Italian nobility

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The Italian nobility is the name given to the nobility in Italy . However, the term did not emerge until the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) . Due to the territorialization of Italy , the nobility there had developed very differently over the centuries. With the end of the monarchy, the titles of nobility were abolished in Italy in 1946.

The Italian nobility was often structured differently than the French or German nobility, for example . Since the medieval feudal and inheritance law in Italy differed considerably from the Franconian law , the nobility there developed differently from the Middle Ages to the modern era , which also differed greatly from region to region, as there was not yet a single state or nation. The economic, social and political conditions were in the south of the peninsula, of the influence of the Byzantine Empire , the Norman conquest of southern Italy was marked and the later ruling there Spanish royal houses, unlike the Papal States or in northern Italy , where the shaped by trade Lombard city-states and the Republic of Venice went through completely independent developments. The systems of government in the latter areas were partly based on structures from late antiquity that differed fundamentally from feudalism in Northern and Western Europe: Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa's Italian policy failed essentially because he tried to introduce fiefdoms in Italian city-states .


Like Northern and Western Europe, the Italian landed gentry arose from the medieval feudal system , but was subject to different laws in Northern and Southern Italy. On the other hand, the strong class of the city ​​nobility , the leading families in the communes , which consisted partly of merchants and partly of original knight families who had become merchants, developed their own .

Kingdom of Italy (781-1014)

As a result of the great migration and the fall of the Western Roman Empire caused by it, territorialization in Italy had developed in the early Middle Ages . In the succession of the Longobard Empire , the Carolingian Empire and local rulers ( national kings ), Emperor Otto I joined the Eastern Franconia with the Italian kingdom ( regnum Italiae ) from 951 . This made the northern Italian territories a pledge of the Holy Roman Empire .

The aristocratic houses ruling in northern Italy had a relatively loose connection with the emperor at this time. These were the Arduine in the marquisates of Turin and Susa , the Marquis of Ivrea , the Aleramides , the Obertenghi , various Counts in Trento and Friuli , the Marquis of Verona , the Counts of Canossa in Emilia-Romagna, the Bonifacier and Bosoniden in of the Margraviate of Tuscany and the Dukes of Spoleto . Most of these powerful dynasties went out early or their descendants split up into smaller noble families. The larger feudal territories that still existed from the Early Middle Ages to the High Middle Ages , such as the Margraviate of Tuscany , disintegrated when the ruling families died out; Until the modern age, of the earliest imperial vassals, only the Este family could survive in Modena. So many powerful feudal lords disappeared, which also weakened the strict rules of feudal law.

The municipality was decisive for the development of the northern Italian nobility since the High Middle Ages. As early as the 10th century, ancient settlements along ancient Roman transit routes in northern Italy resulted in numerous growing municipalities, which were made possible by rice and grain production in the fertile Po Valley , by east-west trade between the Adriatic and the Mediterranean via shipping on the Po and through the Alpine transit traffic quickly grew in prosperity. At the turn of the 11th century they began to act politically unauthorized and to emancipate themselves from emperors and margraves (see: Economy in Italy in the High Middle Ages ) .

The small northern Italian gentry, who previously Ministerialendienst to the castles or festivities houses did his lords and interests of customs revenues collected and the modest duties of the serfs , serfs and tenants had lived, felt by this source of wealth attracted, moved early on in the cities and began to be commercially active as well and to build up trading houses or banking businesses - in contrast to the feudal aristocracy in the rest of Europe, who were forbidden from trading or business activities when threatened with loss of status.

Bologna around 1200 with around 180 family towers (illustration from 1917)

Nevertheless maintained this noble families beginning their chivalrous, feud usual way of life in and brought 1150-1250 with its famous towers , the fortificatory construction of defensive and residential castles cornered inner-city streets. Merchants and bankers tried to keep up and also built towers.

