Family of papal nipoti that originated in modest circumstances at Savona in Liguria and rose to prominence through the marriage of Paolo Riario to Bianca, sister of Francesco della Rovere, later Pope sixtus iv. Elected pope in 1471, Sixtus promoted the careers of his Riario and della rovere nephews, partly through excessive family feeling, partly to strengthen his difficult political position at Rome.
Pietro, cardinal; b. 1445; d. Rome, Jan. 5, 1474. Son of the pope's sister, Pietro followed his uncle into the franciscans. He was made cardinal Dec. 16, 1471, aged only 25. He accumulated benefices (including bishoprics and abbacies) of great value and lived in lavish ostentation. While his patronage of artists and scholars offers a partial mitigation, his personal immorality was notorious.
Girolamo, brother of Pietro; b. 1443; d. Forlì, April 14, 1488. Girolamo remained a layman, but also profited from nepotism. The first step was his marriage (1477; betrothal 1472) to Caterina, natural daughter of Galeazzo Maria sforza, Duke of Milan. Sforza created him Count of Bosco, and Sixtus conferred the lordship of Imola on him. After Pietro's death, Girolamo became the closest adviser of his uncle. He was a prime mover of the infamous pazzi conspiracy against the medici and the ensuing war. In 1480, taking advantage of a disputed succession among the Ordelaffi dynasty, he made himself lord of Forlì. He became deeply involved in the feuds of aristocratic factions at Rome, siding with the orsini against their enemies the colonna. After his uncle's death, his influence waned, but he survived as lord of Imola and Forlì until conspirators murdered him. His widow preserved the throne for their son Ottaviano until 1500 when Cesare borgia overthrew her and she fled to Bologna.
Raffaele, cardinal; b. 1461; d. Naples, July 9, 1521. Raffaele was the son of Valentina Riario (niece of SixtusIV) and Antonio Sansoni, but bore the Riario name. The pope made him cardinal (Dec. 10, 1477) when he was only 17. He nearly perished in the popular reaction against the Pazzi conspirators at Florence in 1478, being there innocently at the time. He was a notorious pluralist, accumulating bishoprics and other high offices. Under Pope Alexander VI he avoided Rome, but the election of julius ii, his uncle, ended his period of disfavor. In 1517 he was implicated in Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci's conspiracy against Pope leo x, but he was pardoned after paying a heavy indemnity.
Alessandro, cardinal; b. 1543; d. Rome, July 18, 1585. One of the Riario-Sforza of Bologna, Alessandro was notable for his piety and legal learning, becoming an uditore in the apostolic camera and patriarch of Alexandria (1570). Pope gregory xiii created him cardinal in 1578, and in 1580 sent him as legate to Portugal in a vain attempt to prevent the annexation of that country by philip ii of spain.
Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) 4:231–255, 300–330, 348–388; 5–8 passim; 19:227, 359–361; 21 passim. k. a. fink, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 1957–65) 8: 1280–81. a. campana, Enciclopedia Italiana di scienzi, littere ed arti (Rome 1929–39) 29:200. g. b. picotti, ibid. 200–201.
[c. g. nauert, jr.]