Warfare between Gesso and Reggio in 1287

Salimbene de Adam, writing in 1288, provides this account of warfare in Italy.  Most of this section deals with a conflict between the cities of Gesso and Reggio.  Early in 1287, the latter city had fallen under the control of Monaco of Canossa, ruler of Bianello.  This would lead to a struggle for Reggio.  Salimbene was in good position to narrate the events here, as he had lived in Reggio for six years.  Sections which do not deal with military affairs have been omitted. 

The widespread disturbance in the bishopric in Reggio

Moreover, in those days Lord Rolandino of Canossa, Lord Francis de Fogliani and his brother, the provost of Carpineti, Lord Jacopino de Panceri and his son Thomasino, and many others of their party went to Parma and had flags, pennants, and armaments made to take to their castles in the bishopric of Reggio, from which they planned to fight against the enemies in Reggio.  And one day the men of Gesso raided Roncolo and drove off their oxen and cattle from the pasture.  Then as a result the men of Roncolo moved all their possessions to the bishopric of Parma and left their village empty and their homes deserted.  But the people of Quattro Castello carried off their houses and rebuilt them on the summit of Mt. Bianello.  And the citizens of Cauresana, Farneto, Corniano, Piazzola, and Oliveto did the same, rebuilding at the very top of Monteluccio.  And the men of Bibbiano built fortifications for fear of future war.  And the citizens of Caviano built their houses around the church and dug moats and filled them with water in order to be safe “from the face of the destroyer” [Isaiah 16.4].  This is the way things stand today; the future is unclear, because “Various is the event of war: and sometimes one, sometimes another is consumed by the sword” [II Kings 11.25].

The men of Reggio, both those of the city and those of Gesso, encamp near the Campola river, prepared for a battle, but they leave without a fight.

Also in this same year on Wednesday during the octave of Pentecost, that is, May 28, the men of Reggio went out of the city in full force, both the knights and infantry, in order to fight the men of Gesso, and they encamped near the Campola. (The Campola is a stream which takes its rise in Canossa and finally empties into the Crostolo). Then the men of Gesso also came forth ready for battle, and they requested an encounter from the men of Reggio. The armies were about a half a mile apart, and each side sent out messengers (which we call spies [spias] and scouts [exploratores]) to discover the size and weaknesses of the opposing army. And they did this the entire day, until in boredom they left without battle.

The men of Reggio besiege the church of Caviano and burn the village.

The following Saturday, the last day of May, the feast of St. Petronilla, the men of Gesso went out in a great host against the church of ~Caviano, where the men and women had fortified themselves. And that place was highly fortified, what with the tower, the church, and the moat around it, all guarded by men with stones, crossbows, and various other instruments. Then Lord Guido de Albareto, one of the leaders of the men of Gesso, rode up to the fortress and spoke with the men in the tower, saying, “All of you should think of your souls and surrender to us. If you do so, we will let you go free without any harm. If you refuse to surrender, however, I warn you that if you are captured by force, we will hang all of you without mercy.” Then angered by his words, one of the men in the bell tower threw a stone from the top of the tower and hit Guido’s horse on the head, and the horse shuddered with a horrible convulsion and almost fell to the ground. Then at once the two forces began to fight. And that day in the church fortress there were only forty men, and they wounded fifteen of their enemies, three of which later died and were buried. Finally, seeing that they could not capture the fortress, the men of Gesso went into the village of Caviano and pillaged it, carrying off geese, hens, cocks, capons, pigs, sheep, and everything they wanted there. For the village was filled with all kinds of goods, a beautiful little place among the groves. And the inhabitants lived there as if “according to the custom of the Sidonians” (Judges 18.7], separated from other people. But now no one was there to resist the enemies or open “the mouth, or make the least noise” [Isaiah 10.14J. And that night they burned fifty-three houses all told in the village of Caviano. And they would have burned them all, save that they left off at the request and prayers of the Friars Minor, who resisted the evil doers.

The men of Bibbiano give one hundred pounds to the men of Gesso and make a peace agreement with them.

Seeing these things, the men of Bibbiano gave a hundred pounds imperial to the men of Gesso and arranged a one-year peace agreement with them, so that they could work in their fields safely and harvest their crops. This peace settlement was reached through the mediation of Lady Beatrice, widow of the late Lord Aimerico de Palude, and sister of Lord William de Rangone of Parma.

Lord Egidiolo of Montecchio attempts to arrange a peace settlement between the men of Redo.

