267, Rinaldo II, «citizen of Piacenza and merchant» ( Annales Placentini, cit., p. 521) was in fact chosen by the legates of Pope Clement IV in Lombardy as podestà of Cremona: the decision caused the discontent of the magnates of Piacenza, who saw in his appointment a success of the people of their city. Rinaldo was also among the creators a few years later of the submission of Piacenza to Charles I of Anjou, desired by the merchants and urban paratics, who in this way intended to escape the dominion of the Landi: in May 1271 he led, as mayor of the Municipality, the alliance negotiations with the emissary of the king of Sicily, Roberto de Laveno. The latter, a few months later, sold the castle of Gravago, near Bardi, which had just been recovered by the Municipality, to Rinaldo himself, who bought it personally for 3,000 lire of Piacenza money.

Rinaldo II died shortly before 31 May 1280. His daughter Marsignina married shortly after Galvano son of Ubertino Landi (whom Charles of Anjou had kept in prison for several years, and who – released on that date – returned to Piacenza, well received by his father): a marriage which, considering the circumstances of Landi's release, seems intended to achieve an initial resolution of the conflict with the party of that family.

Alberto Scotti appears for the first time in the documentation on 14 March 1271, assisting his father Giovanni in the purchase of the castle of Casaliggio from the Cistercian monastery of Quartazzola, in Val Trebbia (Racine, 1981, p. 150). Instead, Alberto acted alone on 9 February 1277 – shortly after the death of his father, documented as still alive on 15 December 1274 – when he proceeded to divide the property with Giannino Scotti (ibid. ) .

We have to wait a few years to have the first trace of his political activity, which fits into the wake of popular and pro-Guelph militancy already marked by Rinaldo and which exploits the position of political leadership achieved by the lineage during the ten-year Angevin lordship over the city. If in fact there are no confirmations of the tradition that makes him the promoter of the Gothic Palace of Piacenza (Cerri, 1912, p. 5; Nasalli Rocca, 1950, p. 267; Racine, 1981, p. 166; Piccinini, 1998, pp. 22-28), whose construction was started in March 1281, on 16 June of that year Scotti participated with ten other witnesses chosen among the eminent citizens in the reading, in the general council of the Municipality, of the letters addressed to the Angevin officials by Charles I with which the lordship of the king of Sicily ended (The «Registrum magnum»... , cit., 1988, nos. 808-809, pp. 367-372). In December 1283, he was one of the arbiters appointed by the Municipality to reach a peace with Ubertino Landi. However, it is reasonable to believe that Scotti had established himself as a political leader following the disappearance of his uncle Rinaldo, whose role he inherited.

At least until the attainment of lordship over the city, the news concerning Scotti in these years is relatively scarce. He appears mainly involved in the management of the family assets and, naturally, of the family merchant company - active in France, England and Genoa (Racine, 1981); – of which he was a partner at least since 1282 and of which he took the reins by 1290: this confirms the enormous financial resources of the character, but also a chivalrous lifestyle, since the presence of a squire who lived at his home is remembered , a certain Giannino de Vianino (Piacenza State Archives [hereinafter ASPc], Fondo Scotti Douglas di Fombio and Sarmato , Pergamene, ms. 1, n. 40, 23 February 1282).

Scotti became lord of Piacenza in June 1290, thanks to a coup by the People with clear anti-magnetism connotations.

The Piacenza army had just returned to the city together with the Cremona allies after a military failure against Pavia and the Marquis of Monferrato and Scotti blamed the magnates, in particular the Pallastrellis, the Rusticaccis and the Carios, who were banished from Piacenza. From that moment, he began to govern with the title of "Elder, protector and defender of the municipality, of the society of merchants and paratics and of all the people" or, according to a more concise formula that also appears in some documents, of "elder , protector and defender of the city of Piacenza» ( The «Registrum magnum»... , cit., III, doc. 764, p. 201).

