• Monuments as documents

    Monuments as documents

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Monuments as documents: the rise of the este dynasty

The Este became lords of Ferrara since 1264, when the Ferrarese commune acclaimed Obizzo II as perpetual “Dominus generalis” of the city and the surrounding territory.

For the first time such an act took place in Italy: an intrinsically subversive step (by which the people of the city vindicated the right to designate their own ruler), the popular elections were the earliest evidence of the Este dominion over the city.
Just because of its novelty, however, the lordly title did not enjoy a high esteem in the authorities’ hierarchy: since the early decades of the XIV century, therefore, the House of Este took steps to found its signoria “de facto” on more stable grounds, obtaining the apostolic vicar’s investiture of Ferrara (along with the emperor’s investiture over Modena, which had similarly chosen the marquises as its lords in 1330).
Thus the Este power had its roots in a double legitimation: the election by the people, on a lower level, coming from the commune and, on a higher level, the vicar’s investiture granted by the universal Authorities. Upon the ambiguity of its double legitimation rested one of the dynasty’s strong points throughout the Middle Ages.
It was only in the course of the XVI century, due to the consolidation of the popes’ temporal power over the Church State that the Este’s dependence on the pope’ sovereignity - until then esclusively formal - turned out to be a factor of weakness, that would have led to the loss of the capital in 1598.

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