At that time Lord Egidiolo attempted to arrange a peace settlement between the men of Caviano and those of Gesso. And he was the perfect mediator, because his wife was related to the men of Canossa, since she was the sister of the abbot’s mother. Similarly, Monaco of Bianello was her nephew, since he was her brother’s son. Lord Egidiolo was an even‑tempered, peaceable, eloquent man, and for the whole time of the war between the men of Reggio and those of Gesso, he labored restlessly, going back and forth between Gesso and our party, and bearing up under many rumors and slanders.

At this time there was much slander against Parma in Reggio.

At this time there were many rumors abroad in Reggio that the Parmese were quarreling among themselves and that the entire city was up in arms; and it was expected that the city of Parma would be destroyed by the Parmese themselves. But the men of Reggio were merely voicing their own hopes. And many of them seemed to rejoice at the thought of the destruction of Parma, in accordance with the Scripture, Lamentations 1 [.21]: “all my enemies have heard of my evil, they have rejoiced that thou hast done it: thou hast brought a day of consolation, and they shall be like unto me.” For it is a great comfort to the miserable to have company. But the Blessed Virgin appears to take especial care to watch over her city,because she is so highly honored by the Parmese: At that time in Parma the captain of the one party was Lord Obizzo of San Vitale, the bishop of Parma, and the captain of the other party was Lord Guido de Corigia.

The courtesy and justice of Lord Rolandino of Canossa and the other leaders of the party at Gesso.

The men who had been expelled from Reggio were called those of Gesso, because of the name of the castle they lived in. The greatest leader among these was Lord Rolandino of Canossa, a handsome, noble, courteous, and generous man, who had been podesta many times in Italy. His mother, a noble and holy lady, was from the Piedmont. This Lord Rolandino performed an extremely courteous act which is worthy of memory. For once when the men of Gesso were at peace with the men of Albinea (which is in the bishopric of Reggio), a certain man of Albinea came to Lord Rolandino and complained that somebody from Gesso had stolen his oxen. And Lord Rolandino immediately had his oxen returned to him, and asked him, “Do you wish anything more?” And the man answered, “I want the man who is standing over there to give me back my clothes which he stole.” But when Rolandino asked the man to give them up, he refused absolutely to do so. And so Rolandino took off his own coat or overcoat and gave it to the man with the words, “This should be a fair exchange. Now, go in peace.” When the man who had stolen the clothes saw this, he blushed and came and knelt at Rolandino’s feet, confessed his guilt, and returned the stolen garment.

These are the leaders in the army of Gesso: Lord Rolandino of Canossa; Lord Guido de Albareto with his sons, Azzolino and the abbot of Canossa, who is called Lord Roland; William Scarabello; Boniface, the half-brother on the mother’s side of the abbot of St. Prosper of Reggio; the provost of Carpeneti and his brother, Lord Francis de Fogliani with his sons; Lord jacopino de Panceri with his son Thomasino, both of whom fought valiantly at the time of the expulsion of the party from Reggio; Bartholomew de Panceri with his son Zachariah; Lord Hugo de Conrado with his son Conradin; Lord Manfredino de Guerzo with his sons; and Lord Henry de Gherro, a good banker. Also of their group was a certain bastard, a handsome, valiant man, who once served as their podesta. Lord Henry had also once been their podesta, and likewise, Lord Rolandino. Later, they began to choose their podesta from Cremona. All the other men of their army were either mercenaries [milites stipendiarii] or freebooters (beruarii) or brigands (ribaldiJ. And note that Conradin, son of Lord Ugo was chosen by the brigands as their captain and podesta.

The siege of Bismantova. The prediction of Guido de Albareto’s future which came true. That the future is predicted in various ways.

And note that during that tempestuous time, Bismantova was besieged by the Dalli, who were in the service of Lord Matthew de Fogliani. For Lord Guido de Albareto and his allies had gone up on this rocky eminence to escape from their enemies. But, later, bored, the besiegers lifted the siege, and the men left Bismantova. Moreover, it is good to know about Guido de Albareto that some five years before he was subjected to torture as a result of the murder of Guido of Bianello, his son consulted a fortune teller about what would happen to his father. Then this man showed him a passage in a book written about his father: “He shall fall into the hands of the judge.” This son, who was the Abbot of Canossa, was the very one who told me this fact one day as we were casually talking near the gate of Gesso. And so it turned out just as we have described above.