As soon as he became lord, Scotti started initiatives which primarily concerned the repression of political opponents and the control of the territory as an anti-Pavia function. He had the council of the Society of Merchants assign him discretion over the assets of those exiled for political crimes (Racine, 1981, p. 171), then banning (1291) the ancient opponent Alberto Fontana ( Johannis de Mussis Chronicon Placentinum , edited by LA Bricklayers, 1730, col. 483). He also established the foundation, again in 1290, of the new village of Castel San Giovanni ( ibid .; Pietro da Ripalta, Chronica Placentina..., edited by M. Fillia - C. Binello, 1996, p. 89), where, as a chronicle of the bishops of Pavia recalls, the population of some localities of the district of that city was forced to converge («constricti sunt ad standum ad castrum Sancti Iohannis de districtu Placentino»: Cronica episcoporum Papiensium , in P Maiocchi, Pavia città regia , 2008, p. 244; on the foundation, see Settia, 1990). Scotti therefore took care to secure the countryside; moreover, it was a military defeat against Pavia and Monferrato that had brought him to power.

He rarely intervened personally in public documentation. It was the usual institutional bodies of the Municipality that guaranteed the legitimacy of the political processes: the podestà, the captain of the Society of merchants and paratics, the General Council. But Scotti's authority was indisputable. On 14 February 1291 he appears in first position among the witnesses, the only one to be qualified with the title of dominus , in the deed, stipulated in Piacenza, with which the bishop of Bobbio invested the Municipality of the castle of Zavattarello, in the Oltrepò Pavese ( The «Registrum magnum»... , cit., III, n. 891, p. 590). In 1295, in the agreements between Piacenza and the men of Ruino it is explicitly foreseen that the latter could not offend the Municipality and Scotti.

Guerino's chronicle tells in detail, not without bitterness, the decisions taken by Scotti as lord of Piacenza. Starting from 1294, according to the chronicler, he forced the mayors to imprison or to acquit people as he pleased. In those years, Scotti ordered the death penalty for several people accused of political crimes, among which, in April 1296, that of a Cistercian monk, Belengerio di Canneta, accused of having delivered Fiorenzuola to the Fulgosi, and, the following month, those of various artisans and merchants, suspected of sedition ( Chronica tria Placentina... , edited by B. Pallastrelli, 1859, pp. 353 s.).

In these years, therefore, he exacerbated the autocratic traits of his dominion, colliding with the popular classes of the citizenry who had also favored his rise in 1290. However, it was not a question of a complete break. In terms of territorial control, he largely continued the policies of the Municipality of Popolo, however, increasingly interweaving personal interests with public initiatives financed by the municipal coffers. In 1299, Scotti received in investiture from the Municipality the locality of Fombio, about ten kilometers away from the city, just beyond the Po, already the subject of a first attempt at deforestation in 1291, promising to reclaim the place and build spent a fortification ( The «Registrum magnum»..., cit., III, doc. 881, pp. 552-561; Racine, 1981, p. 182; Id., 1984, p. 338). The operation undoubtedly increased the lord's assets, in an area where the Scotti family already had assets since at least 1290 (ASPc, Fondo Scotti Douglas di Fombio and Sarmato , ms. 1, Pergamene, n. 41), but inserted in the wake of the policies of increasing the availability of food and control of the territory already dear to the people.

A note by Guerino could be interpreted with the same interpretation, according to which in 1302 Scotti stole 6,000 lire from the public coffers to complete an exchange of goods in Castel San Giovanni with the bishop: beyond the personal return, Scotti consolidated the municipal rights over the area of ​​the new village established in 1290 ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit., p. 355). In 1303 he intervened in a further exchange between the bishop and Giovanni Scotti, who obtained the castle of Varsi, in the Apennines, in exchange for goods in Sant'Imento, just outside the city, sold to him for 2500 lire by the Scotti company from Alberto (PM Campi, Dell'historia ..., 1662, p. 33). In 1302, Scotti also bought assets in the Lodi area (ASPc,Fondo Scotti Douglas of Fombio and Sarmato , ms. 1, Parchments, no. 45, 16 February 1302) and in a similar way also the strengthening of family rights on Zavattarello, acquired, as we have seen, by the Municipality in 1291, but then merged into his personal patrimony, confirms the difficult definition of a watershed between public goods and personal property of the lord. In particular, on 2 May 1300, in his home in Piacenza, Scotti was invested by Guglielmo Lazzarello with the rights of tithing over that locality, in the presence and with the consent of the bishop of Bobbio (ibid., n. 39 ) .

