A family of Rimini, Italy, considered by the historian Jacob Burckhardt to be a representative renaissance ruling house. Descended from the counts of Carpegna, their line can be traced from 1150 on. In Rimini, where they had been granted citizenship in recognition of their support against Cesena, the Malatesta gained such power that Giovanni Malatesta became podestà in 1237. He was succeeded in 1247 by his long-lived son Malatesta da Verucchio, who ruled until 1312 and was leader of the guelfs in the Romagna. Malatesta was succeeded by Malatestina (1312–17), the eldest of four sons. The second son, Giovanni (d. 1304), married the beautiful Francesca de Pollenta, daughter of Guido, seigneur of Ravenna. Giovanni surprised his handsome brother Paolo, who had seduced Francesca, and killed them both, a tragedy immortalized by Dante (Inferno 5.73–142). The deformed Pandolfo (d. c. 1326) succeeded his brother in office. In the following decades the Malatesta conquered Cesena, Pesaro, Fano, Fossombrone, Cervia, and other territories, but were caught in an uncomfortable position between Venice on one side and the expanding states of the church on the other. The family divided into three lines, and produced some of the leading condottieri and patrons of the arts and letters in Renaissance Italy. Cardinal albornoz forced Pandolfo II (d. 1373) of the main line to submit to papal dominance, but Pandolfo retained the Malatesta territories as a vicar of the Apostolic See. Carlo (d. 1429) was an ardent supporter of the popes, representing Gregory XII at the Council of constance. His brother Pandolfo III left three sons, Galeotto Roberto (d. 1432), Sigismondo di Pandolfo (d. 1468), and Domenico di Pandolfo, known as Novello (d. 1465). Of these three, Bl. Galeotto (feast, Oct. 10), a pious and gentle person, married Margarita d' este. Sigismondo was a notorious, but typical, Renaissance prince: well educated, an amateur poet, philosopher, and patron of the arts, a skeptical and immoral man, yet the builder of the beautiful Renaissance style cathedral of S. Francesco in Rimini. This powerful and tyrannous ruler, capable of cruelty and frivolity, took advantage of Pope Eugene IV's preoccupation with conciliarism to expand his territories. In 1460 he attacked the States of the Church and was excommunicated, burned in effigy in Rome, and defeated after a two-year struggle by Pope pius ii. He fought for and against the Venetians, for and against the Aragonese, for and against the Sienese, and against the Turks. The third brother, Domenico, is perhaps best remembered for the famous library, the Malatestiana, that he founded in Cesena; it still contains a priceless collection of manuscripts and incunabula. An illegitimate son of Sigismondo named Roberto (d. 1482) murdered Sigismondo's widow, Isotta, and their son, Salustio, and succeeded to the inheritance. He served as field marshal for Pope six tus iv in his war against Naples. His son, Pandolfo IV (d. 1523), was defeated by Caesar borgia in 1500, and in 1503 sold the Malatesta rights in Rimini to Venice.
Bibliography: l. tononi, Storia civile e sacra di Rimini, 5 v. (Rimini 1860–82). c. É. yriarte, Un Condottiere au XV e siècle (Paris 1882). e. hutton, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (New York 1906). l. bignami, Splendori ed ombre alla corte di Malatesta di Rimini (Milan 1942). r. weiss, Il primo secolo dell'Umanesimo (Rome 1949) 67–102. p. zama, 1 Malatesti (Faenza 1956).
[l. w. spitz]