Key to Umbria: Amelia

Geraldini Family

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This was one of the most important families of Amelia during the 15th and 16th centuries. 

Matteo Geraldini (died 1471)

Matteo Geraldini was a member of the Consiglio dei Dieci in Amelia and a Roman citizen.  In 1452, the Emperor Frederick III granted him the title “Comes Palatinus” Count Palatine), which conferred lucrative rights (including the right to appoint public notaries and to legitimise bastards).  This title passed to all legitimate male descendants.  Pope Callistus III appointed him governor of the Rocca di Cesi in 1455.

Matteo and his wife, Elisabetta Gherardi had five sons, the most important of whom was Angelo Geraldini (see below).  Angelo and his brothers Bernardino, Battista and Girolamo (see below) commissioned the funerary monument for their parents in Cappella di Sant’ Antonio da Padova in San Francesco, the family’s funerary chapel.  This monument bears the date 1477 and is attributed to Agostino di Duccio.

Angelo Geraldini (1422-86)

Angelo Geraldini was the architect of his family’s fortunes.  He studied law at the Studium of Perugia (see the page on the Palazzo dell' Università Vecchia di Perugia) and then became its rector and its first non-Perugian Professor of Law (1444-6).  It was during his tenure as rector that the component parts of the university took on the titles of Sapienza Vecchia and Sapienza Nuova.  He was probably the “Messer Angiolo” who commissioned the altarpiece (1446-7) known as the Madonna del Pergolato from Giovanni Boccati (probably for the chapel of the Sapienza Nuova) but subsequently rejected it.  (It was used in the Oratorio di San Domenico and subsequently passed to the Galleria Nazionale).

Pope Nicholas V (1447-55) gave him the revenues the monastery of Sant’ Erasmo di Cesi in commendam, and Giovanni Fiorentino painted frescoes there in his honour.  He entered the service of Pope Callistus III in 1455, and he was made Bishop of Sessa-Aurunca (in Campania) in 1464, although he apparently took over his diocese only in 1472.

According the the “Vita Angeli Geraldini”, the biography of Angelo Geraldini written by his nephew Antonio (below) in ca. 1470, Angelo rebuilt the family palace in the Borgo (Palazzo Geraldini del Borgo) at great expense.  An inscription on the facade of a palace records the fact that he entertained Pope Sixtus IV (who had left Rome to escape the plague) here for 20 days in 1476.  This was probably the occasion on which Sixtus IV met the young Pier Matteo d' Amelia and commissioned him to decorate the vault of the Sistine Chapel.  (I have assumed here that the palace bearing the inscription is actually the one built by Angelo Geraldini, albeit that it was extensively remodelled in the 16th century.)

In  1482, Pope Innocent VIII sent Angelo Geraldini as papal nuncio to King Juan II of Aragon.  Angelo impressed the king, who appointed him as his counsellor and sent him back to Rome to obtain a papal dispensation for the marriage of his son Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile.  He was Prince-Bishop of Cammin (Kamień, now in Poland) in 1482-5.

Angelo’s surviving brothers, Giovanni, Bernardino and Battista and his nephew Antonio (see below) commissioned his funerary monument, which survives family chapel in San Francesco.  It is variously attributed to Andrea Bregno or Luigi Capponi.  

Brothers of Angelo Geraldini 

Bernardino Geraldini (1419-94)

Thanks to Angelo’s influence, Bernardino entered the service of King Ferrante I of Naples in ca. 1450.  He retained his links with Amelia, often accepting public office there.  He was buried in the family chapel in San Francesco, and his epitaph survives there. 

Battista Geraldini (ca. 1434-86)

As a young boy, Battista lived with Angelo at Perugia (1446).  Angelo's influence at the Roman Curia and at the court of Milan shaped his subsequent career.  After terms as Podestà at Montefalco and Orvieto he held the same post at Milan (1464-8), before moving on to govern Corsica on behalf of Galeazzo Maria Sforza.  Unfortunately, his term of office there coincided with a rebellion.  However, his career subsequently revived and he acted as Podestà of Florence (1474) and Siena (1480) and subsequently as Capitano del Popolo of Perugia.  Battista Geraldini built Palazzo Battista Geraldini in the 1470s. 