In short, a substantial part of the Piacenza castles, with an important role in the defense of the city district, was in the hands of Scotti or his blood relatives, starting from the already mentioned castle of Gravago, managed by Giannino Scotti on behalf of Alberto and the Municipality ( ASPc, Notary of Piacenza , ms. 1, cc. 12, 15, 16, 31). To his son Nicola, emancipated in 1296, he ceded the castle of Casaliggi
o, just outside the city, beyond the Trebbia, in 1297. This fiduciary policy in avor of the Scotti was not without risks for the Municipality, as became clear in January 1304, when Giannino refused to hand over the castles of Gravago and Varsi to the municipal authorities ( Archivio Doria LandiPamphilj..., edited by R. Vignodelli Rubrichi, 1984, reg. 1533, p. 388). In the city, due to his political role and recognized prestige, he also played the role of peacemaker: in 1297 he was called to settle disputes between the lineages of the Rocca and the Landi (ASPc, Notary of Piacenza , ms. 1, cc. 51-52 , 56-58). He was also involved in the management of the properties and affairs of the Scotti company ( ibid. , cc. 31-32, 61, 89-90, 99; Fondo Scotti di Vigoleno , ms. 1, 26 March 1297).

As regards extra-city politics, at the end of the thirteenth century Scotti was an ally of Matteo Visconti. Together with him and various Emilian cities, in 1296 he formed an alliance against the Marquis d'Este, and again with the Visconti, in November 1297, he was appointed arbiter for peace between the intrinsic and extrinsic people of Parma ( Annales Parmenses maiores , edited by GH Pertz, 1863, pp. 719, 722). However, the axis between the two cracked with the marriage that took place in Milan in 1300 between the son of Visconti and Beatrice d'Este, whom Scotti would have wanted instead as a wife for his son Francesco (Ferreti Vicentini Historia... , in Le opere of Ferreto, edited by C. Cipolla, 1908, pp. 193f.). By allying himself with the Guelph league and effectively becoming its guide, Scotti nevertheless managed to get his revenge. In fact, in 1302 he led the operations against Milan: leaving Piacenza in May at the head of the army, he reached Lodi and then the Milanese ( Johannis de Mussis Chronicon Placentinum, cit., col. 484), where Visconti, fearful of a revolt, left him in power without a fight. Scotti established a blood relative of his, Bernardo Scotti, as podestà of the Ambrosian metropolis, and on 12 July 1302, in the context of the clauses of the peace between della Torre and the Visconti, he was appointed lord of Milan, even if his dominion remained little more than formal. In the same month Scotti hosted the Parliament of the Guelph cities in Piacenza, which entrusted him with the task of providing for the return of the Guelph exiles to the cities from which they had been banned; he also hired Castruccio Castracani, to whom he attributed the belt of the militia; in August 1302, he married a niece to Guido della Torre. He was therefore at this moment at the apex of power.

However, not only the dominion over Milan did not last long, but also that over Piacenza, where Scotti had also tried to establish a principle of dynasticization of the lordship, making sure that on 8 October 1303 the municipal council granted his son the same powers and the same offices exercised by him, in case of his absence from the city (PM Campi, Dell'historia ecclesiastica di Piacenza , 1662, pp. 33 s.). In July 1304, the magnates of Piacenza, led by the Confalonieri and the Viscontis, tried a revolt against Scotti, taking to the streets - as the Annals of Parma recall– «with weapons and horses», shouting «peace, peace». Scotti managed to resist, thanks also to his mercenary militias, killing some rioters and banishing the rest from the city; but the foundations of his power were nevertheless cracked.

He had lacked popular consent, and moreover the aristocracies - unfavorable to him - fueled revolts in the countryside; already in September 1304, Scotti had to face the revolt of Viscount Pallavicino for the localities of Pellegrino, Bardi and Belvedere, supported by the lord of Parma Giberto da Correggio and put down thanks to the intervention of his son Francesco, at the helm of the Piacenza army. On the regional level Scotti had in the meantime reconnected with the Visconti, leaving the Guelph league in October 1303, together with the Alessandrini and the Tortonesi, but he had to face the alliance of the Langoscos of Pavia, the marquises of Monferrato, the della Torre di Milan, and of Bergamo, Como, Lodi, Cremona, Crema, Novara and Vercelli, which this alliance constituted ( Annales Parmenses maiores, cit., p. 729). Between September and November 1304 the Guelph league attacked the Piacenza area several times, even managing to take possession of the major centers of the Trebbia valley, Rivergaro and Bobbio. At this point, in November 1304, a popular revolt put an end to the lordship of Scotti, also preventing Giberto da Correggio from taking his place and encouraging the return of the exiles.

