It would appear that the citizens of Orvieto were caught unawares by Vittoria’s arrival in their midst. Two days later, on March 19, 1541, the town fathers came together in secret session and unanimously agreed that, given the standing and quality of the gentildonna, who was as well in good graces with Paul III and Cardinal Farnese, it was only fitting that they pay her homage and present her with some provisions as a gift.

Vittoria Colonna, portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo (Circa 1520), Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

On March 17, 1541, a noblewoman of a certain age in widow’s weeds appeared before the door of the Convent of San Paolo in Orvieto, seeking refuge. According to Jacob Burckhardt, she was “the most famous woman” of sixteenth-century Italy.[1] Indeed, the circle of her intimates reads like a who’s who of the foremost cultural, political, and religious protagonists of the age, including leading Petrarchist Pietro Bembo, renowned courtier Baldassare Castiglione, Queen Marguerite de Navarre, celebrity preacher Bernardino Ochino, and English cardinal Reginald Pole, not to mention “il divino” himself, Michelangelo, who was something of a soul mate.[2] She also hailed from an ancient and illustrious Roman family, which counted in its bloodline several cardinals and one pontiff, and which continued to be embroiled in the ever-evolving power struggles between Papacy and Empire. Finally, she was highly esteemed as a belle-lettrist in her own right, as affirms Ariosto, in a memorable digression of his romantic epic Orlando furioso, wreathing her with laurel above all her female counterparts:

I will choose one and she whom I will name

No envious disdain or scorn will stir.

No other women will be put to shame

If I omit them all and praise but her.

Not only has she won immortal fame

With her sweet style – no sweeter do I hear;

To him of whom she speaks or writes, she gives

New life: awakened from the tomb, he lives. (37.16)[3]

Ariosto withholds her name as his encomium builds to a crescendo when at last, two stanzas later, he proclaims: “Vittoria è ‘l nome.”[4]

Portrait of a woman (possibly Vittoria Colonna) known as the Madonna of Charity by an anonymous Neapolitan artist in the church of Sant'Antonio di Padova on the island of Ischia

Vittoria Colonna was born in 1490 at the family seat in Marino atop the forested slope of the Alban Hills near Rome. Historically, the proximity of the hereditary estates to the Curia, as well as the Colonnese penchant to maintain whatever autonomy possible from the same, resulted in numerous papal excommunications and seizures of property, though, at the start of the sixteenth-century century, relations had stabilized.[5] Not much is known about Vittoria’s upbringing, although her later writings reveal that she benefited from a broad humanistic education. At age four, she was betrothed to a descendant of the highest of highborn Spanish and Neapolitan families, Francesco Ferrante d'Avalos, the future Marquis of Pescara, who was five at the time. King Ferdinand of Naples seems to have had a hand in arranging this union between the Colonna and d’Avalos Houses in order to solidify the loyalty of the former to the Spanish throne. After the marriage of Francesco and Vittoria in 1509, the couple resided but one year together before Francesco left for northern Italy to wage war against the French under Emperor Charles V’s standard. The military campaign lasted fifteen years, during which time Vittoria remained predominantly at the court of her husband’s aunt Costanza d’Avalos on the island of Ischia. It may have been during this time that her muse was first stirred, for she was surrounded by a vibrant cultural life and rubbed shoulders with the leading poets of the day, including Jacopo Sannazaro. 

Portrait of Fernando Francesco d’Avalos, Marquis of Pescara (painter unknown)

In 1525, the French forces were at length vanquished, though Francesco died of injuries sustained in the final battle, leaving Vittoria childless. She would remain a widow for the next twenty-two years of her life (†1547). Her consort’s tragic demise nevertheless afforded her both the independence and the wherewithal to devote herself to a life of letters. Vittoria multiplied amorous sonnets in his memory, for which she at once attained literary stardom, capturing the imagination of a sympathetic public as the mournful and chaste univira, forever bound to one man.[6] There is some question as to whether Francesco was in fact worthy of such posthumous devotion, and yet under her Petrarchizing quill, he became the paragon of every manly virtue—her magnificently resplendent Sun—an exalted image which transformed him into a Christ-like figure. As befitted Vittoria’s reputation for wifely allegiance, she dressed modestly and peregrinated from convent to convent, where she resided as a “secular nun.” At one point, during her stay at the San Silvestro nunnery in Rome, she requested to take the veil, but was promptly rebuffed by Pope Clement VII as well as by her brother Ascanio, who, for their own ends, wished to have her remarry so that they might forge new political coalitions.[7] Vittoria’s disdain for worldly acclaim extended to her published works, from which she distanced herself, even refusing to collaborate with editors. Her poetry thus found its way into print through intermediaries.[8]