Girolamo Geraldini (died 1481) 

Girolamo studied in the Sapienza Nuova, Perugia.  He acted as Podestà in a number of cities, including Norcia, Spoleto and Florence.  His arms and an inscription recording his term as Podestà of Florence in 1474 survive in the Palazzo del Bargello there.  He subsequently served as a soldier under Braccio Baglioni.  His funerary monument survives in the family chapel in San Francesco.

Giovanni Geraldini (1438-88)

Giovanni Geraldini became confessor to King Ferrante I of Naples, and it was on the king's recommendation that Pope Paul II appointed him as Bishop of Catanzaro, Calabria in 1467.  He founded the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista in the Duomo, which was linked to the establishment of an archdeaconate that was to be reserved for a member of his family.  This gave rise to local opposition, and he succeeded only after Sixtus IV intervened in 1479 by creating Camillo Geraldini (see below) as the first Archdeacon of Amelia. 

Giovanni probably commissioned his own tomb, which is attributed to Agostino di Duccio.   It was documented in the family chapel in San Francesco in 1662, and this is usually said to have been its original location.  However, the inscriptions suggest that it was designed for his new chapel in the Duomo, even if it was not initially erected there:

  1. the inscriptions refer to a chapel that he had built for himself and his family in 1476; and

  2. the composition includes a large relief of St John the Baptist.

Whatever the monument’s earlier history, it is clear that parts of it were recomposed in the chapel in the Duomo, albeit at an unknown date after 1916.

Nephews of Angelo Geraldini

Agapito Geraldini (ca. 1450-1515)

Agapito, who was the son of Bernardino, began his career in Rome in 1482.  He and his native city were traditional allies of the Colonna family, who protected them from the depredations of the Orsini.  The Colonna rebellion against Pope Alexander VI in September 1494 caused Agapito to retire discretely to Amelia.  When the Orsini gave free passage to King Charles VIII of France and surrendered their fortress at Bracciano for his use as he marched on Rome, the people of Amelia rallied to the papal cause.  Agapito was duly rewarded in 1497, when Alexander VI appointed him as his secretary to Cardinal Giovanni Borgia, the papal legate to Perugia and Umbria.   He was then able to negotiate the retention by Amelia of the fortress at Lugnano, albeit at a financial price. 

Agapito became secretary to  Cesare Borgia in 1498, a post that he held for the rest of Cesare’s life.  His first task was to organise the cortège that accompanied Cesare to France. 

Agapito negotiated with King Francis I of France for financial support for Cesare’s campaign in the Romagna in 1500. 

After the defeat of King Federico IV of Naples in 1501, his generals Prospero and Fabrizio Colonna were imprisoned and their estates forfeited to the papacy.  Alexander IV also imposed heavy fines on their Italian allies, including Amelia.  Agapito managed to reduce the amount demanded, but it still took many years to complete payment.  Amelia was also forced to grant free passage and sustenance to Cesare’s army whenever it crossed Amelian territory, and to accept his protection, in place of that of the Colonna.

Agapito was a witness to the murder of Cesare’s allies in 1503, and became Cesare's vicar in Perugia after the expulsion of  the Baglioni soon after.  Cesare Borgia destroyed the walls of nearby Giove and sacked Lugnano in 1503.

With Cesare’s subsequent downfall, Agapito retired to private life.  In 1512, he welcomed Prospero Colonna to Amelia.

Agapito died in Amelia in 1515 and was buried in the family chapel in San Francesco, Amelia and his epitaph survives there.

Camillo Geraldini (1456-80)

Camillo, Agapito’s younger brother, was (as noted above) the first Archdeacon of Amelia.   He was only 24 when he died.  His funerary monument survives in the family chapel in San Francesco.

