Gian Galeazzo Visconti

Gian Galeazzo Visconti
Duke of Milan

Portrait attributed to Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, reputed to be of Gian Galeazzo Visconti
Coat of arms
Lord of Milan - Duke of Milan
Spouse(s) Isabelle of Valois
Caterina Visconti


Gian Maria, Duke of Milan
Filippo Maria, Duke of Milan
Valentina, Duchess of Orléans
Noble family House of Visconti
Father Galeazzo II Visconti
Mother Bianca of Savoy
Born (1351-10-16)16 October 1351
Died 3 September 1402(1402-09-03) (aged 50)

Gian Galeazzo Visconti (16 October 1351 – 3 September 1402), son of Galeazzo II Visconti and Bianca of Savoy, was the first Duke of Milan (1395)[1] and ruled the late-medieval city just before the dawn of the Renaissance. He was the great founding patron of the Certosa di Pavia, completing the Visconti Castle at Pavia begun by his father and furthering work on the Duomo of Milan.


During his patronage of the Visconti Castle, he contributed greatly to the growth of the collection of scientific treatises and richly illuminated manuscripts in the Visconti Library.[2]

Although most famous as Signore of Milan, Gian Galeazzo was the son of Galeazzo II Visconti who possessed the signoria of the city of Pavia. In 1385 Gian Galeazzo gained control of Milan by overthrowing his uncle Bernabò through treacherous means. He imprisoned his uncle who soon died, supposedly poisoned on his orders.[3]

His first marriage was to Isabelle of Valois, who brought him the title of comte de Vertus in Champagne, rendered in Italian as Conte di Virtù, the title by which he was known in his early career.[4] A devoted father to his daughter Valentina (wife of Louis, Duke of Orleans and mother of the famous poet, Charles of Orleans), Gian Galeazzo reacted to gossip about Valentina at the French Court by threatening to declare war on France. The wife of King Charles VI of France was Isabeau of Bavaria, the granddaughter of Bernabò Visconti, and, thus, a bitter rival of Valentina and her father Gian Galeazzo Visconti. After Galeazzo's wife Isabelle died in childbirth in 1373, he married secondly, on 2 October 1380, his first cousin Caterina Visconti, daughter of Bernabò; with her he had two sons, Gian Maria and Filippo Maria.

Galeazzo's role as a statesman also took other forms. Soon after seizing Milan he took Verona, Vicenza, and Padua, establishing himself as Signore of each, and soon controlled almost the entire valley of the Po, including Piacenza where in 1393 he gave the feudal power to Confalonieri Family on the lands they already had in the valleys around Piacenza. He lost Padua in 1390, when it reverted to Francesco Novello da Carrara. He received the title of Duke of Milan from Wenceslaus, King of the Romans in 1395 for 100,000 florins.

In 1400, Gian Galeazzo appointed a host of clerks and departments entrusted with improving the public health. For the new system of administration and bookkeeping this established, he is credited with creating the first modern bureaucracy.[5]

Gian Galeazzo had dreams of uniting all of northern Italy into one kingdom, a revived Lombard empire. The obstacles to his success included Bologna and especially Florence. In 1402, Gian Galeazzo launched assaults upon these cities. The warfare was extremely costly on both sides, but it was universally believed the Milanese would emerge victorious. The Florentine leaders, especially the chancellor Coluccio Salutati worked successfully to rally the people of Florence, but the Florentines were being taxed hard by famine, disease, and poverty. Galeazzo won another victory over the Bolognese at the Battle of Casalecchio on 26 June 1402.

Galeazzo's dreams were to come to naught, however, as he succumbed to a fever at the castello of Melegnano on 10 August 1402. He died on 3 September. His empire fragmented as infighting among his successors wrecked Milan, partly through his division of his lands among both legitimate and illegitimate heirs.[6]

Gian Galeazzo spent 300,000 golden florins in attempting to turn from their courses the Mincio from Mantua and the Brenta from Padua, in order to render those cities helpless before the force of his arms. His library, housed in the grandest princely dwelling in Italy, the castello in Pavia, and his rich collection of manuscripts, many of them the fruits of his conquests, were famous.


See also


  1. He was also Signore di Verona, Cremona, Bergamo, Brescia, Belluno, Pieve di Cadore, Feltre, Pavia, Novara, Como, Lodi, Vercelli, Alba, Asti, Pontremoli, Tortona, Alessandria, Valenza, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Vicenza, Vigevano, Borgo San Donnino and of the valli del Boite.
  2. Hoeniger, Cathleen. The Illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis Manuscripts from Northern Italy ca. 1380-1400: Sources, Patrons, and the Creation of a new Pictorial Genre. in: Givens, Jean Ann; Reeds, Karen; Touwaide, Alain. (2006) Visualizing medieval medicine and natural history, 1200-1550. Ashgate Publishing Ltd. pp. 51-82. ISBN 0754652963.
  3. Barbara Tuchman A Distant Mirror A.A.Knopf, New York (1978) p.418
  4. In Italian, virtù fortuitously connoted lordly charisma and connoisseurship, characteristics that were highly prized.
  5. Symonds, John Addington (1888) [1875]. Renaissance in Italy: The age of despots. 1 (American ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 142. ASIN B003YH9WF0. OCLC 664406875. Archived from the original on an unknown date. Retrieved March 8, 2011. It was he who invented bureaucracy by creating a special class of paid clerks and secretaries of departments. Their duty consisted in committing to books and ledgers the minutest items of his private expenditure and the outgoings of his public purse; in noting the details of the several taxes, so as to be able to present a survey of the whole state revenue; and in recording the names and qualities and claims of his generals, captains, and officials. Check date values in: |archive-date= (help)
  6. To his son Giovanni Maria he assigned the title of Duke of Milan, which included Como, Lodi, Cremona, Bergamo, Brescia, Reggio Emilia, Piacenza, Parma, and claims to Perugia and Siena. To Filippo Maria, conte di Pavia, he assigned in addition Vercelli, Novara, Alessandria, Tortona, Feltre, Verona, Vicenza, Bassano and the shores of Trento. To his illegitimate son, Gabriele Maria, went Pisa and Crema.
Italian nobility
Preceded by
Galeazzo II Visconti and
Bernabò Visconti
Lord of Milan
Merged into
Duchy of Milan
New creation of
Duchy of Milan
Duke of Milan
Succeeded by
Gian Maria Visconti

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