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Elysium: a prelude to Renaissance theater.

In late spring of 1473 an elaborate wooden building was constructed in the piazza before the Roman church of Ss. Apostoli.(1) This structure was to provide the setting for entertainments offered in honor of the marriage of Eleonora of Aragon, daughter of Ferrante, king of Naples, to Ercole d'Este, duke of Ferrara.(2) The bride and her Neapolitan retinue, together with the Ferrarese contingent sent to Naples to fetch her, stayed in Rome for five days, from 5 June to 9 June. They were the guests of nephews of Sixtus IV: Pietro Riario, the cardinal of San Sisto, and Giuliano della Rovere, the cardinal of San Pietro in Vincoli.(3)

The ducal group from Ferrara left there on 26 April and arrived in Naples on 16 May.(4) After several days of festivities, including the proxy marriage, banquets, and jousts, the wedding party, now numbering about 800 persons, left for Rome on 24 May. The new duchess was accompanied by two of Ercole's brothers, Sigismondo and Alberto; three Ferrarese poets, Matteo Maria Boiardo, Tito Strozzi, and Ludovico Carbone; and an army of lawyers, judges, musicians, blacksmiths and horse handlers, cooks and tailors.(5)

Three miles outside of Rome, they were greeted by two cardinals - Oliviero Carafa of Naples and Ausio de Podio, the newly-elected cardinal of Monreale.(6) A long procession, the group entered the Porta San Giovanni to be greeted by Roman dignitaries. The bride and her most distinguished companions were then conducted to a papal audience and dinner with Pope Sixtus IV at the Lateran Palace. After a brief riposo they were taken to view the major relics of San Giovanni in Laterano. Then the whole party set out through the disabitato and along the via Biberatica to piazza Ss. Apostoli. Eleonora and the ladies of her court were lodged in sumptuously decorated rooms in the permanent palace that flanked the church on its left side. Male guests were lodged in the palace to the right of the church portico.

Although the two cardinal-nephews of the pope, San Sisto and San Pietro in Vincoli, were the putative hosts of the Roman celebrations, the event was clearly offered and financed by Sixtus.(7) The pope had many reasons for paying this flattering homage to both Ferrante and Ercole. The king, a welcome ally in the precarious balance of political power in Italy, had been instrumental in supporting the election of Sixtus to the papacy.(8) The duke was one of the most powerful secular rulers of a domain within the papal states.

The palaces of the Riario and della Rovere families bracketed the church of Ss. Apostoli. A temporary wooden building constructed before the church joined these palaces on either side. The church facade at that time was composed of a stone portico, a single-level arcade as it appears on a medal dating from the papacy of Martin V.(9) A wooden loggia constructed above this portico served as a passageway between the piani nobili of both palaces, probably providing a prototype for the double arcade now forming the porch completed during the papacy of Sixtus IV.

The temporary wooden building was the setting for the major events of the celebration: the presentation of religious plays on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and the day-long banquet with its scenic offerings on Monday. The wooden structure and its lavish decorations were described in contemporary diaries, letters and histories; for instance, Bernardino Corio, hardly old enough to have been present, devoted five pages to his description of the celebration in his history of Milan.(10) Even the usually laconic Stefano Infessura, diarist of Roman events in these years, had to admit that the building and the entertainment after the banquet were "the most beautiful things ever seen in Rome or even outside Rome."(11) The whole event was described by one guest as something that in its "downright insane prodigality" recalled the days of the pagan emperors.(12)

None of the many descriptions allows for a precise reconstruction of the wooden structure conceived and built solely for this occasion. Infessura described it as "taking up the entire piazza, wooden walls all around and a tent-like covering above in the manner of a loggia with corridors and above the portico of the said church, another beautiful loggia, all decorated."(13) In the open area before the church, surrounded by the wooden loggie, there were "two fountains with jets of water."(14)

The bride in a letter addressed to Diomede Carafa, count of Maddaloni, a Neapolitan courtier and Eleonora's lifelong friend, teacher, and father figure(15) described the wooden building in this fashion: "There was a stage fifty double steps [passi duppii] long and very wide; at one end there was a raised tribunal [catafalco] and at the other [there was] a tall credenza whose shelves were filled with an array of gold and silver plate. . . . On the far side of the piazza there was another stage intended for the presentation of certain performances [certe demostrazioni] decorated with the coats of arms of the Signor Re [Ferrante], the most illustrious duke of Ferrara and of the said cardinal.(16) Part of the entertainment was to be gladiatorial, "of a military nature, performed by men sent by the great Duke of Ferrara and also the men in the retinue of the said cardinal [Pietro Riario]."(17)

The remainder of Eleonora's letter is composed of descriptions of the decorations and colors used in the rooms reserved for her use and of the women who accompanied her, together with the complete menu of the endless Monday banquet and the Latin verses that were recited at intervals during and after the meal (see Appendix I).(18)

Bernardino Corio's description throws a little more light on the temporary structure: "All of the piazza was covered with awnings [that is, all of the piazza that was enclosed by the wooden structure] . . . and the central space was surrounded by three open rooms . . . new, but made in the antique fashion, with columns decorated with leaves and flowers, bearing a frieze carrying the coats-of-arms of the pope, Cardinal San Sisto, the king of Naples, the duke of Ferrara and the duke of Milan."(19) Further along in his description, Corio mentioned again the great quantity of flowers "beautifully made of silk and imported from France" that decorated the temporary structure. He continued: "One room was very long and was to serve for the banquet and for attendance at the games [per aspettare I giuochi]; another room was for other performances [per fare certe rappresentazioni]. Near the tribunal or stage platform that was covered with white velvet stood three bellows which directed gusts of air over heaps of snow brought down from the mountains, producing cooling breezes. Near these stood a boy, a real gilded nude, like an angel, who spurted water from his loins like a fountain."(20)

Corio went on to calculate the host's endless reserves of wealth, "the huge credenza with twelve shelves loaded full of gold and silver [vessels] set with precious stones in such quantity that it was miraculous to see . . . but the most marvelous thing was that in the whole list of varied and various courses . . . nothing was ever removed from the credenza." He described the menu minutely, how food was served and the four tablecloths on each table, one to be removed at the end of each of the four main courses (portate). The apparel of the maggiodomo was also changed four times during the meal; each time his garments were of a different color. His ornaments and jewelry were also changed. The cardinal's entire household was richly dressed. Corio then described the entertainments accompanying each portate. At one point an artificial mountain was carried in, together with a host of animals and birds. These were cooked and had been put back into their feathers or furs. They were placed around the mountain, and then an actor dressed as Orpheus entered. He seated himself atop the mountain and played and sang.(21)

The dessert course consisted of nuts and fruit and sweet wine but the main presentation was of sculptures and buildings made of sugar: all the labors of Hercules with accompanying animals and birds; columns and mountains; castles and fortresses with towers and banners; ten ships filled with sugared almonds made to look like acorns, symbols of the della Rovere family (see Appendix II).(22)

When the banquet was over, it was succeeded by an elaborate entertainment. Eleonora in her letter to Diomede Carafa wrote only that there "followed a dance of Hercules with five men and nine women . . . . and then centaurs arrived and there was a beautiful battle; the centaurs were vanquished by Hercules and the dance ended."(23) Corio's description is more specific: "There came on stage eight men and eight others dressed as nymphs, the lovers of the men . . . and among these were Hercules with Deianera, Jason and Medea, Theseus and Phaedra and other pairs of lovers, all dressed appropriately. The music began . . . they danced with their lovers [innamorate]. While they were dancing, some centaurs arrived with shields and clubs and tried to take the nymphs away and there was a fine mock-battle [scaramouche] . . . and finally Hercules conquered all . . . and then there was a performance of Bacchus and Ariadne and many other wonderful things."(24)

