View Full Version : Cesena 1377 - early example of 'arms' controll

03-15-2010, 4:48 PM
Came across an interesting historical example... but I'm having difficulty finding good sources on it (Terry Jones Midevil lives episode 5 doesn't really qualify as a good source)

Apparently the town of Cesena rebelled against a cardinal Ricardo and killed some of his knights who were sent to put down their rebellion... Ricardo came back with a BIG group of soldiers and told the town they would be pardoned if they surrendered their arms...

they, unfortunately, believed him and handed their arms over...

Then Ricardo put them all to the sword.

would LOVE to have some more info on this incident but haven't been able to find much online.

any midevil history buffs know more or can help point to good source info?

03-15-2010, 5:01 PM
Hawkwood honored his agreement with the Florentines not to make war in Tuscany, limiting himself to putting down the various rebellions within the papal states; in 1377 Hawkwood abandoned Gregory XI entirely and joined the anti-papal coalition.[3] Gregory XI's other condottieri also limited their acitivities to Romagna, notably sacking Cesena in February 1377.

and this

In 1377, while serving as papal legate in upper Italy (1376-78), in order to put down a rebellion in the Papal States, known as the War of the Eight Saints, he personally commanded troops lent to the papacy by the condottiere John Hawkwood to reduce the small city of Cesena in the territory of Forlė, which resisted being added to the Patrimony of Peter for the second time in a generation; there he allegedly authorized the massacre of 4,000 civilians,

09-16-2010, 12:32 PM
If the English Condottiere had more promptly decided to abandon the Pope's service, he would have saved him
self the shame of figuring as an actor, although repugnantly, u". in one of the most atrociously bloody deeds recorded in history. It is too true that on this occasion he was still under the orders of Roberto Count of Geneva, a Cardinalpriest of the order of the " Holy Apostles," ugly and deformed of body, whilst in character he could rank first among those Avignonese bishops, who scandalized the world with injustice, simony, avarice, gluttony, lust, luxury, pride, and all the cardinal vices; adding to these, as an especial characteristic, bestial ferocity, so much so, that catholic ecclesiastical history is pleased to be able to classify him amongst the antipodes, though it cannot cancel the fact that he was first the legate of the legitimate High Pontiff Gregory XI, and commissioned to restore the temporal power.

The Cardinal had failed to enter Bologna, and he revenged himself by putting all the country under the horror of fire or bloodshed; rewarding, and absolving with great rejoicings such of his Bretons as recounted to him the murders they had perpetrated, he even blessed and consecrated their bloodstained swords.

Then he took up his winter quarters with these unbridled soldiers at Cesena, the only city in the Romagna which would receive him with " a joyful and reverent spirit," the only one which " benevolently favored " the head of the ecclesiastics ; but the Bretons illtreated the unfortunate Cesena in such a manner as to reduce the citizens to despair. The Cardinal gave no heed to their remonstrances, while the captain-general, Galeotto Malatesta, told them to take justice into their own hands.

The leaders of the Bretons in their turn complained Febnuryi, that provisions were dear, so the Cardinal gave them leave to procure them without payment; the soldiers then fell to and plundered the butchers' shops ; — the measure was full, the Cesenese armed themselves and killed a good many of the brigands. The Cardinal then matured and carried out an unparalleled scheme of revenge. He made a solemn promise of pardon to those citizens who turned to him with repentance for their rebellion, and for that almost excusable man-slaughter on the sole condition that thev should consign their arms ; this he swore by his cardinal's hat, and to inspire them with more faith, he asked, and obtained fifty hostages, whom he immediately released again with benign words. Having thus rendered them defenceless (whilst he had called Hawkwood and his Englishmen from Faenza, secretly causing them to enter the fortress known as la Murata), as soon as night came he gave orders, for the captain to fall on the city and " administer justice." Hawkwood attempted to lead him to milder measures, declaring himself ready to constrain the citizens to disarm, and to promise obedience, but the Cardinal had already attained this, and wanted quite a different thing: — he explained that by justice he meant blood and more blood. Hawkwood insisted, showing the Cardinal that he ought to look to the result, but he finished by resigning himself to the reiterated commands.

His repugnance may possibly help to diminish our horror of the part he took in the affair. It arose perhaps from his intention not to compromise the already advanced understanding with the Florentine League, any way it showed that he did not approve of useless ferocities.

On the other hand was he certain of securing the obedience of his Englishmen, if he denied them the chance of a sack? And did not Alberico da Barbiano himself, whose praises are sung by generous spirits and Italian sentiment, take part in the fierce repression of Cesena together with his two hundred lances ? In fact, both Bretons and English threw themselves on the defenceless and trusting city. For three days and nights, they made such horrible slaughter of the citizens that the pen refuses to describe the particulars. It may be admitted perhaps that authors have 1377. related it with some exaggeration, — for example how are we to believe the Sienese chronicle which calculates that the little town contained 40,000 inhabitants ? But on the whole there is a formidable array of chroniclers, historians, diplomatic documents, and popular poets, all agreeing in describing the slaughter of Cesena as an outburst of insuperable barbarity.

The letter of the Florentines to the King of France written by Coluccio Salutati, chancellor of the Commune, is a circular manifesto sent to the different powers, denouncing the horrors committed in the name and defence of the Papal dominion, by two bauds of robbers. Even if we doubt the interested eloquence of this witness, we may believe Poggio Bracciolini, the secretary of eight Popes, and we may trust the archbishop St. Antonino. The latter without reserve compares the Cardinal to Herod and Nero, and the Bolognese chronicle says: " People no longer believe either in the Pope or Cardinals, for these are things to crush one's faith."

There is a short latin comedy in four scenes which has been erroneously attributed first to Petrarch, and then to Salutati, the subject of which is a description of " the slaughter of the unhappy city of Cesena." It agrees with many of the chronicles, and asserts that five thousand inhabitants were killed in one day; — the most moderate reports say " about two thousand five hundred Christians.-' Naturally the men did not let themselves be butchered like lambs: three hundred of the murderers were killed, a few in the town and more disbanded about the country, but the mass of the citizens, being unarmed, were only able to seek safety by flight. Those who did not flee in haste, or were overtaken, found no quarter.
The chronicler of Rimini, who is especially trustworthy from his vicinity, says more than all: " As many men,