Angelo II Geraldini (died 1548)

Angelo II, the son of Battista, served as Bishop of Catanzaro, Calabria (1532-6) and died in 1548.  His nephew Sforza, who succeeded as Bishop of Catanzaro in 1536-50, commissioned his monument, which survives in the family chapel in San Francesco.

Belissario Geraldini (1465-82)

Belissario, the younger brother of Angelo II, who was Archdeacon of Cavaillon (near Avignon), died when he was only 17.  His funerary monument survives in the family chapel in San Francesco.

Antonio Geraldini (1457-89)

Antonio was the son of Angelo's sister, Graziosa and her first husband and distant cousin, Andrea di Giovanni Geraldini.  Like his uncle, he became a noted diplomat and humanist.   He wrote a biography of his uncle, the “Vita Angeli Geraldini”, which covered events up to 1470.

Antonio acted as papal nuncio at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and it was in this capacity in 1486 that he supported Christopher Columbus' planned voyage to the New World.  Unfortunately, he died before he could witness the successful voyage across the Atlantic. 

Alessandro Geraldini (1455-1525)

Alessandro, who was the fourth and youngest child from Graziosa’s second marriage to Pace Bussitani (and hence Antonio’s younger half brother) chose to use his mother’s family name.  An inscription recording his birth was placed on the facade of a palace at 80 Via della Repubblica (see Palace of Pace Busitani ?) in 1926.  However, according to Emilio Lucci (referenced below), this inscription was placed on the wrong palace: he believes that the correct palace belonged to Alessandro’s father, Pace di Bernabeo Busitani and was next to Palazzo Nacchi. [I have yet to find this palace]. 

As a young man, Alessandro accompanied his half brother Antonio to Spain, where he became the tutor to the royal children.  When Antonio died, Alessandro took over his role in supporting Christopher Columbus, and was influential in ensuring that the project went ahead. 
Alessandro became chaplain to Catherine of Aragon, and accompanied her to England in 1501 for her marriage to Arthur, Prince of Wales.  He was with her at Ludlow when Prince Arthur died a year later.  Since he was of the view (unwelcome to Catherine’s parents) that the marriage had been consummated, he was recalled to Spain. 

In 1516, Alessandro asked Pope Leo X to send him to the episcopal see of Santo Domingo (now the capital of the Dominican Republic), where he became the first Christian bishop in the New World.  He was already 64 when he undertook the 200-day voyage to Santo Dominigo, and he stayed there until his death nine years later. 

Alessandro Geraldini’s career in the New World was documented by his nephew, Onofrio Geraldini (the son of his sister, Tullia and their distant relation, Valerio Geraldini).  Onofrio went to Santo Domingo as his uncle’s representative in 1517 and returned with considerable wealth.

Alessandro Geraldini is sometimes said to be the subject of this portrait (1628) in the Pinacoteca.  However, an inscription found during its restoration in 1992 recorded the name of the artist, Tommaso Campana, the date, and the name of the subject, Paolo Torello, Archbishop of Rossano, who was a nephew of Pope Paul V.

A wooden Crucifix that Pope John Paul II gave to the Duomo in 1986 is a copy of the one that Alessandro Geraldini installed in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in 1523, and symbolises the evangelisation of the New World.

Read more:

More information on the family and its most prominent members can be found at:  In particular, the site links to the following papers (linked from the pages on the respective family members):

  1. E. Lucci, “La Famiglia Geraldini e l' Eredità del Vescovo Alessandro” (2011);

  2. C. Cansacchi, “Agapito Geraldini di Amelia: Primo Segretario di Cesare Borgia (1450-1515)”  (1961)

  3. J. Petersohn, “Giovanni Geraldini, Vescovo di Catanzaro (+ 1488) e la Fondazione dell' Arcidiaconato di Amelia” (date ?)

Return to the page on the History of Amelia.