Francesco Alidosi

Francesco Alidosi, painted by Raphael.

Francesco Adiosi (1455 – 24 May 1511) was an Italian cardinal and condottiero.


Born at Castel del Rio, he was the third son of Giovanni Alidosi, lord of Castel del Rio. He went to France with Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, the future Pope Julius II, in 1494. Later, he became his secretary and main collaborator.

Alidosi was elected as bishop of Mileto in 1504, and then transferred to the see of Pavia on 26 March 1505. He occupied the see until his death in 1511.

Though many cardinals opposed the promotion, in 1505 Alidosi was created cardinal-priest of Santi Nereo e Achilleo, although opted for the title of S. Cecilia on 11 August 1506. The cardinal served as intermediary between Michelangelo Buonarroti and Pope Julius II and in 1506 signed in the name of the pope on the contract for the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. Later, he did the same for the statue of the pope in Bologna. He also served as Cardinal protector of England within the College. He was a protector of Desiderius Erasmus and patron of the arts.

Alidosi was known for his cruelty. After taking possession of the legation in Bologna on 27 June 1508, he ordered Alberto Castelli, Innocenzo Ringhieri, Sallustio Guidotti and Bartolomeo Magnani to be strangled. They were accused of "having supported a conspiracy to favor the Bentivoglio", and for having worked with the Venetians against the pope. More than thirty other persons, supporters of the Bentivoglio, were also executed. These actions unleashed a great indignation among the Bolognese. Cardinal Pietro Bembo described him with these words: "Faith meant nothing to him, nor religion, nor trustworthiness, nor shame, and there was nothing in him that was holy."

On 22 September 1508 the cardinal went to Viterbo to visit the pope, who gave the legation in Bologna to Cardinal Ippolito d'Este of Ferrara. The following November, the pope recalled Cardinal Alidosi from the legation.

Named legate in Romagna and Marche at the beginning of 1509, he took possession of Ravenna on 29 May 1509 and left his brother Obizzo as governor. He was sent as envoy before the king of France and he arrived on 19 June 1509 together with Cardinal François Guillaume de Castelnau-Clermont-Ludève at Mantua. The king of France nominated him as bishop of Cremona without papal approval. On 4 January 1510 the cardinal was recalled to Rome in order to answer to Pope Julius II about the complaints of the Bolognese.

Some theorize the pope recalled Cardinal Alidosi in order to make use of his experience to negotiate peace with Venice. An agreement was reached on 24 February 1510. After that the pope was forced to take a more accommodating attitude towards King Louis XII of France, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and the duke of Ferrara for the independence of the Catholic Church and the freedom of Italy from foreigners.

In April 1510, many Bolognese notables were shocked to learn the pope returned the legation of Bologna to Cardinal Alidosi. The Bolognese suspected him of dealing with the French while the fight against Venice was taking place. On 7 October 1510, while at the papal field near Modena, Francesco Maria I della Rovere, duke of Urbino, had the cardinal captured, handcuffed and led back to Bologna escorted by 150 horsemen. Outside the San Felice gate, twelve balestrieri removed the handcuffs and led him to a public square. Here he was accused of high treason.

The duke of Urbino and citizens of Bologna were hoping he would be punished. Instead, the pope allowed him to defend himself, and, finding the accusations unjustified, ruled in his favor. Cardinal Alidosi was named apostolic administrator of the see of Bologna on 18 October 1510, a post which he occupied until his death. On 28 October 1510, Cardinal Alidosi was again taken prisoner by the duke of Urbino for treason. The pope soon had him freed and given back all his honors.

On 14 May 1511, the pope moved his residence from Bologna to Ravenna for security reasons, lodging in the Benedictine monastery of San Vitale. The supporters of the Bentivoglio and those who opposed the power of the church revolted immediately. At about 10 p.m. on 20 May, a disguised Cardinal Alidosi escaped to Castel del Rio, taking anything of value he carry. This action prompted Francesco Maria della Rovere, at the gates of the city, to abandon the field, along with all the artillery, nearly all the provisions, and numerous flags. On 23 May Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, head of the French army, entered Bologna with the Bentivoglio.

The pope notified the cardinals of the loss, and charged the duke of Urbino and the citizens of the town of treason. He wished for the duke to be executed, but instead, Francesco Maria charged the cardinal with treason. From Castel del Rio, the cardinal went to Ravenna to tell his version of the tale. He was accompanied by his brother-in-law, Guido Vaini, and a legatine guard of 100 horsemen. Pope Julius II was convinced that the traitor had been the duke of Urbino. On 24 May 1511 the duke had an audience with the pope. He was reproached sourly, and exited from the audience with eight of his faithfuls. He went to the lodgings of Cardinal Alidosi, who was staying with Cardinal Marco Vigero, near the church of San Vitale. At the same time, Cardinal Alidosi, accompanied by his guard, was heading for the apartments of the pope, who had invited him to supper. The cardinal made a salute to the duke, and a youngster in the company of the duke, dismounted his horse angrily and advanced towards the cardinal. Taking the bridle of the mule that the cardinal was riding, he stabbed him in the side. The cardinal fell off the mule, and once on the ground, a captain cut the cardinal's cheek and one of his ears with a dagger, while Filippo Doria gave him the mortal blow in his head.

One historian notes, "'A favourite has no friends,' -- particularly a favourite of the type of Alidosi -- so that many persons, including the Legate's own servants, looked on unconcernedly upon this murder of an unpopular Churchman in broad daylight."[1]

The remains of the cardinal were honored by Pope Julius II with solemn exequies in the cathedral of Ravenna, where they were interred. When the old cathedral was demolished in 1745, Gaspare Desiderio Martinetti, a physician, gave the cardinal's skull to the Benedictines of St. Vitale, so that it would not get mixed in with the other bones. From the Benedictines, it passed to the Classense Library and was exposed to the public. Later on, the legate, Cardinal Agostino Rivarola, had it removed and interred. From a recognition made on 20 June 1968, the traces of cleaving that he received on the head could still be noticed. In the cathedral of Imola, there is a cenotaph surmounted by the effigy of the cardinal in a bas-relief, and under it, a marble plaque that remembers him and others of his family.[2]

Portrayals in fiction

Francesco Alidosi is a character in the 2011 television series Borgia. He is portrayed by Matt Di Angelo and is depicted as the lover of Cardinal della Rovere.[3] The rumor dates from his lifetime.[4]


  1. Herbert M. Vaughan, B.A., The Medici Popes (Leo X and Clement VII), London: Methuen & Co., p. 64-65
  2. The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church – Biographical Dictionary – Consistory of December 1, 1505
  3. Borgia Season 2, episode 11: "The Seven Sorrows"
  4. Christopher Hibbert (2012-07-17). The House Of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (Kindle Location 3417). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Further reading

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