None of the three writers of the most important descriptions of the event even guessed at its theme. Similarly, no text tells us what the wooden structure was supposed to represent. That definition is to be found in each of the two Latin poems describing the entertainment written by members of Pomponio Leto's Roman Academy: Porcellio Pandonis, from the court of Naples, and Emilio Boccabella, a Roman humanist.(25) The former wrote, "First of all, with strong beams of wood . . . we prepared the tall theater."(26) The guests may not have understood the meaning of the structure, but this was the intention of those who orchestrated the celebration. "A large hall to contain all the people," he continued, "no less great than that which Scaurus built, which turned about": these words refer to the structure described by Flavio Biondo, which was composed of two theaters that could be turned on a kind of pivot so that they joined to form an amphitheater.(27) Pandonis went on to describe the rooms, the flowers, the cooled and perfumed air, the fountain with the nude boy and the presence of Orpheus, "all of which tell us 'This is Elysium.'" Later in his poem he described the stage, the scene, "this shady place" and the actors "who are now men, now women."(28)

Boccabella, too, described the building as a theater; he wrote of the blue and white awnings drawn over the open area: "I imagine that [Roman] amphitheatres had similar coverings . . . and that they were even used for Olympian feasts."(29) He, too, described the flowers and the fountain, mentioned the scene of Orpheus atop the mountain, and called the whole "Elysium."

This, then, was the theme of the banquet and its entertainments: Elysium. Its elements were taken from a description by Flavio Biondo: "Let us say a few words about the Elysian Fields. In this place one sees and hears nothing but songs and dances. The earth, of its own accord, produces food three times a year and roses and flowers and sweet-smelling herbs. Pairs of lovers are led here by Venus and here they remain, always with games and celebrations . . . and Virgil says that the Elysian fields are happy and peaceful places. The sky is always dear, the air refreshing . . . Orpheus is among the lovers, making his sweet harmonies heard."(30)

Thus the whole party - guests, food, actors, music - took part in the "play" of Elysium, certainly a suitable choice for a wedding feast. The wooden structure was both a theater and the courtyard of a Roman house. To sum up its parts: three rooms surrounded an open space and opened towards that space through colonnades; columns entwined with leaves and flowers supported the frieze/entablature with the coats-of-arms mentioned above. Parallel to the church facade and across the open space from it was the stage. This description brings to mind the image of a Renaissance cortile. There were no permanent or complete courtyards in Rome at this time - not at least in private palaces; in fact, there were very few in all of Italy.(31) Our temporary construction, resembling the peristyle of a Pompeiian house, was designated as a theater by two members of the Roman Academy, the prime mover behind the revival of that city's classical theater in the 1480s. Academicians were the directors and sometimes the actors in the plays mentioned by Sulpizio da Veroli in the prefatory letter of his Vitruvius edition, printed in 1486 and dedicated to Cardinal Raffaele Riario, another of Sixtus's nephews.(32) One setting that he mentions is particularly comparable to our theater - "plays presented even in your own house where a kind of umbrella [umbraculis] covered the open space of the cavea."(33)

Marcantonio Sabellico in his biography of Pomponio Leto, founder and leader of the Roman Academy, wrote of similar theatrical loci: "With equal studiousness you restored to a city [Rome] that had lost the practice, the ancient tradition of the spettacolo, using for theaters the courtyards [atrii] of the palaces of the most famous bishops . . . where the plays of Plautus, of Terence and also of more recent authors were recited . . . and also taught our young and honest youths and directed them while they recited."(34) The cortile/loggia conformation was, in fact, to serve as the scenae frons of wooden theater arrangements until well into the sixteenth century. See, for instance, the description of the temporary theater that Sebastiano Serlio constructed in a cortile in Vicenza around 1535.(35)

The idea of a wooden theater is also connected with the "moral" period of the Roman republic. "Pompey was criticized by the Senate," wrote Biondo, "for having made a permanent theater because the tradition was to build one only when needed, to last just a few days,"(36) the idea being, apparently, that if there were permanent theaters, the populace would expect constant entertainment. For Quattrocento humanists a temporary theater was thus more correct morally and less likely to draw fire from the church.

Despite the classical nature of the entertainments offered during the banquet and all the references to "theater," the 1473 festivities stopped short of the performance of a secular play, of a classical comedy. What stood in the way of a revival of a classical dramatic performance when it was to be taken up with such universal enthusiasm in Rome and Ferrara just a decade later? Considering that the plays of Plautus, Terence, and Seneca were well known as early as the 1430s and were used as didactic material by the most famous humanist educators, why did public performances begin only in the 1480s?(37)

Earlier in the fifteenth century both Alberti and Flavio Biondo had written apologie for the theater. They expressed the hope that theatrical performances could begin again. The stumbling block they cited was the official attitude of the papacy as originally formulated by the church fathers regarding the licentiousness of the debased secular theater of late antiquity and the immorality of actors who, at that time, were refused communion and Christian burial. There was, apparently, a religious ban on secular dramatic public shows that continued into the fifteenth century and was never officially removed. Alberti remarked: "I presume that the pontiffs know what they are doing to forbid the use of public shows," but he went on to describe the benefits to be gained from them, citing Moses.(38) Biondo shared these sentiments and added "we go to the theater just to be entertained [per un po' di spasso]," meaning, I suppose, "we will not be corrupted by the plays because we do not mistake theatrical situations for real life."(39)

Ideally, Pius II might have been the pope to lift the ban; he not only wrote a "classical" comedy in his youth but recommended study of the plays of antiquity: "Plautus and Terence must be studied for diction. In tragedy, a most valuable discipline, we have Seneca alone. In speech, we aim at dignity and grace. Tragedy presents us with the one, comedy with the other."(40) Classical plays also contained the only examples of conversational Latin as the Romans had spoken it.

Pius's successor, Paul II, anti-humanist and anti-everything connected with Pius II, was quoted as saying - as late as 1468 - "If God allows me to live I will take a series of actions. First, I will prohibit the study of foolish stories and poems because they are filled with heresies and curses. Boys who are barely ten already know a thousand vicious things before they start school; we can imagine how many other vices will fill them when they have read Terence and Plautus."(41) In a letter to the duke of Milan, the Milanese emissary to the court of Paul II reported: "The pope has forbidden all schoolmasters to teach certain poets because of the heresy brought about by certain of those who delight in them."(42) He was referring to the members of the Roman Academy. In 1468, in fact, Pomponio Leto was arrested in Venice and Bartolomeo Platina and other humanists in Rome were all deprived of their purchased positions as abbreviatori. The pope accused them of threatening him with bodily harm and seeking to overthrow the papacy. He had them imprisoned in the Castel Sant'Angelo where they were tortured. Platina wrote to the pope threatening to call a council; he apparently sent another letter to the Emperor Frederick III complaining about Paul's behavior.(43)

Of course, the lack of understanding between the pope and the Roman academicians was not based solely on the fact that they taught the works of Plautus and Terence. Not a humanist, Paul knew little Latin - only as much as needed for his position. He felt he was looked down on by the humanists, especially those abbreviatori whom he had fired because he felt they were "too proud of themselves." Paul accused them of conspiring to murder him. From other contemporary reports of his behavior, it is clear that the political situation at the papal court caused Paul to develop - after amiable enough beginnings - a classic case of paranoia. He began to hide from everyone, giving audiences in the middle of the night. Even his closest friends had to wait for weeks to see him.(44) He mistrusted all who had been close to Pius II, especially the Emperor Frederick III, and was particularly concerned with heightening papal political power as against any political or military power that the emperor might be able to summon up. When Platina determined to go over the pope's head and ask that a council be called in order to discuss "certain problems," it was seen by the pope as a direct threat.