In the communes, like the consuls in the ancient Roman Republic , elected Podestàs ruled for a short time with the support of a city parliament, usually called the Senate. As a result, in most cities there was either no or late (in the turmoil and battles between Ghibellines and Guelphs after 1250) sole rule, the so-called Signoria . A Podestà, who was usually chosen initially, swung himself up to become the city lord (Signore) and tried to establish a hereditary dynasty . The signori could either be members of margravial houses, such as the d ' Este family , which dates back to the Obertenghi and who became Podestàs in 1264 and 1471 dukes in Ferrara and Modena after several generations, or ascended knight families like the Gonzaga , the imperial vicars in 1329, in 1433 Marquis and 1530 dukes of Mantua were. Similarly, the Visconti in Milan developed around 1280 from imperial vicars to Podestàs and Signori, in 1395 to dukes of Lombardy and in 1447 were inherited by the Sforza . Occasionally, urban families from the late medieval merchant class, such as the Medici in Florence , succeeded in establishing signories and later monarchies, in this case the Duchy of Tuscany in 1530 , or the Scaligians as lords of Verona from 1260 to 1387. However, they obtained persistent and hereditary ones Rule over a Signoria mostly only against the resistance of her rivals, often with setbacks and exile for decades. Once they had achieved their sole rule, they had it legally legitimized by subordinating themselves as vassals to the emperor or the pope , albeit mostly nominally, and receiving the title of duke in return. Many families officially remained podestàs or vicars even as signori, such as the Malatesta in Rimini .

Another defining phenomenon is that the urban ruling classes, which accumulated considerable wealth through trade, expanded their property in the surrounding area at the expense of the medieval feudal counties and baronies, so that these ultimately became smaller and smaller and pushed to the periphery. So it came about that some old margraves or count families often only had insignificant land holdings in the advancing Middle Ages. The Malaspina originally ruled large parts of the Ligurian coast, but then split up and were finally ousted or ousted by the coastal cities; similar to the Guidi , originally count palatine of Tuscany around 923, from the city of Florence.

Palazzo Fagni in Florence: a typical patrician house around 1330

In contrast, the patrician merchants in the late Middle Ages rose to the quasi-aristocratic class through growing land holdings by leading the lives of great gentlemen - mostly without titles - similar to the “ pepper sacks ” in the republican Hanseatic cities of the north. In some cases they went back to their original knighthood - resembling the consular families of ancient Rome in this respect - in some cases they acquired old feudal marriages that were associated with the titles of barons, counts or margraves and had the "investiture" against payment by the nominal Feudal lords (usually a bishop, more rarely the emperor) confirm. In modern times it was also possible to acquire imperial, papal or French nobility letters that were not connected with fiefdom.

In this way, some of these merchant and banker families made it up to the princes , be it as ruling dynasts like the Medici in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany , or as non-ruling titular princes like the Odescalchi , Chigi or the Borromeo . (North of the Alps, only the Fugger and the Eggenberg would be comparable examples of the latter , while the Thurn and Taxis also began their commercial ascent in Lombardy.) In the 14th century, the Florentine families Bardi and Peruzzi were among the largest bankers in Europe .

This development was quite similar in all the more important states of northern Italy, with the exception of Savoy , which persisted in traditional French feudalism, and the Papal States , where excessive nepotism prevailed and the popes often elevated their own families to the rank of duke , as well as mass evidences of favor in the form of nobility letters and promotions of rank distributed to their followers. Some papal nephews managed to rise to the ruling nobility , such as the Della Rovere (first to lords of Imola , Forlì and Senigallia , then to dukes of Sora and finally, through marriage to the da Montefeltro family , to the succession in the Duchy of Urbino ). Similarly, the Farnese received the Duchy of Parma newly created by their papal grandfather , while the Borgia soon failed after a rapid rise.

