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FARNESE


FARNESE
Farnese, noble family from Lazio.
From their feud near the Bolsena lake, the Farneses expanded their influence on Upper Lazio during the 12th and 13th centuries, stepping into the limelight as soldiers serving the Pope and the Guelph towns. Their first leading personality was Pier Luigi who, becoming related to the eminent Caetani family, joined the roman aristocracy. But the real maker of the family success was his son Alessandro, who would become Pope Paul III. Alessandro created the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza for his son Pier Luigi (1503-1547), arousing the suspicions not only of the main Italian states but also of the Spanish king Charles V. The following seven Dukes would rule until 1731, when Antonio died without any heirs, thus breaking the direct line of succession.
During these two centuries the Farneses, through strategic weddings, became related to the most important European dynasties, getting to play a leading role in the political scene. Let us mention as an example the third Duke of Parma Alessandro, the conqueror of Antwerp, who is still remembered as the greatest strategist of his time. The family fortune was assured by the constant presence in Rome of a relative with the title of Cardinal. Four major prelates granted all the possible advantages to their family and among them stood out Alessandro (1520-1589), called by roman people "the Great Cardinal" thanks to his richness, family and personal prestige and huge political influence. The break of links with Rome, due to the lack of Farnese cardinals after 1647 and the loss of the ancient feuds of Lazio in 1649, marks the beginning of the family decline. The whole story of the family, since its splendour until its end, is characterized by a strong interest in art, a love for luxury and ostentation, patronage, and incessant building projects. It is not difficult to detect in the Farnese Palace in Rome or in the Pilotta Building and Farnese Theatre in Parma, the common cultural feature linking all the different Farnese generations.


PIER LUIGI
Pier Luigi, first Duke of Parma and Piacenza (Rome 1503-Piacenza 1547)
The son of Alessandro (later Pope Paul III) was entrusted with the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza in 1545 after a stormy youth (he had taken part in the Sack of Rome) thanks to the diplomatic efforts of his father. Piacenza was chosen as the court seat and administrative headquarter.
Showing unexpected cleverness and leadership, Pier Luigi took care of restricting the power of feudal aristocracy, which had encroached upon the Duke's role during the long absence of a central power. The reorganization of the State governement soon gave rise to the rebellion of the families of Piacenza: on the 10th September 1547 Pier Luigi fell victims to a plot conspired by the nobles, among which Ferrante Gonzaga, the Spanish governor of Milan.


OTTAVIO
Ottavio, 2nd Duke of Parma and Piacenza (Rome? 1524-Parma 1586).
After the murder of Pier Luigi, the Duchy seemed to collapse under the attacks of its enemies. Ferrante Gonzaza, the Spanish governor of Milan, immediately took possession of Piacenza and its
surrounding area. The break down was also due to inner tensions: under the pressure of Margherita of Austria, married in 1538, Ottavio refused to retreat to Rome and he took refuge in Torrechiara Castle. He managed to conquer back Parma (1550) thanks to the support of his brother, cardinal Alessandro, who was the actual problem solver of the family.
Reconquering Piacenza was much more difficult and entailed a ten years' war against Spain and the Pope, pressed to join Charles V after the audacious alliance between Ottavio and the king of France Henry II. The war came to an end with the peace of Gand in 1556, when Ottavio regained possession of all his lands in Emilia. In 1564 he ordered the building of the Palace planned by Giovanni Boscoli in the Ducal garden, while the decorations were entrusted to Agostino Carracci, Alessandro Tiarini and Carlo Cignani from Bologna. At the same time, the works for the church of Steccata, whose dome had been designed by Antonio Sangallo, were finished.











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OTTAVIO