The emperor, in fact, did come to Rome in 1468.(45) It may be that Pomponio Leto in particular had the idea of turning to Frederick III for permission to revive the secular theater in spite of the objections of the pope. It is logical to think that permission to produce secular entertainments might be sought from a secular source. The romanita of Leto and his companions certainly would have led them to have greater respect for a Roman emperor, holy or not, than for a religious man without a classical education and without any sympathy for those who did have one. In 1483, in fact, on the occasion of the Roman Academy's first celebration of the birthday of the city of Rome, a privilege was read to those assembled regarding permission granted by the same emperor for the presentation of the play or plays recited during the celebration.(46) At least one member of the Roman Academy had a link to the imperial court: Pandonis, who wrote one of the poems describing the 1473 party, had been crowned as poet by Frederick III when he was in Rome for his coronation in 1452.

Soon after the death of Paul II in 1471 and on the occasion of the election of Sixtus IV, the Roman Academy was reinstated and Leto resumed his chair at the Studio Romano. Whereas Paul II had defined the aims of the academy as pagan and immoral, Sixtus considered their humanism in which he himself was deeply immersed as a literary, intellectual movement that could easily exist side by side with the Christian religion.

The innocent beginnings of the classical theater, as they had been described by Biondo,(47) the "shady place" where poets recited, the wooden theater - all of which were reproduced in piazza Ss. Apostoli - must have served as the thin edge of the wedge for the profusion of theatrical performances that followed between 1483, the date of the imperial privilege, and 1486, the publication date of Sulpizio da Veroli's edition of Vitruvius.(48)

It is true that none of the extant documents mentions the direct participation of Pomponio Leto in the events of 1473; in fact, only the most distinguished guests are named. But Cardinal San Sisto was renowned for his lavish support of humanists and most especially for his connections with members of the Roman Academy and Pomponio Leto. Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, one of the most important guests and brother of Eleonora's life-long confidant Diomede Carafa, owned a villa on the Quirinal, above and behind the church of Ss. Apostoli and next to the houses of both Platina and Pomponio Leto.(49) We have already mentioned the participation of Pandonis and Boccabella, two of Leto's closest associates. Leto's return to Rome from Russia just a few months before the celebration makes his participation possible, even probable.(50)

The quality of the Latin verses that accompanied the servings at the banquet, the charming, learned celebration as a whole, so completely novel in its fantasy and its elaboration, opened the way to the full production of secular plays. The classical references in the setting and the theme indicate a presiding imagination drenched in its uses of antiquity. The wooden building was both a theater and the peristyle of a Pompeiian house; the theater was both Elysium and that "frascata o logietta di pampane" - that shady place - that Biondo describes as the origin of scenografia.(51)

Pomponio Leto had been away from Rome for a year or more on a mission for Sixtus IV. He accompanied Sofia Paleologus, the daughter of the last Byzantine Emperor, to Russia where she wed the Tsar Ivan III.(52) His return to Rome in the early spring of 1473 is perhaps referred to in Pandonis's poem: "We had to hurry because the time [for the preparation of the theater] was short."(53) Surely Leto was the person who convinced Pietro Riario (and Sixtus) that this celebration offered an opportunity for a new kind of entertainment, one that would present Rome as a cultural center in which a new kind of revival of antiquity could be produced. From the amount of reportage the event received, he was certainly correct. The secular theater was soon to become one of the most important of cultural endeavors, and the tradition of regular productions of classical and contemporary comedies spread, first of all, from Rome to Ferrara. The presence at the celebrations in piazza Ss. Apostoli of members of the Ferrarese court played an important role, and the most crucial presence was that of the poet Matteo Maria Boiardo, a close friend of the duke of Ferrara. It was Boiardo who translated from Latin into Italian the first play presented at the court of Ferrara: the year was 1486 and the play, Plautus's Menaechmi."(54)

In Pandonis's poem, after a few lines praising Sixtus and comparing him to Caesar and Lucullus, he continued: "It was just as if comedies were being performed."(55) Boccabella in his poem suggested another valid reason for the interest of the academy, with its passion for antiquity, in the production of the plays as opposed to the mere reading of them: "The scenic offerings were not lacking in which it was pleasant to see the stories of the ancient people of Rome, hear their utterances and see the costumes of the ghostly figures appearing together so that you would think them alive again."(56)

This Renaissance celebration involved not just a literary or pictorial rebirth of the classical world: it produced a speaking likeness of antiquity.


1 Cruciani, 1983, 151-64. Cruciani's highly useful book consists of an annotated compilation of descriptions of entertainments and celebrations that took place in Rome during the period 1450-1550. Much of what he offers about this event was published earlier by Corvisieri, 1878 and 1887, who also included two Latin poems describing the occasion written by members of the Roman Academy. See below, note 25.

2 Both Eleonora and Ercole were remarkable people but the most remarkable thing about them was their marriage, about which I am now writing a book.

3 Cruciani, 1983, 161. Pietro Riario's enormous income derived from the high posts he held within the church; he was the Archbishop of Florence and Patriarch of Constantinople as well as the holder of other lucrative benefices. Giuliano della Rovere became a political force in both France and Italy in the late fifteenth century and was elected to the papacy in 1503, taking the name of Julius II.

4 Diurnale del Duca di Monteleone, 209.

5 Anonimo Ferrarese, 88-89; also Corvisieri, 1878, 480-83.

6 Cardinal Oliviero Carafa was a younger brother of Diomede Carafa; see below, note 15. He was raised to the cardinalate by Paul II in 1467. De Podio, a Spaniard, was created cardinal by Sixtus IV on 7 May 1473.

7 The relationship of these two cardinals to Sixtus was the subject of much contemporary gossip; Stefano Infessura, among others, describes them as "those whom he called nephews." Pietro Riario was a luxury-loving profligate who died the following year at the age of 23.

8 Part of the gratitude demonstrated by Sixtus IV to King Ferrante was the cancellation of the annual tribute paid by the kingdom of Naples to the papacy. The new tribute consisted of a white mare to be given each year called a chinea; the celebration of this act, the festival of the Chinea, became one of the most lavish entertainments in Naples and was celebrated yearly through the eighteenth century. See Padiglione.

9 Zocca, fig. 7 opposite 40. The palace to the left of the church (facing the church) originally belonged to Cardinal Bessarion who left it to Sixtus, then Cardinal Francesco della Rovere. For more about the Riario/della Rovere palaces, see Rigo, 3-12.

10 Cruciani, 1983, 161-64; and below, Appendix II.

11 Infessura, entry for June 1473.

12 Giacomo Sagramoro was present at the celebration as the ambassador of the duke of Milan to the papal court. His memoriale, addressed to the duke, was undoubtedly the primary source for Corio's description of the event. Corio was only 12 or 13 in 1473 and when he was commissioned to write the history of Milan forty years later, he was given access to all of the Sforza documents; Sagramoro's letters and his memoriale were among them. See Motta, 1888; and Farenga.