 Titian, Pope Paul III and his Grandsons (1546), commissioned by the Farnese family (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples)

It would now be well to return to where we initially left Vittoria, at the door of the San Paolo convent in Orvieto.[9] Her removal to the Umbrian hill town in 1541 was occasioned by her brother Ascanio Colonna's revolt against Paul III, in a conflict known as the “Salt War,” in which the Farnese pope sought to impose a new tax on salt in the Papal States.[10] The stated purpose for the additional revenues was so that the Roman Curia might counteract the rising threat of Turks and protestant heretics. It was an open secret, though, that the Farnese were more interested in supporting their lavish courtly life. Ascanio forbade his subjects residing within the Papal States from complying with the levy and, when the high pontiff incarcerated some Colonna vassals who had indeed refused to pay the duty, he retaliated by staging a raid and seizing papal cattle grazing near Colonna territory. In return, Paul III summoned him to Rome.[11] Instead, Ascansio barricaded himself in his castle at Genazzano with a motley crew of two thousands troops. He undoubtedly hoped to prevail upon Charles V for aid and protection, in recompense for the Colonna family’s previous service to the Imperial Crown. Vittoria would do what she could to encourage her hotheaded brother to settle the matter peacefully, chiding him at one point that “there was no need for so much war over thirty cows.”[12] Her pleas fell on deaf ears. Paul III was only too eager for a chance to humble the powerful Colonna House and ordered his natural son Pier Luigi Farnese to march his ten-thousand-strong army of Swiss and German mercenaries against Ascanio.

Vittoria Colonna greeted at the door of Monastero San Paolo, painting by Bruce Herman (private collection, Damon DiMauro)

It is not believed that Vittoria had before set foot in Orvieto. The main reason she retired to Orvieto at the start of the “Salt War” was precisely because, quite paradoxically, it had longed been linked to the Farnese family.[13] Indeed, before his election to the tiara, had Alessandro Farnese not been the Arch-priest of the Duomo in Orvieto? Since his enthronement, had he not showered special favors and privileges on the Orvietans?[14] And had he not recently visited the city with his entire court, conducting important diplomatic and ecclesiastical business there?[15] In the present dispute, Vittoria thus hoped to prove her neutrality to the pope and, by the same token, to spare the subjects in her own lands any trouble on her account.[16] The other factor likely influencing her decision to withdraw to Orvieto, as opposed to the Kingdom of Naples where she also had fiefs, was its very proximity to Rome. In the event that her brother might sue for peace, she could be available to help negotiate a settlement.[17]

As was her wont, Vittoria repaired to a Dominican convent for her abode.[18] Though originally incorporated in 1221 as a branch of the Benedictine San Paolo in Rome, at the instance of a certain Fra Pietro Bonaguida, a native of Orvieto, Benedict XI gave it over to the rule of St. Dominic in 1303. The San Paolo convent also happened to be renowned for the saintly lives of its inhabitants, often drawing noblewomen in quest of quietude from the neighboring Roman and Tuscan provinces. One of its most outstanding inmates had been Suora Daniella, the close associate of Santa Caterina da Siena, from whom she received several devotional epistles.[19] But, in the Dominican annals, many other names from the San Paolo sisterhood, distinguished for their deeds, have come down to us: Brigida de’ Manetti, Caterina Pollidori, Serafina Bottifango, Domenica Tarugi, Angelica Arciti, Dorotea Marabottini, etc.[20] Moreover, San Paolo had been one of the first monasteries to be swept up in the winds of renewal inspired by Savonarola, and from it a number of reform-minded nuns had been sent out to direct or found other houses. Among these houses were the Convertite della Maddalena in Rome, San Tommaso in Perugia, Sant’Agnese in Montepulciano, and Santa Caterina in Viterbo, where Vittoria would soon reside when the ecclesia Viterbiensis gathered in that city. Shortly after her arrival at San Paolo, Vittoria wrote to Reginald Pole of her rapt delight to be surrounded by such saintly souls; indeed she “…reckoned to converse with so many angels.”[21]