Scotti and his sons were banished and forced to leave the city; their houses were confiscated and destroyed, and the site where they stood was from that moment on referred to as the «contrada of the fault» (Racine, 1984, p. 341). At first, Alberto, his son Francesco and his son-in-law, Pietro Mancassola, were welcomed in Parma, in the monastery of S. Giovanni. The other children instead found refuge in the castle of Zavattarello, in the Oltrepò Pavese ( Annales Parmenses maiores , cit., pp. 732 s.). In October 1306 Scotti, still out, attempted a coup to take Vigoleno, which however failed in the face of the intervention of the army from Piacenza and Parma ( ibid., p. 737). The following year, on 24 July 1307, he was first received in Castell'Arquato, which had rebelled against the Piacenza municipality, and then he managed to enter Piacenza, regaining power, while the city officials fled to Bobbio (ibid., p . 740; Pietro da Ripalta, Chronica Placentina... , cit., p. 91). However, the new lordship was short-lived, because on 13 December 1307 Scotti, at the head of the Piacenza army, suffered a severe defeat near Pigazzano by the exiled Ghibellines led by the Landi, the Pellavicino and the Cario: some of his blood relatives were also taken prisoner in the defeat , including Giannino Scotti the Rich and Giovanni Scotti ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit., p. 357).

On 6 May 1308, while the city was under the Guelph hegemony of the Della Torres of Milan, Scotti, together with various Guelph magnates from Piacenza, swore peace with the Ghibelline magnates. The following year, on the night of May 5, 1309, however, he succeeded with a coup de main in expelling the Della Torres, once again remaining lord of the city, while the Landis and the other Ghibelline magnates took the route of escape (ibid., pp . 359 s.; B. Corio, History of Milan , edited by A. Morisi Guerra, 1978, I, p. 588).

The support received from the army of Parma, whose podestà was then his son-in-law Pietro Mancassola, who died in Piacenza during the clashes on 22 May was decisive for the successful outcome of the enterprise ( Annales Parmenses maiores , cit. , pp 750 s.).

Scotti remained lord of the city until 18 August 1310, when he signed a peace treaty with the extrinsic nobles and with the people of Piacenza, agreeing on the appointment of Arnolfo and Bassiano Fissiraga as podestà and captain of the city, respectively. The next day, following a brawl between the factions, Scotti himself went to the square calling his clients to arms, while the podestà had the square of the Municipality fortified. At the end of a day of clashes, Albert preferred to flee, retiring to Castell'Arquato ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit., pp. 362 s.), from which in the following months and until the beginning of 1312 he made several raids against the city.

According to Guerino, in November 1311 Scotti would have derailed the negotiations to return to the city, mediated by the Guelphs Filippo di Langosco of Pavia and Giberto di Correggio of Parma. Only in February 1312, with the intercession of a legate of Henry VII, king of the Romans, did Scotti accept a reconciliation with the Ghibellines, to whom he supported himself in the following months against the Guelph magnates ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit . , pp. 366 s.). The harmony with the Ghibellines lasted a few months, since on 10 September 1312 Scotti reneged on the agreements with Ubertino Landi, who was forced to flee to Val Trebbia, to Rivergaro.

During this new dominion over the city (the fourth!), Alberto was still assisted by his son Francesco, who on 31 October of that year also made a successful expedition to the Trebbia and Tidone valleys. Guerino, who as we have seen is a source not in favor of Scotti, condemned the arbitrary exercise of justice and the destruction, which took place on 11 December 1312, of a portico in the piazza del Comune of the lordship of Alberto and Francesco in this period .

On 18 March 1313, Scotti (who resided in Piacenza at the house of a private individual: ASPc, Fondo Scotti Douglas di Fombio e Sarmato , ms. 1, Pergamene, nn. 44), married the twenty-three-year-old daughter of the notary Rozzone, Sibilla or Sibillina . At the end of the same month, the brother of Henry VII, the archbishop of Trier Balduino, arrived in Piacenza to negotiate a new peace; on 18 May Galeazzo Visconti was appointed imperial vicar who shortly thereafter (17 July) convened the Council of Sages and imprisoned several Guelph and Ghibelline magnates, including Alberto and his son Francesco.