13 Cruciani, 1983, 156.

14 Ibid.; and below, Appendix I.

15 Ibid, 157-61; Corvisieri, 1887; and below, Appendix I. Eleonora's letter was not addressed to a member of her family but to the count of Maddaloni, Diomede Carafa. At the end of the letter she adds a list of those to whom she hopes he will pass the letter or its information along, including her father, King Ferrante. Carafa, senior member of an important family and a courtier in Naples from the period of King Alfonso, was an advisor to Eleonora and later the godfather of her first-born Isabella. In 1477 he wrote a memoriale for her entitled "The Duties of a Prince"; it consists of advice directed specifically to her about how a state should be ruled. Other members of the Carafa family were closely connected with the marriage of Eleonora and Ercole; shortly after Ercole became the duke of Ferrara in August 1471, Fabrizio Carafa, a younger half-brother of Diomede, arrived in Ferrara to congratulate him and initiate the plans for his marriage to Eleonora. He stayed at Ercole's court for a year and left only after all the plans for the marriage had been firmly arranged. Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, younger brother of Diomede, was one of the two cardinals who greeted Eleonora and her retinue outside the walls of Rome. For biographical material on all of these, see Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Vol. 19.

16 Cruciani, 1983. Also, see below, Appendix I.

17 A vague allusion to military games is made in Boccabella's poem: "In truth, part of the glory comes from the fact that no blood is shed; gladiators are not allowed to clash here with drawn sword, slaughtering wild beasts; nor is pleasure found in contests which endanger human lives. Here instead is quiet peace and Bellona mingles in the contests without the madness of bloodthirsty men." Corvisieri, 1887; Boccabella, 676-77, lines 45-51. There is no mention of military games in Eleonora's letter nor in Corio's description of the celebration.

18 For more about the verses recited during the banquet, composed by Domizio Calderini, see Perosa and also Vol. 18 of the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani under the poet's name. The completeness of the descriptions of the various courses served at the banquet and the repetition word for word of the Latin verses suggests the existence of a printed handout; printing had been established in Rome under Paul II. Corio's repetition of the menu several decades later would seem to verify this.

19 The presence of the Milanese coat-of-arms is noted only by Corio, the Milanese diarist. However, there is another reason for its presence: in 1455 Eleonora, then five years old, was promised in marriage to Sforza Maria Sforza, the third son of Francesco Sforza, then duke of Milan. In the same ceremony Eleonora's older brother Alfonso was betrothed to Ippolita Sforza. This latter marriage took place in 1465, but the betrothal of Eleonora to Sforza Maria, at that time the duke of Bari - a title bestowed on him by King Ferrante in anticipation of the marriage - was annulled in 1472, clearing the way for her marriage to Ercole. This could not have been accomplished without the help of Pope Sixtus and the cooperation of the then duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Sforza Maria's older brother. See Canetta; and Ferorelli.

20 See below, Appendix II.

21 Eleonora listed the animals on the mountain: three whole peacocks, a peahen with her chicks, two pheasants, two swans, two whole goats, and a live bear; see Appendix I. It is unlikely that the bear was alive. Corio, while substantially reporting the same elements, adds two cranes and a deer with its horns on its head and says that the bear carried a stick in its mouth - without telling us whether it was alive or cooked and put back into its skin - although that was one of the common culinary feats of the time; see Appendix II.

22 Mintz. The lavish use of sugar was as conspicuous a display of wealth as the wearing of quantities of gems or doth-of-gold. The use of sugar, generally mixed with almond paste, in the making of large-scale fanciful pieces of architecture or sculpture, was an eastern tradition and was apparently imported to the west in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. It is interesting to note that Corio reports that most of the mythological figures - who seem to be actors in Eleonora's description - were made of sugar.

23 Cruciani, 1983, 160; and Appendix I.

24 Ibid., 164; and Appendix II.

25 Corvisieri, 1887, 663-84. Neither of these poems has been wholly translated from its original Latin. Corvisieri mixed them up, and the poem that is attributed by him to Boccabella is by Pandonis and vice versa. Manuscripts of both poems are in the Vatican library: Boccabella (also known as Paulus Aemilius Romanus), Vat. Ottob. 2280; Porcellio (Giovannantonio) Pandonis, Vat. Urbin. 707.C.14. Porcellio's poem was written immediately after the celebration; Boccabella's, which includes a brief biography of Cardinal Riario, was written some ten years later.

26 Corvisieri, 1887, 665, lines 41-42: "Principio trabibus quernis et robore secto/Edificant, poliunt, alta teatra parant."

27 Cruciani, 1983, 93.

28 Corvisieri, 1887, 665; Pandonis, line 64: "nunc vir, nunc uxor, quos dabat umbra loci." See also Cruciani, 1983, 95: "E col medesimo corpo si faceva or Ercole, or Venere, or diventava maschio or femina."

29 Corvisieri, 1887, 676; Boccabella, lines 43-45: "Amphitheatralem simili puto tegmine arenam . . . Pompeiijusque lares, circum, vel Olympia tali . . . Festa adoperta modo."

30 Biondo da Forli, 1542, book 2, 57ff.

31 The conformation of the peristyle survived in the medieval cloister and eventually in secular political buildings such as Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello in Florence. The cortile became an integral part of the private palace in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. In 1473 only Palazzo Medici had a completely symmetrical cortile; it had as well an enclosed garden opening beyond it. This enclosed garden had on its south side a loggia/triclinium that opened into the garden through an arcade, the visible remains of which are the original capitals that have been embedded in a later wall. This arrangement, so evocative of the atrium/peristyle of the Roman house, had in 1472 served as the setting for the festivities accompanying the marriage of Lorenzo the Magnificent to Clarice Orsini, which although elaborate remained with the family-wedding tradition without the ostentation of the Roman celebration. See Altomonte, 123-29.

32 Cruciani, 1983, 222 ff for the complete text of the letter with a translation from Latin into Italian. The best interpretation of the letter is to be found in Krautheimer.

33 Ibid., 224, Sulpizio da Veroli: "rursus intra tuos penates tamquam in media circi cavea/tot consessu umbraculis tecto."

34 Ibid., 187.

35 Serlio, book 2, "Trattato sopra le scene," 442. It is of interest to think of the very real possibility that Marcantonio Altieri, who was in charge of building the wooden theater on the Capitoline Hill in 1513, was present in 1473. He was twenty-three at the time and a member of the Roman Academy. See Cruciani, 1968, 5-9.

36 Cruciani, 1983, 93-94.

37 These plays, in fact, provided the only surviving information regarding the colloquial usage of Latin. Battista Guarino, in his "De Ordine Docendi et Studende," wrote "That the muses, if they spoke Latin, would choose the Plautine diction, was a commonplace." This translation appears in Woodward, 171.

38 Alberti, book 8, chap. 7. The quotation in English is from the Tiranti edition of Leoni's translation, London.

39 Cruciani, 1983, 95. Biondo also wrote, "Cassiodorus dice che gli spassi de gli antichi tirati al vizio e quel che fu per onesto piacere ordinato fu poi a la volutta del corpo tratto: percio ch'oggi che altro sono questi spettacoli e queste scene che incesti, che adulterii, che crudelta."

40 Woodward, 151.

41 Pastor, vol. 4, chap. 2, 59-60. Also Novati, 137, n. 1.

42 Ibid., 61-62 and note. Letter dated 16 March 1468 from Laurentius de Pensauro to Galeazzo Maria Sforza.

43 Ibid., 39-40. There is apparently no surviving letter. The fact is that Frederick arrived in Rome in December 1468.

44 Ibid., 25, letter from Cardinal Ammanati: "All is suddenly changed; affability has given place to harshness, friendliness to a distant and repellent behavior - from a happy commencement to an evil progress." In a letter from Giovanni Bianchi to Galeazzo Maria Sforza, the duke of Milan, the situation is more fully explained: "An astrologer has said that the Pope will sicken and die this week. [It is] rumored that it wasn't an astrologer but one of those poets, secretaries to cardinals, who so loved the history of Rome that they wanted to free the city from prelates and so they made a congiuro against the Pope; he was to be assassinated during the festival of Testaccio when all are allowed to carry arms. The Cardinals of Thiana and Mantua informed the Pope. [It is] rumored that King Ferrante and the King of France are behind it." Pastor, appendix 22, 488-92.