It would appear that the citizens of Orvieto were caught unawares by Vittoria’s arrival in their midst. Two days later, on March 19, 1541, the town fathers, along with the newly appointed governor, Brunamonte de’ Rossi, came together in secret session and unanimously agreed that, given the standing and quality of the gentildonna, who was as well in good graces with Paul III and Cardinal Farnese,[22] it was only fitting that they pay her homage and present her with some provisions as a gift.[23] The plan of action was executed without delay. From the town records, we know that the foodstuffs cost ten florins, and that she received exactly four pair of fowl, fourteen a half pounds of sweetmeat and marzipane, and thirty pounds of fish.[24]

But against the backdrop of Ascanio Colonna's high-stakes contest with Paul III, the events attending Vittoria’s five-month sojourn in Orvieto were especially marked by trial. The herald of the evangelical movement to which she adhered, Juan de Valdés, died just two months after her arrival, in May 1541. In the same month, the Countess of Salisbury, the mother of Vittoria’s other spiritual mentor, Reginald Pole, was martyred at the hands of Henry VIII, in part because the English cardinal had spoken out boldly against the king’s divorce. The irony does not escape us that it was in Orvieto that the protasis of this many-act drama had occurred, when Clement VII, finding himself exiled the city in 1527, had snubbed Henry VIII’s petition to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. In any case, Vittoria quickly dispatched a letter to Reginald Pole expressing her condolences, which, alas, has not survived. On the other hand, we have his long reply, which begins thus: “As there are few things these days which I read or hear in the discourse of others that can please or console me, your Excellence’s letter was all the more agreeable, for it not only consoled me but pleased me as well.”[25] He concludes by requesting that Vittoria take the place of his mother, whom Henry VIII has ripped away from him, just as cruelly as Pharaoh deprived Moses of his birth mother.[26] Responding to Pole from Orvieto on June 21, Vittoria immediately lays claim to the title of “mother.” In that capacity, she takes the opportunity to send him a gift of provisions, but tries to head off any sense of obligation on his part, playfully noting that, according to St. Paul, “…parents must give to their children, and not children to their parents.”[27]  She signs her letter “serva et madre, la Marchesa di Pescara.”[28]

During her Orvietan sojourn, Vittoria was also under constant surveillance by the Farnese network. Their chief spy was none other than the new governor of the city, Brunamonte de’ Rossi, a gentleman from Assisi and a Paul III appointee. He had assumed his functions just the previous year, in March 1540, but, within one month of his arrival, the General Council had already made him an Orvietan citizen, with all its rights, privileges, immunities, prerogatives, etc.[29] As soon as April 1, De Rossi made his first report to Cardinal Farnese: 

I have not failed, nor shall I fail, to visit the Signora Marchesa di Pescara continually with the greatest possible solicitude, in the name of your most reverend Lordship. As much in her speech as in her actions she demonstrates more devotion and attachment than one can say to his Holiness and to your most reverend and most illustrious Lordship. Her Excellence has cloistered herself in the monastery of San Paolo with only two maidservants, and keeps two menservants outside to provide her with the necessities. She lives that kind of devotion which persons of holy and upright life are wont to live…[30]

In spite of Vittoria’s blameless conduct, Cardinal Farnese was keenly interested in the comings and goings of her visitors at San Paolo, and the obsequious De Rossi played all the angles to worm out what information he could, writing on April 9:

Seeing how much your most reverend and most illustrious Lordship, in your letter of the 8th of this month, has written me with respect to the Signora Marchesa di Pescara, I have not failed to execute and satisfy your wish. In brief, I surreptitiously discovered and learned from the Bishop of Orvieto that about eight days ago, there was an agent, a secretary or a servant of the most reverend Cardinal Fregoso, who spoke with the Signora Marchesa, and stopped and lodged one night with the menservants of the said Signora… The Bishop tells me that he came only to apprise her Excellence of the progress of the war. Having obtained this news, I was going to the citadel, passing in front of the monastery of San Paolo where the said Signora is staying, and I happened upon a gentleman with a sword and spurs on that had just arrived, and who was speaking at the grating with the aforesaid Signora… and I saw when he gave her a package, which he put through the grating, two boxes high, stacked one on top of the other and stitched together in a certain cloth linen. What it was, I do not know, because one couldn’t see, and he put it through the grating as soon as I arrived there.[31]