Imperial Italy

Italy around 1494

The northern Italian aristocracy, the ruling dukes in the signories that had become monarchies, obtained their ruling position mainly from ensigns from the Holy Roman Empire. The imperial fiefdoms were called imperial Italy , the ruling houses of these territories were thus among the imperial princes . The imperial property, especially in northern Italy, had been divided into numerous fiefdoms of the empire since the high Middle Ages. Among them were ten larger areas and about 250 smaller fiefdoms. In the empire, the archbishop of Cologne was responsible for Italy as the imperial arch-chancellor , the feudal recipients of the empire and thus the imperial princes included houses such as the Estonians (since 1452 in the Duchy of Modena ), the Medici (since 1575 in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany), the Gonzaga ( since 1433 in the Duchy of Mantua), the Ludovisi (in the Principality of Piombino ) or the Doria (since 1760 in Torriglia ). The Duchy of Savoy (in Piedmont ) belonged to imperial Italy at least until it was elevated to kingship in 1720; the country had a special role because it belonged to the Upper Rhine Empire and had a seat and vote in the Reichstag . While the Republic of Venice was mostly able to stay out of the empire's zone of influence, the city ​​republic of Genoa officially belonged to it, although its doges often denied this and were in fact under the rule of France for a long time.

Nobility of the Holy See

In the Central Italian Papal States there was feudal as well as correspondence, similar to the Holy Roman Empire. Up to the present day the Holy See (as a particular subject of international law not to be confused with the Vatican State ) and the Republic of San Marino can confer nobility. With the Holy See, however, this has been the case since the pontificate of John XXIII. no longer practiced. In Article 41 of the Concordat on the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Italian government undertook to recognize all papal titles of nobility conferred since 1870 . The Italian president confirmed this in a decree in 1961 with regard to 115 papal awards since 1870 and 30 others since 1827 ( motu proprio ).

Nobility in southern Italy

In the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily the feudal system remained intact and there were only small trading ports, so that an urban-commercial patriciate hardly played a role in power politics. However, it was merchants from Amalfi who - in modern times - founded the Order of the Hospitallers of Malta and St. John in Jerusalem, which had become so important for the nobility of Italy and Germany in 1048–1113.

Castello Mussomeli , a noble fortress in Sicily (around 1370)

Spanish dynasties ruled in both kingdoms, so Spanish nobility law applied. After that, when the male line of a family (or a line) died out, the feudal holdings and the titles associated with them did not revert to the liege lords , as in Northern and Western Europe under Salic law , who then gave them (against military followers, administrative services, political support or Payment), even to newcomers. Rather, under Spanish law, the fiefs were always automatically inherited through the female line. As a result, enormous property accumulations emerged over the centuries in the relatively small circle of old, originally still partly Norman, partly immigrated with the dynasties, Spanish or French families. Here, too, the northern Italian merchants occasionally came into play. This accumulation of property was counteracted by the principle of real division between siblings, but as a result of basically equal marriages this mainly led to rotation and constant new property constellations within the narrow circle. This closed system made it very difficult for promoters - in contrast to the northern Italian commune - if they did not succeed in marrying in, which, however, was usually prevented by pronounced arrogance . The kings, on the other hand, kept themselves harmless by upgrading even the smallest rural estates - against payment - to baronies, counties or principalities. Over the centuries, this led to an almost trawl- like accumulation of titles due to the female inheritance . The “delusion of titles” of the Sicilian-Neapolitan families became - instead of the granting of fiefs - a source of income for the sovereigns.

This applied in a similar way to the papal Roman noble houses. The head of the Borghese family , Livio (* 1874), had the following title chain in the 1930s: “11. Prince of Montecompatri, 11th Prince of Sulmona and Vivaro, 10th Prince of Rossano , 5th Duke of Canemorte, 11th Duke of Palombara, 5th Duke of Castelchiodato, 11th Duke of Poggionativo, 11th Margrave of Mentana, Norma, Civitella, Pratica, Moricone and Percille, 11th Count of Valinfreda, 11th Baron of Cropalati, 11th Lord of Scarpa, nobleman of Rome, patrician of Venice, Naples and Genoa, Lord of ... ( eleven other titles ) ”. His eldest son Flavio (* 1902) was only called “12. Prince of Sulmona ”. Prince Livio's brother Rodolfo was only allowed to call himself “Prince of Nettuno”. About 25 of the Italian princely and duke families have survived to this day.