45 Ibid., 165-66. Pope Paul's sense of the peril represented by the emperor and/or by the calling of a council - that of strengthening secular power, particularly appealing to the Roman nobility - caused Patritius to write this passage about the emperor's presence in Rome in 1468: "Dio ha disposto che la Chiesa Romana, per l'accortezza dei papi e specialmente di Paolo II, sia salita tanto in richezza e potenza da poter sostenere il confronto coi piu grandi regni. Al contrario, la signoria dell'imperatore romano e decaduto cosi in basso che di lui non resta altro che il nome." ("God has disposed that the Roman church, because of the acuity of the popes and especially of Paul II, has so gained in wealth and power that it can be compared with the greatest kingdoms. And on the other hand, the realm of the [Holy] Roman Emperor has so sunk into obscurity that nothing is left of it except its name.")

46 Jacopo da Volterra, 163ff.

47 Cruciani, 1983, 95.

48 Ibid., 222-24.

49 Coffin, 187ff. Oliviero Carafa's villa was called the Vigna di Napoli and was built "possibly before 1476." It was near the house of Pomponio Leto on the Quirinal and was "the most sumptuous of the early villas."

50 Lee, 177 and n. 99.

51 Cruciani, 1983, 95.

52 This mission is evidence of the trust placed in Leto by Sixtus. The pope provided the dowry for the bride and the marriage was thought of as yet another possibility for bringing the eastern and western branches of Christianity together. There was also the further hope that Tsar Ivan would lend aid in the war against the infidel. Pastor, 4: 229.

53 Corvisieri, 1887; Pandonis, line 44: "fervet ob breve tempus opus."

54 Anonimo Ferrarese, 121-22; Zambotti, 171-72; Caleffini, 2: 207-08.

55 Corvisieri, 1887; Pandonis, 666, lines 75-82.

56 Ibid., 662-65; Boccabella, 677, lines 52-57.

Appendix I


In my last letter I told you about our entry into Rome and now I will tell you about what followed, up to the present time. After entering the city [she had apparently described her day at the Lateran Palace in a previous letter] we dismounted at Ss. Apostoli, the house of the very Reverend Cardinal of San Sisto, which we found in order and well decorated and prepared in the manner described below:

In the piazza in front of the palace there was a stage [or platform] fifty double-paces long and very wide, decorated with satin cloth and covered with six pieces of red, green, and white cloth [the Este colors]. On one side of this platform there was a large and ample stage [catafalco] and its floor was covered with carpets . . . and there was a canopy of crimson velvet. At the other end [of the platform] was a credenza with eight shelves, thirty [palmi] wide, also covered in satin. This platform was arranged for the banquet. On the other side of the piazza, another platform was arranged where certain demonstrations were to take place, decorated with the coats of arms of the king [of Naples, her father], the most illustrious duke of Ferrara and of the said cardinal.

Climbing the stairs [of the Riario palace] we found a medium-sized room, draped with satin. From that room we passed through a small room [cameretta] and then entered into the first important bedchamber [camera de paramento] where there was a bed with coverings of blue Venetian silk. From there we entered the second bedroom [of importance], which was decorated with crimson silk, and on the bed was a cover of [leonato] gold brocade lined with wolf pelts [lupi cervini] and a border of marten [martore] all around, a palm wide, and two cushions of gold and crimson brocade.

[The following material was deleted by Cruciani but can be found in Corvisieri.]

From there we entered into the room that is a chapel with the altar-cloth embroidered with golden threads on gold brocade; above the tribune there were four chairs covered with crimson velvet, four with violet velvet, and one for praying, all covered with crimson velvet. All the chairs were decorated with spheres of silver-gilt and had long gold fringe.

From the chapel we entered into another room where there was a low bed with a mattress of blue Venetian silk, two covers of white damask, and another cover of crimson cut-velvet that covered the whole bed clear down to the ground. Above there was a canopy and curtains of white damask with golden fringe, a blue headboard, four cushions of gold and four of violet velvet, then two others of violet velvet and two of green velvet, and two chairs covered with green velvet. Also in this room, folded above the chest, was a cover of violet velvet lined with green velvet.

From there we went into another room where there were two beds: one very large with headboard and mattress of green silk, two covers of green silk, two curtains of green silk, and a cover of gold brocade lined with the finest ermine; the canopy and headboard of green silk had fringe all around, and there were four cushions of gold brocade. The other bed, for resting, had a mattress of blue damask with headboard and cushions of sky-blue covered with blue velvet lined with crimson silk with a border of gold brocade all around and also two chairs of green silk.

From there we entered on the right into another room, which was the last set aside for us, where there were two beds, one of which had two mattresses of white damask with headboard and curtains of white taffeta, another curtain of gold brocade, sheets of white damask, and two cushions. On the other bed there was also a mattress and headboard of crimson silk, curtains of white taffeta, and under this bed there was a trundle-bed with a mattress of green silk, curtains of crimson taffeta embroidered with gold and violet thread, two chairs of gold and crimson brocade, two prie-dieux of crimson velvet, and four other cushions. On the left-hand of this last room but one, we entered a staircase and climbed up to a very large room and three that were small; in each there was a bed and a trundle-bed with covers, canopies, and curtains in silks of various colors.

All of the rooms mentioned above were completely covered with tapestries right up to the windows, and all had carpets on the floor. At every door there was a painted curtain [angiporta] decorated with coats-of-arm.

[Here the part transmitted by Cruciani begins again.]

Sunday morning, as ordered by His Holiness, we went to St. Peter's to hear the mass, and we were accompanied, going and coming, by the above-mentioned cardinals of San Sisto and of San Pietro in Vincoli. The queen of Bosnia was at mass. After the mass we kissed the foot of His Holiness. He was happy to see us and welcomed us warmly, showing that he took pleasure in our presence. After dinner we had a visit from the very Reverend Cardinals Orsini [a Roman family related to Eleonora's mother] and Naples [Oliviero Carafa]. In the evening, the cardinal of San Sisto presented us with a representation of the story of Susanna, really a very beautiful and worthy thing, and thus passed Sunday.

On Monday the said cardinal of San Sisto gathered us together with those [guests] mentioned below and the banquet was given on the aforementioned platform, and the credenza described above was covered with silver serving pieces on all of its steps.

As we arrived at the table, we stood for a bit with our backs turned to the table and a serving arrived in ten platters with imperial eagles made of sugar and a course of sugared and gilded candied pomegranates and cups of malvasia wine.

After that course basins of rose water were passed, and we washed our hands; each person had his own basin. After the hand washing we were seated in chairs covered with silk; to our right was the said cardinal, then the duke of Andria and the count Geronimo, brother of the said cardinal. On the left side were Messer Sigismondo [Ercole's only legitimate brother], the duchess of Melfi and Messer Alberto de Traverso, the duke of Melfi, the countess of Altavilla, and the countess of Brochanico. The table was laid with four cloths, one on top of the other.

After we were seated at table, knives were placed around and gilded salt-cellars made of sugar and bread-paste and cups and glasses for wine.

Then a page arrived with a plate that contained ten little birds [cotignoli] very small, one for each. [They were] beautiful and well prepared and were the antipasto.

Five plates of two capons each, covered with white sauce and gilded pomegranate seeds, and ten bowls with ten small chickens covered with [sapore pavonaza, garbo] and wine was poured.

Two whole boiled veal in five large platters and then each [person] was served with five pieces of veal and five of mutton [castrato], three of [senguato], three whole kids, six small chickens, six capons, tete-de-veau, and with the boiled meats [bollito], five plates of sausage [salsume], and the milk-filled teats of a pig [presucti somete salsusole] and ten plates of minestra of pumpkin [agnolotti filled with pumpkin].