The Bishop of Orvieto[32] again becomes a useful source of information for De Rossi, all the more so that the Bishop has Vittoria’s confidence and has been privy to some of her letters. Writing to Cardinal Farnese on the 20th of April, De Rossi gleefully informs him that he has managed to pry from the Bishop the fact that Charles V had been in contact with Vittoria while at San Paolo. The sum of the letter was that the Emperor wanted to encourage her to be of good cheer: 

…because his Majesty, having written to Signor Ascanio that he might do all that His Beatitude wanted, and having recommended Signor Ascanio to his Holiness, hoped affairs would come to a good conclusion, and that arms would be laid down, because her Excellence should consider that his Majesty could not fail the House of her Excellence.[33]

But the progress of war was not going well for Ascanio, and Paul III was in no mood to give up on such a prize possession as the Colonna castles surrounding Rome, which seemed to him a permanent threat, now that they were within his grasp. Several strongholds[34] had already fallen to the papal forces. Only Paliano and Rocca resisted, but it was precisely these of which Paul III was the most covetous, since they were the key to the Colonnese defenses. When Paliano was taken, De Rossi tells Cardinal Farnese in a letter dated May 14 that he has not failed to make known the news to Vittoria. He also reports her terse reply: “Property may come and go, provided that people are safe.”[35]

Rocca finally fell as well, when the seventy or so remaining Colonna supporters, besieged by eight thousand papal troops, negotiated a surrender and were allowed to retire peacefully. Ascanio’s ruin was also the ruin of the entire Colonna House, and he was forced into exile in the Kingdom of Naples. For what it is worth, the sycophant Farnese spy, Brunamonte de’ Rossi, lasted in Orvieto only as long as the Salt War lasted. Paul III appointed another governor on June 9, a Florentine named Francesco Valori, who reached the city on June 20 and presented himself to the town fathers with a letter of recommendation from Cardinal Farnese.[36] The hapless De Rossi, on the other hand, was eventually appointed governor of Ascoli in January 1564 by Pius I. However, the city was in full sedition and De Rossi had to enter the city with a soldier escort. Three months later, on Holy Friday, he was almost killed by a fractious mob at the Holy Water font. By May, he was replaced again and was never again employed by the Curia.[37]

As the papal armies were systematically despoiling the House of Colonna, seizing castle after castle, Vittoria, in her secluded San Paolo retreat, must have taken due note of fragilitas humanarum rerum, for she came to count her worldly possessions as so much dross, writing thus to the Duke of Ferrara on June 28: “May your Excellence know that I am greatly consoled in these travails, and I thank God that, in losing the goods of fortune, he should give me the occasion to acquire those of the soul, and I am in a holy place.”[38] It is no accident that it was around the time Vittoria found herself at San Paolo that she is thought to have composed one of her greatest works, the Trionfo di Cristo, a poem in terza rima concerning the victory purchased on Calvary’s tree.[39] It was published in 1542, hence the year following her Orvietan sojourn, in two Venetian editions. The central tableau, which is strongly reminiscent of Savonarola’s 1497 Trionfo della Croce, presents Christ as a heavenly charioteer who comes to humanity’s rescue:

I then saw a chariot of such bearing

It seemed to circle heaven, earth, and sea

With its bright splendor, fair and mirthful.

Upon it was the Emperor of Heaven,

He who descended among us to save us

From severe bondage and woeful death.

For many have indulged their envy and avarice

With the goods of others, exulting in arrogance,

Vile strivers after a greedy, godless reign;

But this One conquered and his kingdom bequeathed

When in sacrifice he himself gave,

With his pure blood washing away our stain.

