A family prominent in Italian ecclesiastical and political history from the mid-15th to the early 17th century. The family was of humble origin and originated near Savona. Its rise began with Francesco (b. 1414), son of Leonardo. As Pope sixtus iv, Francesco arranged marriages, benefices, and feudal grants for his relatives. The children of Rafaello (brother of Sixtus IV) included: Giuliano, who became cardinal and later Pope julius ii; Giovanni, made Lord of Senigaglia and Mondavio, who wed on equal terms Giovanni di Montefeltro, daughter of Federico, Duke of Urbino; Leonardo, who married a natural daughter of Ferrante, King of Sicily, and became Duke of Sora (1472) but had no issue; Bartolomeo (d. 1494), bishop of Massa (1472) and of Ferrara (1474), and governor of castel sant' angelo (1487); and Luchinetta, who was mother of Galeotto (d. 1508) and Sisto (d. 1517) by her second husband Gian Francesco Franciotti of Lucca. Galeotto became bishop of Vicenza and bishop of Lucca, was made cardinal in 1503, and was a papal vice chancellor. Sisto also became bishop of Lucca, was made cardinal in 1507, and became vice chancellor. From another line came Girolamo and Antonio, sons of Basso Della Rovere, Marquis of Bistagno and of Monastero, and his wife Luchina. Girolamo became bishop of Recanati in 1476, and cardinal in 1477; he was favored by Julius II. After his death in 1507, he was buried in a splendid tomb designed by Sanseverino. Antonio married the niece of the King of Naples but this line died out.
Also connected with the Savona line were Clemente Grosso Della Rovere (d. 1504) and his brother Leonardo Grosso (d. 1520). Clemente was made cardinal in 1503. Leonardo was made cardinal in 1505, and was legate in Viterbo in September 1506, legate in Perugia in 1507, papal confessor, and one of the executors of the will of Julius II.
From a separate family, that of Turin, came Cristofero (d. 1478), the archbishop of Tarantasia, who became cardinal in 1477. His brother Domenico (d. 1501) was made cardinal in 1478.
Guilio (1533–78), son of Francesco Maria, Duke of Urbino, became archbishop of Ravenna and cardinal. Girolamo (d. 1592), made archbishop of Turin (1564), became cardinal in December 1586 at the intercession of the Duke of Savoy. Girolamo sought to dissuade Sixtus V from publishing a bull concerning the Sixtine text of the Bible (1590); he served on the Congregation of the Index.
The ducal line of Urbino began with Francesco Maria I (1490–1538), a Venetian general, succeeded by his son Guidobaldo II (1514–74); the latter was much hated for his harsh rule. Guidobaldo's son Francesco Maria II (1548–1631) was a better ruler, although morose. He fought at Lepanto on the flagship of Savoy. His son, Federico Ubaldo, a dissolute man, died before his father. The direct line ended in 1631, and the Urbino holdings reverted to the papacy.
Bibliography: p. litta et al., Famiglie celebri italiane (Milan 1819–1923) v.10. f. ugolini, Storia dei conti e duchi di Urbino (Florence 1859) v.2. c. marcolini, Notizie storiche della provincia di Pesaro e Urbino (Pesaro 1868). l. de villeneuve, Récherches sur la famille de la Rovère (Rome 1887). o. varaldo, Sulla famiglia Della Rovere (Savona 1888). r. reposati, Della zecca di Gubbio, e delle geste de, conti e duchi di Urbino, 2 v. (Bologna 1772–73).
[d. r. campbell]