The so-called "Seven Great Houses of the Kingdom of Naples" were the Acquaviva , Celano , Evoli, Marzano, Molise, Ruffo and Sanseverino . (The houses of Evoli, Marzano and Molise are now extinct.) The families d'Aquino , del Balzo and Piccolomini were among the “supporters of the seven” .

The leading noble families in the Kingdom of Sicily included the Alagona, Alliata , Chiaramonte , Filangieri , Gravina , Lancia , Moncada , Notarbartolo , Palizzi, Paternò , Spucches , Stagno , Tomasi di Lampedusa , Valguarnera and Ventimiglia .

Noble ranks in Italy

After the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy, which had its roots in the Duchy of Savoy, a feudal territorial state of the Arelatic part of the Holy Roman Empire and which later extended over French, Swiss and Italian territories, northern European aristocratic tradition also came into the nobility law and -historically differently structured parts of Italy.

In 1861 the old nobility was confirmed and new nobility created through letters of nobility according to the usual ranks, the proposals usually being made by the government. Examples of persons ennobled in the period after the First World War are Armando Diaz (1921 as Duca della Vittoria ), Paolo Thaon di Revel (1921 as Duca del Mare ), Gabriele D'Annunzio (1924 as Principe di Montenevoso ) and Guglielmo Marconi ( 1924 as Marchese Marconi ). Nobility awards were made until the abolition of the monarchy in 1946. The Italian Republic abolished the nobility in 1946, but tolerated the use of titles in official documents.

The ranks were similar to those in Germany, France, Great Britain , Austria, Spain: Prince ( Principe ), Herzog ( Duca ), Margrave ( Marchese ), Graf ( Conte ), Baron ( Barone ) and "Herr von" ( Nobile ) regulated by § 6 Art. 39 of the “Regolamento per la consulta Araldica”. Because of the high number of titled nobles in the old town and country nobility, an untitled “minor nobility” was barely able to develop or - for its ownership - it had comparatively high titles. The two highest titles of duke and prince could only be inherited according to the law of the firstborn together with the majorate , the younger sons took the titles from other property of the family. This was a fundamental change in Italian inheritance law, according to which all children inherited equally, as it is still practiced today, especially in southern Italy, which, however, leads to the fragmentation of property and often to the deterioration of historic buildings.

Nobility in San Marino

The small republic of San Marino still conferred titles of nobility in the 1970s, less to residents than to foreigners for “services to the state”. The country was one of the notorious "sellers" of nobility titles (just like the Papal States , the Kingdom of Portugal or - in Germany - the Duchy of Saxony-Coburg ).

Patriciate and Nobilhòmini in Venice

The Republic of Venice developed its own, different from the other regions of Italy. It did not belong to the Holy Roman Empire, nor was it subject to a king. She also tried to stay out of the power struggles between popes and emperors. It was led by the Grand Council and the Senate appointed by it under the leadership of the Doge , an electoral duke (see: Constitution of the Republic of Venice ) . Century until 1797 a rich sea and economic power with an important colonial empire. Also known as the Serenissima called city-state was under the oligarchic rule of a closed circle of patrician families that the concept can not strictly speaking be described as noble, as it arises from the peculiar historical development of Venice, one always Republic has remained (see also : Aristocratic Republic ) .

The strongest driving forces behind the constitutional development of Venice were the prevention of a hereditary monarchy and a finely tuned balance of power between the influential patrician families and the individual government organs. Therefore, the city-state was never converted into a Signoria, as almost everywhere else in Northern Italy. All state offices that were connected with competencies were only granted for a short time, conversely the state organs appointed for life, such as the doge and the procurators, had hardly any competences and were moreover strictly controlled. The principle of careful balancing of power and mutual control of the various bodies was always observed; Historians consider this principle to be the cause of the unique stability of this state in troubled Europe.