Five large plates of roasted meat, on each of which were six pieces of veal, three whole kids, and ten small peguni, ten chickens, four rabbits, and a peacock, cooked and dressed in its feathers, with camellina sauce in sauce dishes.

During this serving, a youth came in wearing a garland and carrying a viola in his hand [obviously Orpheus] and when he had arrived, he sang the following verses: "My father wishes he could descend from airy Olympus / In order to enjoy these verses: / Do not be astounded by our heavenly revels / Jupiter is wont to celebrate his festival at this time."

Then came four men carrying a mountain on their shoulders, and on this mountain there were three whole [paghi], a peahen with her babies, two pheasants, a wild cat [gena], two great birds [drongne], two whole goats, and a live bear [et uno orso vivo]. All of these animals were placed around on the mountain, and on top of it someone [Orpheus] sang the following verses: "In Heaven the disposition of the mighty thunderer is sweetened / because of Orpheus's brilliance in the art of music. / Enjoy our fountains and look with pleasure upon our woods. / For your feast we offer game newly caught. Hercules has better luck than Orpheus / Instead of Eurydice he has been given Leonora."

Five plates of galantine of capon and gelatine shapes [mollume]; under the gelatine were drawn the arms of the cardinal, certainly very well made.

Five plates with white tarts, gilded and also with junkets of meat and muscatel pears in crust.

We washed our hands with water of lemon blossoms, and the uppermost table covering was taken away along with the cups and the drinking glasses.

Ten ships made of sugar were carried in containing acorns and roses made of sugar and ten cups full of various sons of fish made of sugar and lemon peel mixed with ground pine-nuts [pinochyata]. The knives and salt dishes were silver and the bread was silvered. Fritters [fritelle] of black berries [sambuco] and lemons in sirop were served in ten silver cups.

Five plates of eels, silvered and wrapped in crust; three whole sturgeons, ten [menestre] of almonds and white sauce.

Then there was an intermezzo of Perseus and Andromeda, and the following verses were sung: "The lover conquered the monster as Perseus did the Gorgon / Andromeda stopped singing her sad songs .... / Now one husband alone was given the prize for the labor / And that [prize] was Eleonora."

Five plates of roasted eels with yellow sauce [sapore giallano]. An intermezzo followed with the goddess Ceres on a chariot drawn by two eels; the following verses were recited: "Mesta Ceres raptae lustrans vestigia hate / Aspicit an tantis nupserit in talamis."

Five plates of fresh fish in silver with oranges. Three great silver shells full of fish in gelatin. Five plates of a tart made of herbs, silvered. Cherries [cerase, cresomola].

Perfumed water to wash the hands and the second cloth was removed [from the table].

Ten platters full of worked sugar made into images of men and of diamonds [Ercole's symbol], gilded; knives and salt dishes of gold.

Ten platters with ten roasted small chickens alla catalana [the locus of the Aragon family] and ten cups of sour cherries [ceresa agra].

Some containers made of pastry filled with living quail; when the containers were broken, the quail flew around the table.

Five plates with pairs of birds and other sauces.

An intermezzo with Venus and Atalanta and Hippomenes.

Five plates with two capons each, covered with green sauce [verdemangiare] decorated with flowers.

Five large plates with roasted veal shanks and three plates of mutton [castrato], two whole kids, three whole suckling pigs, four capons, and eight ducks per plate.

Then Hercules entered dressed in a lion skin, [and after this followed a long and elaborate acting out of the deeds of Hercules all mixed in with the beauties of Leonora, including Hercules' conquest of Leonora on the wedding bed].

After that came Bacchus and Ariadne who sang: "Happy Bacchus now returns from the sweet-smelling Indies / And makes glorious these revels with his Herculean drinks./ Although the authorities prohibit that they should recline at table [another classical custom scorned] / He with beautiful Ariadne will celebrate your wedding bed. / Do you not sense the animation? Do you not feel the doubled joy? Bacchus is a welcome lad here with his double-sized drinks."

A whole deer, cooked and put back into its skin and set upon its feet accompanied by four little boys, half man and half goat.

Five plates of gelatine with five covers made in this fashion: with the tree with entwined branches - the della Rovere stemma - [arbore dactilo] and the unicorn from the insignia of Duke Borso [Ercole's half-brother and his predecessor as duke of Ferrara].

Five covered plates of [tucte] and on the covers many of the deeds of Hercules. At this point, the sun began to shine on the table and a poet proposed two verses about that: "Every blessing comes from highest heaven: / Phoebus, you are welcome at this table."

Five plates with two capons per plate, made of marzipan.

Then the goddess Venus arrived in her chariot accompanied by Bacchus and they sang verses [that contained a mildly suggestive references to Venus and Mars, to Juno and her unfaithful husband, but promising that Eleonora will have the kind of husband that both Venus and Juno would have wished to have].

Ten plates of marzipan. At this intermezzo, Messer Tito [Strozzi] said the following verses: "Your great spectacle has illuminated and made glorious our feast / These are less glorious, however, than your soul, Sixtus."

There were many plates filled with confections for the dessert. Ten confections of towers with their fortifications around them, all made of sugar and then they were thrown to the crowd outside.

The table was taken away and a Hercules dance was performed with five men and nine women. During the dance a group of centaurs came on the stage and a battle ensued. The centaurs were vanquished by Hercules and left the stage while the dancing continued.

The banquet lasted from the sounding of twelve hours until the sounding of nineteen hours, all with good order, many graceful gestures, and so much food in such abundance that it wouldn't be possible to describe it all.

On Tuesday, after dining, San Sisto had a representation of the Miracle of Corpus Christi performed.

On Wednesday morning, accompanied by the Very Reverend Cardinal of Naples [Oliviero Carafa], we paid a visit to the pope where we found the cardinal of San Sisto. We were given a welcome audience by His Holiness who also gave a great quantity of small holy images of the Lamb of God [Agnus Dei] to us and to the whole company.

Dismissed by the pope and accompanied by the above-mentioned cardinals of Naples and San Sisto, we were shown the Veronica [volto santo], and then we returned to our house.

After dining the cardinal of San Sisto presented another representation of San Giovanni Battista. Toward evening, at the 23rd hour, the cardinal of Naples came to visit us.

This morning as we were leaving Rome we were accompanied by the cardinals of Naples, San Sisto, San Pietro in Vincoli, and Monreale who rode with us for a good distance out of Rome, and then we came here to Campagnano.

I mustn't forget to say that the evening before we departed the said Cardinal San Sisto sent one of his servants with the keys to the boxes that were in the above-mentioned rooms and showed us eight other curtains [tapestries], some lined and some unlined. Then he began to show us long robes [turche] of silk and gold brocade, 150 [of them], and kept us near him for six hours. We were bored and begged those servants not to show us any more, and so they stopped; otherwise it would have been daybreak before they finished, but the silk brocades were really perfect and very worthy.

With this, my lord Count, you will have learned about all of our entertainments and activities in Rome and the honors done us. I hope that you will give all this news to His Majesty the King [Ferrante, her father] and to the Duke of Calabria [her brother Alfonso] and to his most illustrious Duchess [Ippolita Sforza], to Signor Don Giovanni, to Signor Don Federico, to Signor Don Francesco and to Madama Beatrice [her brothers and sister], to Messer Paschale and to all those other lords and gentlemen, because we are certain that they will be pleased to hear it.