Conducted in Milan, according to the Annales Mediolanenses (edited by LA Muratori, 1730, col. 694), Scotti never returned to Piacenza, but from some passages by Guerino and Giovanni Mussi it seems that he moved away from the Lombard city and took refuge in his strongholds in the Piacenza area: already in August 1313 he is mentioned in Fombio ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit., p. 373), and in 1315 in Castell'Arquato ( Johannis de Mussis Chronicon Placentinum, cit., col. 490). In any case, in the following years Scotti's party continued to oppose the Visconti, resisting in the castles of the countryside, in particular in Fiorenzuola and Castell'Arquato, and participating in the military expeditions led by the Anjou. Together with the army of the kings of Sicily in August 1314 he came to besiege the city, without success ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit., p. 386).

But the parable of this great political adventurer, which took place entirely in the transition between Commune and Signoria, was now drawing to a close. In April 1317 Galeazzo Visconti succeeded in taking Castell'Arquato and on that occasion, according to Mussi, Scotti was taken prisoner ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit., p. 404; Johannis de Mussis Chronicon Placentinum , cit., col. 492) and confined to Crema, where on 21 September "in sound mind and body" he dictated his will in the house of a Crema major, Lantelmo Passaguerra, where he lived (Nasalli Rocca, 1950, pp. 275-279).

The testamentary legacy highlights the numerous kinship and the vast patrimony of Alberto, who established as heirs, in addition to his two sons, his six sons, born to his predeceased sons Pietro and Nicola (the latter's will dates back to 18 January 1315, preserved in ASPc, Fondo Scotti Douglas of Fombio and Sarmato , ms. 1), the two daughters, Mabellina and Giovanna, in addition to the five granddaughters. First of all, among the beneficiaries are his sons Francesco - already associated with power by Alberto, whose political aspirations he would also continue, becoming lord of Piacenza between 25 July 1335 and 15 December 1336 (Petri Azarii Liber gestorum in Lombardia , edited by F. Cognasso, 1926, pp. 30 s.; Johannis de Mussis Chronicon Placentinum, cit., coll. 496 s.) – and Giacomo, who was assigned, with prohibition of alienation, the goods in Croara, Zavattarello, Valverde and Ruino. The children, together with the male grandchildren, received the remainder of the landed assets, including the castle of Fombio. A bequest was foreseen for the recovery of the dowry by his wife Sibillina. The will is closed by a legacy in favor of the convent of the preaching friars of Piacenza, where he was perhaps buried (Nasalli Rocca, 1950, pp. 273 s.).

Scotti died in prison in Crema in January 1318, on the 13th of the month according to Guerino, on the 22nd for Mussi ( Chronica tria Placentina... , cit., p. 406; Johannis de Mussis Chronicon Placentinum , cit., col. 492).

The Chapel Bridge and Water Tower ensemble is Lucerne’s most prominent landmark. Along with the Chaff Bridge further downriver, they are testament to the medieval history of the city. Even the locals only know about Lucerne’s third wooden bridge – the Court Bridge – from history books. It was dismantled in several stages back in the 19th century. Its cycle of paintings, however, remains preserved. Each of the three covered wooden bridges has its own series of paintings. In their entirety, the triangular paintings in Lucerne are unique in the world.

Today, there are 62 paintings on the Chapel Bridge, some of which are partially burned (originally 158).

This painting, one of two sponsored by the papal nuncio Ranuccio Scotti, depicts a famous episode from the history of the sponsoring Scotti family: in 1302, Matteo Visconti, the Lord of Milan, was forced to surrender to his adversary Alberto Scotti, the Lord of Piacenza. It is one of the series depicting death. Death is present: “All scepters belong to my realm.” The sponsors had little say in the composition of the paintings, but their sponsorship is recognised in the heraldic shields.

See also:

•  Alberto Scotto, Lord of Piacenza 
•  The Douglas family in Italy portal
•  Douglas Scotti of Sarmato



Sources for this article include:
  • Riccardo Rao - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 91 (2018)

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