The Doge's Palace : Seat of the Doge and the Council of the Republic of Venice

In the oldest documents from the 9th / 10th In the 19th century, the ruling class in the "Dogado" was referred to as nobiles , nobiliores , magnates , maiores , tribuni , which the mediocres et minores face. Participants in political deliberations of the Doge come into documents as bonuses homines before, and obviously not all tribuni or nobil ( ior ) there are so partly come from a wider layer of climbers families whose wealth came solely from merchant activity in Venice. Even in the early days of the settlement of the lagoon, the nobiles were involved in trade, especially with Byzantium. Families who became rich through trade in the 10th century were established members of the upper class in the 11th century. In the 12th century there was a wealthy Venetian merchant class from which to Nobili ascended homines novi (or case nuove ) came. A chronicle of the 14th century called for Nobili become gender of the 13th century simply populares veteres or antiqui ( ores ).

After the doges of the early Middle Ages had been elected in disorderly public assemblies, after the incumbent was forced to be expelled or murdered or in the context of brutal gender struggles for the supremacy of a family and violence between the patriciate and the city population had broken out again and again, it came under the doge Sebastiano Ziani undertook the first comprehensive constitutional reform between 1132 and 1148. In addition to the constitution of the Grand Council, the Small Council and the Council of Forty, electoral regulations were passed according to which the doge was no longer elected by the people's assembly, but by electors, in a complicated mixture of lottery and resolutions. In the early days of the Republic, the Doge was still an unlimited ruler, but his disempowerment began at the beginning of the 11th century, and at the end of the 13th century he was only a strictly supervised representative of the state. He was no longer allowed to do business, his sons were not allowed to take office or to marry the daughters of foreign rulers. The Doge elected for life always came from the patriciate, while the Great Chancellor of the Doge Chancellery, who was also elected for life, never came.

With the so-called serrata , the closure of the Grand Council in the period from 1297/1323, the established families of Venice excluded upstarts from government affairs, while adult men with legal capacity who could prove an ancestry from the old families and in the Libro d'Oro were registered, became a member of the Venetian Parliament, the Grand Council, upon reaching the appropriate age limit. However, the rest of the citizens were also given a high degree of economic freedom and violations by state organs were punished. The consequence of these freedoms was the economic prosperity of large sections of the population and an identification of the Venetian citizens with their state, which was rarely questioned.

The rival, most powerful families that died out before the Serrata in the early days of the Republic of Venice include the Partecipazio , the Candiano and the Orseolo ; it was they who provided most of the Doges of Venice from 810 to the constitutional reform of 1172.

After the conclusion of the council, the following 24 tribunician families are referred to as case vecchie (the “old houses”) in the “Pseudo-Justinian Chronicle” around 1350 , divided into two groups:

  • the "Twelve Noble Houses of Venice" : Badoer (-Partecipazio), Baseggio, Contarini , Dandolo , Falier, Giustinian (i) , Gradenigo and Dolfin (same tribe), Morosini, Michiel, Polani and Sanudo ,
  • the "twelve noble houses that follow the twelve generations of the oldest memory" : Barozzi, Belno (later the Bragadin in their place), Bembo, Gauli (extinct in the 13th century), Memmo, Querini, Soranzo, Tiepolo, Zane, Zen , Ziani (in their place later the Salamon) and Zorzi.

All the other council families were called Case nuove (New Houses). From these (or from some later immigrated families) some of the most powerful "doge families" of the republic were recruited, including those 16 families that are called the "ducal houses" (case nuove ducali) (although they of course do not have this rank hereditary, but only possessed ad personam by choice): The Barbarigo , Donà, Foscari , Grimani , Gritti, Lando, Loredan , Malipiero, Marcello, Mocenigo , Moro, Priuli, Trevisan, Tron, Venier and Vendramin .