Appendix II


On the fifth of June, a Saturday, Ercole d'Este, having already married Eleonora, daughter of Ferdinand, king of Naples, by proxy, and desiring her to be conducted to Ferrara, came to Rome [actually he did not; he sent his brothers, Sigismondo and Alberto], and it was the night before Pentecost, and since I want to write about the very great honor done her, and since it took place in the city that is in the hearts of all of us, let us begin by saying that she left that Sunday morning from Marino and all the dignitaries went outside the city three miles to meet her: the cardinal of Naples and the cardinal of Monreale, newly-elected cardinals, plus a large company of bishops and priests to keep them company. And they all stayed to dine at San Giovanni Laterano.

After dinner, and after they had rested for a while, this delightful lady, together with the duchess of Melfi and other gentlewomen of her company, with the great Sigismondo and the other barons and castellani, went into the nearby church of San Giovanni to see all the holy things.

Afterward, they were shown the chapels of St. Peter and St. Paul; then, having done this - and it was about six o'clock - they were joined by the very Reverend [Cardinals] San Sisto and San Pietro in Vincoli. As soon as they got off their horses, our beloved lady went toward them with a manner both reverent and humble, and they received her with great dignity. Then they all got on their horses, and she rode between the two of them. She was dressed in a most elegant manner - all in black velvet with a black collar and a little black cap with white feathers, and her dress was ornamented with an infinite number of pearls and jewels - and she seemed a divine thing between those two priests. Then the whole group - those sent by His Majesty King Ferdinand and the two cardinals and the other ambassadors who were in Rome and certain Roman gentlemen - directed themselves toward Ss. Apostoli where San Sisto's dwelling is, and they were accompanied by many trumpeters and pipers and drummers moving ahead, all making music.

All the streets were full of families, cardinals on horseback, women, and the Roman people: one might guess that there were perhaps 60,000 horses. They arrived at Ss. Apostoli where the said cardinal of San Sisto (who has as much power as the pope) had had the whole piazza covered with vele, and on one side of the piazza three rooms opened - all new but made after the antique style - with columns covered with leaves and flowers and a frieze above, very rich and beautiful, with the coats-of-arms of the pope, the cardinal of San Sisto, the king of Naples, the duke of Milan, and the duke Ercole of Ferrara.

One room was very long and had been prepared for the banquet and for watching the games that they were going to have, and the other rooms were for certain performances [rappresentazioni]. These were shown to them, and then they all entered into the palace, so well decorated that it could not have been done better if Saint Peter had come down to earth. These first three rooms inside and near the wall were all covered with the richest tapestries so that you could not see a scrap of wall. On the longest side there was one more beautiful than the others with figures on it, and this was near the stage [tribunale], and above that there was a large crimson cover with a white velvet cross in the middle of it and three covered bellows which made a continual breeze.

And on the side there was placed, standing on a column, a gilded statue of a nude boy who looked like an angel and sprayed water from his loins like a fountain, here and there, always changing [direction].

In this palace at the entrance of the first room there was the tapestry that had been made for Pope Nicholas V, which is the most beautiful ever seen by Christians, and it shows the work of God the Father when he created the world, and there was a bed with cover and headboard of shining [centonino] blue satin with golden fringe and a doorway decorated with leaves of gold [or goldleaf] with the arms of San Sisto in the center. And so [the decor] getting better all the time, one passed through another five doors in the same manner and found oneself before the door of the room decorated for the above-mentioned lady.

In the second room there were more draperies of satin... and a credenza all furnished with golden bowls and silver - prepared for continual use - and a bed with covers, headboard, and curtains of centonino satin with long golden fringe and a table three canne long and one wide - all one solid piece of cypress and covered with many little coffers and boxes.

One of these rooms was a chapel with an altar and an altar-frontal all worked with gold and silk with Our Lady and the Christ Child in her arms and with a presepio over the altar with two angels and four candlesticks, all of pure gold, and to one side a prie-Dieu for kneeling during the mass - all of silver-gilt with golden knobs above and lions' feet below.

Six chairs covered in velvet - two crimson, two azure, and two green. Around the walls there were wonderful flowers made: of silk and imported from France and also many other wonderful things.

In the third room were many embroidered cloths and garlands; a bed with covers, headboard, and curtains of white damask. A large table covered with lengths of cloth-of-gold with beautiful linings, a cap, and a coronetta made all of gold with a needle [embroidered] - never has such a beautiful thing been seen - and two chairs covered in crimson with silver decorations.

After this there were fourteen rooms, all decorated with the most excellent hangings and upholstery with curtains all around the beds all made of silk, some done in one manner and some in another. The beds all had feather quilts covered in satin - crimson, green, and azure - two to a bed, and four cushions of cloth-of-gold, and over the whole, covers of white damask that reached the ground.

[Cruciani leaves out the following paragraphs:]

At the fireplace there were two pokers, a forchetta, a shovel, and a screen, all of pure silver.

In another room there were curtains of light damask embroidered with flowers fashioned of gold thread. Above the bed there was a white damask curtain with a vermillion cross and a coat-of-arms more elaborately embroidered than those which I have described above.

Across the bed, hanging on the wall, was a banner of cloth-of-gold with a beautifully embroidered Saint Anthony of Padua - and also two chairs that cost more than 1,500 ducats.

And further there was the place that one must use to benefit the body: there, there was a chair all made of silver and inside it there was a vase - all of pure gold - and that owned by Basade - of which Martial tells us could not have been equal to this one - it was so large and beautiful. And at the window appeared these verses: "Quis cameram hanc supero dignam esse tonante? Principe, quis neget, haec est minor illa suo."

"Who can deny that this room is worthy of the thundering Jove? Who can deny that it is worthy of your prince?"

[The gold vase that was the receptacle of this chaise-percee must have been an article from the church; it was to this Infessura referred when he wrote, "To what uses are the wealth of the church being put!"]

I'm not going to tell you about how the other rooms were decorated, but they undoubtedly had plenty of silk and satin - but it's enough that you know about these above, which were most important.

There was a little loggia to one side, and the whole floor of it was covered with carpets; in fact, all the rooms had their floors covered with carpets.

On Sunday morning, and it was the holy day of Pentecost, our magnificent duchess, all dressed in gold brocade with jewels and marvelous necklaces, got on her horse with all her ladies-in-waiting and gentlewomen [on theirs] and once again between the most Reverend Cardinals of San Sisto and San Pietro in Vincoli, and with the Ferrarese brigade sent by Duke Ercole and they were the most beautifully dressed of all - and those of His Majesty the King [of Naples], [and they all] went to St. Peter's, and there they dismounted and went to the Capella Grande [this must refer to the so-called "Rosellino choir" first planned under Nicolas V] where the Holy Father was, together with the cardinals - and the delightful lady climbed up to a large tribunal newly-built near the railing of the said chapel, and then the Holy Father began to celebrate the mass with all the solemnity and ceremony once used by Pope Paul [II]. When the mass was over, the duchess was led with the greatest honor before His Holiness, and as he received her, she humbly threw herself at his feet, as she wanted to kiss them, but His Holiness did not want her to and stretched out his hand, which she kissed, and then he gave her and everyone a special benediction. Later he praised her and caressed her with much love and warmth. While this was going on, some of the cardinals also praised her - in her absence - and were overwhelmed by her serious sentiments and the poise with which she spoke such as would make Cicero lose his eloquence.

After this, the duchess, taking leave of the pope, went outside the church with Signor Sigismondo and the duke of Andria and the Holy Father was carried on his chair, as is the custom, to his palace [the Lateran] with all the cardinals going before him - with the exception of San Sisto and San Pietro in Vincoli who got on their horses again, one to either side of the duchess, and accompanied her and her enormous company triumphantly to her habitation at Ss. Apostoli.