His was the victory and ours the reward,

So that we might obtain life from his death,

We upon whom the great enemy preyed.[40]

In the succeeding tableaus, Vittoria revisits the Passion account and develops a beatified vision of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene who follow in the Redeemer’s train. The Mary Magdalene figure, in particular, had previously been an object of Vittoria’s especial veneration. As early as 1531, she had written to Federigo II that he might procure for her a painting of Saint Magdalene. The Duke of Mantua then enlisted the services of Titian, arguably the greatest painter of the time, who completed the piece and dispatched it to her shortly thereafter.[41] So it is not indifferent here that Vittoria concludes the Trionfo di Cristo by portraying herself, along with Mary Magdalene, in rapt thralldom on the other side of the grave, before the risen Lord: 

I, who saw a more beautiful dawn

Illumined by another Sun, with another heat

Than that which unfolds and colors our flowers,

Held here my eyes and my mind transfixed.[42]

 Titian, painting of St. Mary Magdalene (1533) (Pitti Palace, Florence)

As the mystical bent of her writings, if not the very choice of San Paolo as an abode, would seem to make clear, Vittoria had a marked predilection for the vita contemplativa. However, her spirituality was never such that she neglected the duties of the vita activa. So, while in Orvieto, even though she was increasingly in straits due to the aid heaped on her brother Ascanio as well as the subsequent loss of revenue from her fiefs in the papal states, she did what she could to minister from afar to her Neapolitan subjects, in recognition for their previous loyalties to her House.[43] For instance, on June 18, she formally ratified the transfer of a Colonna castle to the community of Pesco Costanzo, a process which long had been in preparation.[44] In another vein, nor was Vittoria removed from the hotly debated topics of the day. As a case in point, while she was still in Orvieto, Cardinal Gasparo Contarini published his Epistola de justificatione ex fide et operibus, which was an attempt at a compromise on the thorny issue of faith versus works. Cardinal Bembo immediately had it sent to her, as one who could properly judge its contents, not mention as one also whose influence could be used to promote its doctrine in reform-minded circles.[45]


 [1] Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1945), 234.

[2]  For a more extensive account of her connections with the litterati and glitterati of her time, see Joseph Gibaldi, “Child, Woman, Poet: Vittoria Colona,” in Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation, ed. Katharina M. Wilson (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987), 23-28.


Sceglieronne una; e sceglierolla tale,

che superato avrà l'invidia in modo,

che nessun'altra potrà avere a male,

se l'altre taccio, e se lei sola lodo.

Quest'una ha non pur sé fatta immortale

col dolce stil di che il meglior non odo;

ma può qualunque di cui parli o scriva,

trar del sepolcro, e far ch'eterno viva.

Orlando furioso, ed. by Marcello Turchi (Milan: Garzanti, 1974), Vol. II, 1000. Ariosto’s text is here Englished by Barbara Reynolds (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1977), Vol. II, 383.

[4]  Ibid., 37.18.

[5]  For an historical sketch of the Colonna House, see Alfredo Reumont, Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara, Vita, Fede, and Poesia nel Secolo Decimosesto, trans. into Italian by Giuseppe Müller and Ermanno Ferrero. Seconda Edizione (Torino: Ermanno Loescher, 1892), 3-18

[6]  On this score, see Abigail Brundin, “The Making of a Renaissance Publishing Phenomenon,” in Vittoria Colonna and the Spiritual Poetics of the Italian Reformation (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 15-36.

[7]  Concerning the pope’s letter, in which he expressly forbad the sisters from receiving Vittoria’s vows, see Alfredo Reumont, op. cit., 88

[8]  The first edition of her works was published in 1539. But much of her poetry had been making the rounds in manuscript for some time, as is evidenced by the fact that Ariosto sang of her lyric powers in the 1532 edition of his Ariosto furioso cited above.

[9]  For the main sources on Vittoria’s sojourn in Orvieto, see Alfredo Reumont, op. cit., 211-213 and especially Domenico Tordi, “Vittoria Colonna in Orvieto durante la Guerra del Sale,” Bollettino della Società Umbra di Storia Patria I (1895), 473-533. Her correspondence from the period can also be found in the Carteggio, edited by Ferrero and Müller, op. cit., 213-235 and in Sergio M. Pagano and Concetta Ranieri, Nuovi documenti su Vittoria Colonna e Reginald Pole, Città del Vaticano, Archivio Vaticano, 1989, 95. For an abbreviated account in English, see Maud F. Jerrold, Vittoria Colonna, Her Friends and Her Times (New York: Freeport, 1906), 225-237.

[10]  On Vittoria’s intense diplomatic efforts to reconcile her brother and the Farnese pope, see “Rome: The Salt War Letters of Vittoria Colonna,” in Diana Robin, Publishing Women: Salons, the Presses, and the Counter-Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 79-101.