Another 101 families belonged to the Grand Council when it closed, and another 13 were admitted around 1300 because they had been in their trading establishments in Constantinople ( Beyoğlu ) at the time of the serrata . In 1303 7 families from Acre were also accepted, where there were also branches. After 1310, 15 more families were admitted to the Grand Council, who had distinguished themselves in the suppression of the Baiamonte Tiepolo uprising , which had taken the serrata as an opportunity for an attempted coup. After the Chioggia War of 1378–1381 against Genoa, 30 new families were accepted, the so-called case nuove ("new houses"). A last major addition took place in the context of the Turkish wars of the 17th century with the addition of the case novissime (“newest houses”). Admission was possible in individual cases, usually with payment of considerable sums. By 1200, with little more than 40 members, the Grand Council grew to over 2,700 members in 1527. These were allowed to use the title "Patrician of Venice" . Furthermore, over the course of time, 30 non-Venetian noble houses were accepted "on account of their honor", mostly for political or military support.

However, the republic also gave the title of Patrizio to families who did not belong to the Grand Council. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when Adriatic trade and Asian imports on the Silk Road had declined due to the discovery of America, the republic began to sell the proud title of patrician of Venice and the acquirers and their families in the corpo nobiliare take in what at least 150 merchant families perceived, ultimately a large part of the reasonably successful trading families. They too were allowed to put the traditional NH (for Nobil Homo ) or ND (for Nobildonna ) in front of their names. But since all patricians had the same title, it was no longer possible to differentiate between the oldest, quasi-aristocratic patrician families and the newest "list patricians", at least according to external criteria.

The old families built and lived in the magnificent palaces in the lagoon city for centuries and, since the 15th century, also villas on the Terraferma , especially along the Brenta River . They lived the lives of trading aristocrats and the respective nouveau riche soon emulated them. It is therefore difficult, the so-called Venetian Nobili ( Nobilhòmo , Nobilòmo or Nobiluomo ) with the traditional European nobility to compare. The upward striving of the Nobilhòmini, who did not belong to the Grand Council, was more like the inflationary correspondence of the late Habsburg Monarchy , the Commercial Councils of the Second Society adorned with knight coats of arms , although the latter was created by a monarch to promote loyalty to the emperor or to prevent republican activities, while the Nobilhòmini remained citizens of an ancient republic to which they proudly professed.

Probably because up into the 19th century in Europe members of the ruling classes could only be thought of as "aristocratic" and the Venetian nobilhòmini liked to claim equality with the European nobility and represented themselves accordingly - a "grandiose historical mimicry " - they become in widely referred to in German-language literature as nobles. But the old and oldest families of the republic were neither nobles in the historically defined sense of the nobility , nor feudal lords or feudal takers (the members of the Grand Council were not allowed to accept fiefs - except from the republic itself - nor nobility or other favors from foreign princes, similar to the Hanseatics - see Hanseaten and Nobility - or the regents of Amsterdam ), they were never vassals or even subjects of a monarch. They were consistently urban patricians and merchants and differed from their merchant compatriots only in that they were admitted to the Venetian Parliament, the Grand Council, its bodies and government offices and elected the Doge and all other government officials from among their ranks. The archbishop's chairs of the Patriarchs of Venice , Grado and Aquileia were also among their benefices . Sociologically, they did not differ from the more or less successful cittadini (citizens) who had no access to it after the closure of the Great Council in 1297.

Agriculture also became an economic mainstay through the acquisition of country estates on the Terraferma , but also in the Dalmatian and Greek colonies ( Corfu , Cyprus , Naxos , Zakynthos , Andros , Crete ), where permanent houses in the Venetian style were built. The Venetian-born families on the islands mixed with Greco-Byzantine nobility ( archons ), some converted to Orthodoxy .

The independence of the Republic of Venice for more than a millennium was basically a thorn in the side of the monarchs of Europe, especially the neighboring Habsburg monarchy , which they were an annoying rival who controlled the Adriatic and cut off the hereditary lands from lucrative sea trade. The Venetian patricians developed through power and wealth at the same time a great self-confidence, which was sufficient in its republican forms. Therefore, during their rule over Venice (the latter in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia from 1815 to 1859/66) , Napoléon and the Habsburg emperors did everything they could to turn the Venetian nobilhòmini into vassals by taking some of them (e.g. the Venians , Vendramin or Manin ) were accepted into the Austrian nobility and given appropriate titles. After the repossession of Venice, Emperor Franz I of Austria once again made the word nobilòmo a criminal offense, as had already happened in 1798.