It would take too long to write adequately about this Reverendissimo and most famous Monsignore San Sisto. To make it short, he seemed not a frate but the son of Caesar, the first Roman emperor, and he was honored even more than the pope. Words escape me and I wouldn't know how to relate to you even the smallest part [of the way he looks and behaves]. This priest seems to have been born of an emperor; he is more liberal, more magnanimous and splendid than any priest ever was. He is accepted and honored by everyone in the College of Cardinals and by all of the Roman people, and there never was another who deserved it more; it seemed almost as though he were another pope and the whole bunch of cardinals seem to agree to that. Whatever his lordship commissioned or ordered, it was done. He was so pleasant and so intelligent, happy and sweet in the way he spoke that no one ever went away from his presence disgruntled.

[Cruciani takes up his transcription again at this point.]

At noon [on Sunday] the story of Susanna was acted out by some Florentines with the most realistic actions, better than one could possibly say.

On Monday, San Sisto had dinner served to the duchess in the largest of the rooms outside. On one side of the room there was an enormous credenza with twelve shelves all full, even overloaded, with great vessels of silver and gold with so many precious stones that it was miraculous to look at; but what was even more stupendous was that even. with so many dishes served and so many varieties of those - as I will tell you below - there was always enough silver and nothing was ever moved from the credenza. Two tables were set apart. At the first were seven places: that is, the duchess sat in the center and on her right San Sisto, the duke of Andria, and the count Gerolamo, nephew of the pope. To her left were Signor Sigismondo, the duchess of Melfi, and Signor Alberto.

At the other table were the duke of Melfi, the countess of Altavilla, and the countess of Bulchianico. And before they sat down at the table, they were given, while standing with their backs to the table, a course of melons, sugared and gilded, pomegranates, sugared and gilded in cups with malvasia and then rose-water to wash their hands.

Then they sat down at the table, which was covered with four tablecloths, and the following plates were carried in, each to the sound of trumpets and flutes, playing various tunes.

There were quadri [serving dishes], decorated in the usual manner, accompanied by gilded bread. Confections of pine nuts and sugar, some with coats-of-arms and some without but all gilded, and this was the antipasto.

Lachietti in bowls with lots of white wine; blanc-mange with sweet pomegranate seeds. Chicken and kid livers; two capons in green sauce, served with red wine. For each [guest] a small chicken with peacock sauce. Toasted bread. Little pies of birds. Two entire veal, skinned. Elixir in large plates. And for each plate five pieces of veal, five pieces of mutton, three pieces of boar, three kids. Six chickens. Six capons, a ham [persuto], a suckling pig [somata] and two sausages. For each plate, as indicated above, a tete-de-veau in the form of a unicorn's head, with sauce inside the head. [The unicorn was the personal symbol of Ercole's half-brother Borso, who preceded him as duke of Ferrara.] Minestra of pumpkin, little pastries of chicken. And then the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes and of Perseus when he liberated Andromeda from the dragon - all made of food.

Then there were small roasts in large salvers, that is, five pieces of veal, three kids in sauce, hare in sauce. Then for each plate ten pigeons, ten chickens, ten rabbits. A peacock dressed in its feathers, and then came Orpheus with his zither followed by four peacocks dressed in their feathers with the tail-feathers opened and a peahen and her young all dressed in their feathers, two pheasants with feathers, two swans with their feathers, two cranes also with feathers. A deer, re-dressed in its skin with the horns on its head. A bear dressed in its fur holding a stick in its mouth. Another deer, a goat, pigs, and boars and many other animals - all cooked and put back into their skins - and all life-size so that they seemed real, and they were carried onto the stage and put around a mountain.

Gelatine in large silver shells with garlands around them and in the middle, a unicorn with a straight horn. Five golden meat pies and moschatelle pears in cups.

The tables were then cleared, and the top tablecloth removed with all the utensils. Water [for washing the hands] scented with citron blossom, pine-nut candies in the form of fish, and Greek wine were then served.

Then more quadri, decorated with silvered bread. Silvered lemons in sirop, served in cups. Roast fish marinated in yellow sauce. Bowls with [extra] sauce. Little pies of silvery eels. Two sturgeons cooked whole and silvered, carried on a silver salver. Six plates of lampreys carried on a golden salver where there was also a Ceres seated on a carriage drawn by two tigers - all of gold. Silver gelatine served in large plates. Green pies [torte verde], also silvered. Another large plate of soft cheese [gioncada] made with milk.

Then another of the tablecloths was taken away, and perfumed water was poured over the hands.

[New] serving dishes with bread, decorated with flowers. Pine-nut confections in the form of diamonds [the personal emblem of Duke Ercole]. Red cherries in cups filled with wine from Tiro. Black cherries in cups. Mangiar-verde decorated with cloves and rosemary. Chicken alla catalana [the house of Aragon was from Catalonia]. Large roasts in large plates: five pieces of veal, three pieces of mutton, and three pieces of kid. Three suckling pigs, four capons, and eight ducks. Then other confections were carried to the table: the three [sic] deeds of Hercules - that is, that of the Lion, of the Boar, and of the Bull - and each was as large as the size of an ordinary man.

And first Hercules, nude with the skin of a lion [molmela] over shoulder - and it was lined with stars to signify that he had control over the heavens - and then followed all the deeds of Hercules, and then large castles were carried in, all made of sugar of various kinds with towers and keeps and filled with all kinds of sweets. Then the sweets were emptied out of the castles and thrown down from the [wooden] pavilion into the piazza, so many that it seemed like a great rainstorm.

Then a large dragon on a mountain was carried in that seemed almost alive, and then came a band of wild men. Afterwards, ten large ships with sails and ropes, all made of sugar and filled with acorns [the symbol of Pope Sixtus] made of sugar. Then another mountain was carried in, and a man jumped out, and he seemed to be amazed at such a feast, and he said a few words, which were difficult to understand.

Then came a triumph of Venus, drawn in a carriage by two swans.

Then ice cream in unicorn's horns.

Then the tale of the Hesperides and of Hercules who killed the dragon that guarded the tree with the golden apples.

Junket in the form of beautiful little babies and marzipan.

Then the table was cleared of everything; water [for washing the hands] was passed; wine on the table, cake, biscuits, fresh almonds, sugar-covered almonds [confetti], and small candies [coriandoli] flavored with anise and cinnamon and sugared pine nuts.

Afterwards, eight men appeared on the stage with eight others dressed as nymphs, who were their lovers. There was Hercules with Deianira, holding hands; then Jason with Medea, Theseus with Phaedra, and all the others with their lovers, all dressed in appropriate costumes, and when they were all on stage, the pipers began to play and also many other instruments, and everyone began to dance. And then appeared some men dressed as centaurs, with shields in one hand and clubs in the other, and they tried to take away the nymphs from Hercules and his companions, and then there was a wonderful mock-battle between Hercules and the centaurs. Finally Hercules overcame them and drove them from the stage.

Then there was a presentation of Bacchus and Ariadne and many other very worthy things, all appearing to be very costly, but I won't write about them, partly because I have forgotten what they were and partly because it would take too long. Then there was music and singing and there were clowns of an infinite variety - and all were drinking wine from every region out of golden cups.

The great portate [courses of the dinner], which were five for each category, were each carried by four pages and all were presented on golden salvers.

The whole family [household] of San Sisto, including the families of those who took care of the horses, were dressed in silk and served at table in two squadrons. The master of ceremonies changed his clothes four times, and every outfit was new and splendid, and each time he also changed jewels, golden chains, pearls, and precious stones.

On Tuesday they did a presentation about that Jew who stole the body of Christ, and on Wednesday they did one about Saint John the Baptist and how he was beheaded.


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