[11]  The papal brief is reprinted in full by Ferrero and Müller: Carteggio, op. cit., 215-216.

[12]  “Non bisognava tanta guerra per trenta vacche,” ibid., 218.

[13]  See Luigi Fumi, Orvieto, note storiche et biografiche, Città di Castello, S. Lapi (1891), 99-103.

[14]  The Orvietans were granted relief or a delay from some taxation. Paul III also supported building renovation.

[15]  Paul III arrived with his court in Orvieto in September 1540 for an eight-day stay. While there, he received ambassadors from several cities and signed a papal bull on September 13 (Bullarium a Gregorio sept. usque ad S. D. N. Sixtum quintum).

[16]  And yet, she did not forbid her subjects in the fiefs of Monte S. Giovanni, Campano, Aquino, Palazzolo, and Pesco Costanzo to serve under Ascanio’s standard. See Tordi, art. cit., 490.

[17]  This theory has been advanced by Tordi, ibid., 491.

[18]  The information on San Paolo derives mostly from Tordi (art. cit., 489-490, 499-500), who, in turn, had in his hands a rare history of the monastery: Bottini Tomaso da Lucca, Memorie dell’origine e progressi delle Monache di S. Paolo d’Orvieto dell’ordine di S. Domenico, in Orvieto, per Rinaldo Ruoli, 1631.

[19]  Saint Catherine of Siena as Seen in Her Letters, trans. and ed. with introduction by Vida D. Scudder (New York: Dutton & Co., 1906), 66-70, 143-153, 293-297.

[20]  See Tordi, art. cit., 499-500.

[21]  “…ut cum tot angelis se versari existimet.” The letter from Vittoria is now lost, though Pole relates its contents to his friend and fellow “spiritual” Cardinal Contarini: Carteggio, op. cit., 230.

[22]  According to a letter from Cardinal Gonzaga written in 1546, Paul III would even have consulted Vittoria on the choice of a papal successor: See Alessandro Luzio, “Vittoria Colonna,” Rivista Storica Mantovana, Vol. I (1885), 49.

[23]  The minutes of this meeting are republished in both the Carteggio, op. cit., 230-231 and Tordi, art. cit., 521-522.

[24]  See Tordi, ibid., 522.

[25]  “Quo pauciora sunt hoc tempore, quae vel lego vel ex aliorum sermonibus intelligo, quae me delectare aut consolari possint, co mihi gratiores fuere literae Excellentiae tuae, quae me valde tum consolatae sunt, tum etiam delectarunt.” Carteggo, op. cit., 231.

[26]  “Et sane decet Excellentiam tuam ita facere, quam cum semper sum veneratus, postquam Dei in eadem summa virtutum dona cognovi, tum postremo cum Pharaonis furor mihi matrem eripuisset, quae me genuit, in matris loco ipsam suscepi.” Ibid., 234.

[27]  “…devono i parenti donare a’ figli, non li figli a’ parenti.” The letter is reproduced by Pagano and Ranieri, Nuovi documenti…, op. cit., 95. The Pauline reference seems to point to 2 Corinthians 12:14.

[28]  Ibid., 95.

[29]  See Tordi, art. cit., 516.

[30]  Letter reprinted in Tordi: “Non sono manchato continuo nè mancharò di visitar la S.ra Marchesa di Pescara, con quella maggior gratitudine che sia possibile, in nome di V. S. R.ma, la quale tanto in parlare, quanto nelle altre attione sue se dimostra tanto divota et affettionata di N. S.re et di V. S. R.ma et Ill.ma quanto dir si possa. Sua Ecc.tia si è reserrata nel monasterio di San Paolo, sola con doie serve, et doi servitori tien di fuora che gli provedano di quanto gli fa mistiero, et vive con quella religione, che sogliono viver le persone di santa et honesta vita…” (Ibid., 522-523).