After the annexation of Veneto to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, the Italian nobility titles were also valid here and some of the patricians were then awarded them.

Venice's main rival, the Republic of Genoa , behaved somewhat differently insofar as this republic officially remained part of the Holy Roman Empire and was subordinate to the emperor, who thus also belonged to the trading patriciate there (such as the Doria , Grimaldi , Fieschi , Spinola , Durazzo etc. .) Was able to grant ennobles and ranks; Furthermore, the old feudal feuds in the surrounding area, which were often acquired by the rich merchants, have always been associated with nobility.

see also: Patriziato (Venezia) (in Italian) and the category: Venetian patrician family .


The nobility in Italy was legally abolished with the monarchy in 1946. However, the papal nobility is still recognized. The nobility particles de, di etc. became part of the name (as in Germany in 1919), but not the denominations of rank (Barone, Visconte, Conte, Marchese, Principe, Duca). However - as is common in the historical Austrian nobility or in the German nobility with the abolished titles of primogeneity - these are still used unofficially by the families and generally used in public. In some cases, they are even included in official documents (letters from authorities, etc.). The sense of class is still very pronounced today and marriage is still common; there are also associations and clubs of the aristocracy in all parts of the country. There is a close relationship with the Catholic Church and its religious orders , but above all with the Order of Malta . Many rural castles and villas are still owned by the old families, admittedly less often with large land holdings than elsewhere in Europe, which is partly due to the relative narrowness of the peninsula, which is jagged by mountains, partly to the traditional splintering of inheritance, partly to the generation of life from the substance. Palazzi in cities are usually inhabited by many branches of the family at the same time. Country estates in attractive locations have recently been increasingly sold and apartments in the palazzi are rented, often to wealthy foreigners.

The extremely diverse shape of the aristocratic traditions of Italy is a phenomenon unique in Europe: the urban-commercial north, the nepotic former papal state and centuries of backward feudal foreign rule in the south. It is also interesting that the Latin annals and documents tradition of antiquity continued unbroken in Italy , so that the written tradition often goes back much longer than in the rest of Europe. As a result, there are even more noble families in Italy who are documented before the turn of the first millennium, a historical "range" that in Germany only the Guelphs (which, by the way, are a line of the Italian d'Este), the Reginare (the House of Hesse) and upset the Wettins . Such families that still exist from the early Middle Ages are the Aleramiden , Caetani , Caracciolo , Castiglione , Colonna , Frangipani , Gherardesca , Guidi , Malaspina , Marescotti , Massimo , Orsini , Sanseverino or Ventimiglia .

See also


  • Heinrich Benedikt: Imperial eagle over the Apennines. The Austrians in Italy 1700–1866. Vienna / Munich 1964.
  • Gabriele B. Clemens, Malte König, Marco Meriggi (eds.): High culture as an element of power. Italian and German nobility in the long 19th century. Berlin / Boston 2011.
  • Oliver Thomas Domzalski: Political careers and distribution of power in the Venetian nobility (1646–1797). Sigmaringen 1996.
  • Enciclopedia Italiana di Szienze, Letteri et Arti. Volume XXIV, Roma MDCCCCXXXVI - XIII.
  • Markus Fuchs: Legend - Office - Endogamy. A portrait of the Venetian nobility from the beginning to the 16th century. Seminar paper . 2004.
  • Dieter Girgensohn : Church, politics and aristocratic government in the Republic of Venice at the beginning of the 15th century. Goettingen 1996.
  • Volker Hunecke: The Venetian nobility at the end of the republic 1646–1797. Demographics, family, household. Tübingen 1995.
  • Hagen Keller: Aristocratic rule and urban society in Northern Italy (9th – 12th centuries). Tuebingen 1979.
  • Peter Kunz: Nuremberg and Venice: Mutual influences and parallelisms in two European aristocratic republics. Saarbrücken 2009.
  • Marion Lühe: The Venetian nobility after the fall of the republic (1797-1830). Cologne 2000.
  • Marco Meriggi: The Lombard-Venetian nobility in the pre-March period. In: Armgard Rehden-Dohna, Ralph Melville (ed.): The nobility on the threshold of the bourgeois age 1780-1860. Stuttgart 1988, 1998, pp. 225-236.
  • Margarete Merores: The Venetian Nobility. A contribution to constitutional history. In: Quarterly for social and economic history. Volume XIX / 1926, pp. 193-237.
  • Margarete Merores: The great council of Venice and the so-called Serrata of the year 1297. In: Quarterly for social and economic history. Volume XXI / 1928, pp. 33-113.
  • Gerhard Rösch: The Venetian nobility until the closure of the Great Council. Sigmaringen 1989, Stuttgart 2001.
  • Volker Reinhardt (Ed.): The great families of Italy (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 485). Kröner, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-520-48501-X .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gerhard Köbler : Historical Lexicon of the German Lands. The German territories from the Middle Ages to the present. 4th, completely revised edition. CH Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-35865-9 , p. 288.
  2. Francesco Pericoli Ridolfini: Titoli nobiliari Pontifici. 1963.
  3. So the originally Norman Chiaramonte , Paternò , Filangieri or Gravina .
  4. So the originally Spanish Avalos , Montcada , De Spucches or Stagno .
  5. ^ So the originally French Del Balzo .
  6. For example the Alliata from Pisa or the Imperiali and Doria from Genoa. The Ventimiglia are an old family of margraves from northern Italy who came to Sicily .
  7. The marriage of a nouveau riche into the Sicilian nobility is described in the novel Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa , an unsurpassed portrayal of that class in the 19th century.
  8. Reinhard Heynen: On the emergence of capitalism in Venice. Berlin / Stuttgart 1905. (Reprint: o.Oo.J 2012); Gerhard Rösch: The Venetian nobility until the closure of the Great Council. Sigmaringen 1989, Stuttgart 2001.
  9. The serrata was the result of a long development and was not essentially completed until the 14th century. In 1297 the number of members of the Grand Council was expanded considerably and lists of persons eligible for election to the Grand Council were initially drawn up, who initially by no means necessarily had to come from previous council members. On July 19, 1314 it was decided that everyone who wants to be elected to the Grand Council has to register in the lists kept by the Quarantia (Court of Justice). On January 8, 1317, a revision of these lists was decided and a heavy fine was set for unauthorized entries. It was not until September 16, 1323 that it was clarified that the Grand Council was admitted whose father or grandfather had sat on the Grand Council. It was not until August 31, 1506 that the children of families eligible for advice were entered into a birth register ( Libro d'oro di nascita ) and the Libro d'oro dei matrimonio has existed since April 26, 1526 , in which the marriages of members of the Great councils were recorded. These two handwritten lists - then called the “Golden Book” ( Libro d'Oro ) - were not printed until the 18th century: Nomi, cognomi, età de 'veneti Patrizi viventi, e de' genitori loro defonti matrimoni, e figli d 'essei nel Libro d'oro registrati (1714 to 1758 in 19 editions), Protogiornale per l'anno ad uso della Serenissima Dominante Città di Venezia (from 1759), Nuovo Libro d'oro che contiene i nom, ie l'età de 'Veneti Patrizi (1797).
  10. See list of the Doges of Venice .
  11. The number 12 had a quasi-religious connotation because of the twelve apostles . The Twelve Noble Houses were therefore also referred to as the Apostle Families .
  12. Heller 1999, p. 99.
  13. On Crete, unfortified villas were built as the only colony. See: Christian Ottersbach: Venetian villas and mansions on Crete. In: Burgen und Schlösser , magazine for castle research and monument preservation, ed. from the European Castle Institute of the German Castle Association , 1/2017, pp. 17–31