[31]  Letter reprinted in Tordi: “Visto quanto V. S. R.ma et Ill.ma per la sua delli VIII dello instante mi scrive cicra la S.ra Marchesa di Pescara, non mancando di exeguire e satisfare al dexiderio di Quella; brevibus, trovo et intendo cautamente dal Vescovo di Orvieto che sono circa VIII giorni che qui è stato uno personaggio agente, secretario, o cameriere del R.mo de Fregoso, et ha parlato con dicta Signora Marchesa, et fermatosi et alloggiato una sera con li servitori de dicta S.ra… et me dice il Vescovo che è venuto solo per ragguagliare S. Ex.tia delle cose della guerra. Havendo hauto questo ragguaglio andando io in Rocca et passando inante al monasterio di Sancto Paulo, dove sta dicta S.ra, ho trovato uno gentilhomo con la spada et spironi in piedi che alhora era arrivato, et parlava alle grate con la prefata S.ra… et ho visto io quando li ha dato et messo per la ruota uno guluppo alto in forma di doie scatole una sopra l’altra inguluppato et cuscito in certo panno di lino” (Ibid., 523-524).

[32]  A Florentine named Vincenzo Durante who was bishop of Orvieto from 1529 until his death in 1545.

[33]  Letter reprinted in Tordi: “…perchè havendo S. Maestà scripto al S.ore Ascanio che facesse tucto che S. B.ne havesse voluto, et a S. S.tà raccomandato il S.re Ascanio, spervava che le cose se termineriano in bene, et che le arme si sospenderiano, imperhò che S. Ex.tia considerasse che S. Maestà non posseva mancare alla casa di S. Ex.tia.” Art. cit., 525. In point of fact, the Emperor had twice written letters from Ratisbon, on March 17 and 26. Both are reprinted in the Carteggio, op. cit., 227-229

[34]  In order of their capitulation: Montecompatri, Scurcola, Morolo, Genazzano, Anticoli, il Piglio, Valmontone, Ardea, Ciciliano.

[35]  Letter reprinted in Tordi: “La robba va e viene, purchè sian salve le persone.” Art. cit., 528.

[36]  See Tordi, art. cit., 517.

[37]  See Tordi, ibid., 517.

[38]  “La Ex.tia Vostra sappia che sto in questi travagli consolatissima, et rengratio Dio che con perder li beni della fortuna me dia occasion de acquistar quelli del animo, et sono in un santo loco…,” Ibid., p. 229-230. There may well be an echo here of Philippians 3: 7-8.

[39]  As to its dating, see Tordi, ibid., 503-504. For a fine analysis of the Petrarchan and other elements of the text, see Rosa Casapullo, “Per una lettura del Trionfo di Cristo di Vittoria Colonna,” in Storia della lingua e storia, Atti del II Convegno ASLI (Catania, 26-28 ottobre 1999), a cura di Gabriella Alfieri (Firenze: Franco Cesari, 2003), 337-355.


    Io vidi alor un carro tal ch’a tondo

Il ciel, la terra, il mar cinger parea

Col suo chiaro splendor vago e giocondo; 

Sovra, l’Imperador del Cielo avea,

Quel che scese fra noi per noi scampare

Dal servir grave e della morte rea.

E, come molti empier l’invidie, avare

De’ beni altrui, superbi trïonfando,

Vil voglie d’un ingordo empio regnare;

Costui vinse e donò ‘l Suo Regno, quando

In sacrificio Se medesmo diede,

Col puro sangue il nostro error lavando.

Sua la vittoria e nostra è la mercede

Fece ché vita abbiam del Suo morire,

Noi ch’eravam del gran nemico prede.

Vittoria Colonna, Rime, ed. Allan Bullock (Rome: Laterza, 1982), 195.

[41]  Carteggio, op. cit., 64-67, 70-72.


     Io che da un altro Sol più vaga aurora

Illustrata vedea, con altro caldo

Di quel, che i nostri fiori apre e 'ncolora,

Tenni qui gli occhi fisi, e 'l pensier saldo.

Ibid., 199.

[43]  See Tordi, art. cit., 507.

[44]  The property was commonly known as il Pagliarello. For a synopsis of the negotiations, see Carteggio, op. cit., 456-458, 471-473.

[45]  Contarini had also dedicated to Vittoria his De Libero Arbitrio in 1536. See Carteggio, ibid., 441.


Damon DiMauro is a professor of French and Italian at Gordon College, with particular interest in prominent figures in Renaissance Italy who were influenced by, and in turn influenced, the ideas of the Protestant Reformation.

A complete Bibliography of all references in Professor DiMauro's essay can be found here.