This shows that the future is predicted not only through prophets, but also through demons and sinful men. The future is best predicted, however, by just men, as we shall demonstrate in the following year, “If life accompany” [IV Kings 4.16].

Parma’s advice is followed that Navone castle on the road to Villa Cade should be completed.

Also on the preceding Friday Parma’s advice that Navone Castle be completed was confirmed. This castle is on the public road to Reggio near Villa Cade.

The forces of Gesso attack the men of Querzola, with whom they had a peace agreement, and it turns out badly for them.

Also in that year on June 16, the forces of Gesso attack the men of Querzola, with whom they were allied and had a peace agreement, seeking booty and captives. Earlier, they had been accustomed to attack Querzola, kill and capture their men and carry off the cattle. Now, however, despite a peace settlement with them, they had attacked again with the purpose of pillaging. But knights from Reggio, under the leadership of Pocapenna of Canossa, met them between Gesso and Querzola, and they fled, according to the words of the Scripture [Psalms 17.14] : “And thou hast made my enemies turn their back upon me, and hast destroyed them that hated me.” For the forces of Reggio fought against them on the one side and Querzola on the other, and they captured one hundred and three of them. And most of them were taken to Reggio tied on a single rope and put in chains in the city prison. Some of the prisoners, however, were kept by the men of Querzola in recompense for the injuries done them by the men of Gesso. (Querzola is a village which belongs to Matthew de Fogliani.) In this battle, however, only mercenaries and outsiders were captured. For the leaders of Gesso remained at home in the protection of the castle. And when they heard of the defeat of their forces, they lamented, “`Woe to us: for there was no such great joy yesterday and the day before: Woe to us. Who shall deliver us from the hand of these high gods?’” [I Kings 4.8].

The fires lit as a sign of joy at the victory.

The next evening the men of Reggio displayed a flaming torch in the top of the community tower as a sign of their joy, and to rejoice the hearts of their friends in Bianello and the nearby castles. And these castles also immediately displayed flaming torches, like the rustics on Shrove Tuesday when they burn their little sheds and huts. The men of Caviano also displayed flaming torches in their bell tower.

Monaco sends armed men to burn Canossa.

The following day Monaco of Bianello sent armed men to burn the houses around Canossa in revenge for the burning of Caviano by the men of Gesso.

The men of Redo besiege Muzzadella, destroy the houses around the castle and cut down  the vineyards.

Moreover, three days later on the feast of the saints and martyrs Gervase and Protase, the men of Reggio went to Muzzadella and destroyed the houses and vineyards around the castle. And the men of Bianello, Quattro Castella, Bibbiano, and Caviano were with them. The vineyards were completely destroyed. The men in the castle, however, wounded many of the invaders with arrows. Yet the men of Reggio returned that same day without a wounded man among them, the men of Quattro Castella and the other villages being the ones who were wounded.

The men who escaped from the prison of Reggio, for which Scalfino de Indusiati was tortured.

In July of 1287, twenty‑-eight men escaped from the prison in Reggio. As a result, Scalfino, the son of Lord Guido de Indusiati, was captured and tortured harshly, because the men of Reggio believed that he had given a file to them to help them escape prison. And among other tortures they put his feet in a pot of live coals, using a bellows to blow on the coals and increase the torture. And as he was undergoing this, they brought his father there to watch his son being tortured. Then they fined him three hundred pounds Bolognese, and set him free once it was paid.

Certain men seek to invade Reggiolo, a castle belonging to Reggio, for which the Canini de Palude are banished.

Also, at this time some men sought to betray Reggio’s castle Reggiolo to help the men of Gesso. But the treachery was discovered by Reggio, God helping, “Who bringeth to nought the designs of the malignant, so that their hands cannot accomplish what they had begun” [Job 5.12]. And ten of the guards of Reggiolo fled, those who apparently were the traitors. Indeed, the men of Reggio captured Conradin de Bondeno, the nephew of Conrad Canini de Palude (that is, his sister’s son) and harshly tortured him “not once nor twice” [IV Kings 6.10]. Then at the city palace they strung him up by the arms, and, later, beheaded him, dragged his body through the streets at the tail of a horse in eternal mockery and shame, and then burned his body. Afterward, they banished all the Canini de Palude with all their heirs from the city of Reggio forever.

Conrad Canini has two men killed.

Note that once they had captured Reggiolo, the men of Gesso hoped the Veronese, the Mantuans, and the men of Sesso would come to their aid and help them capture Reggio and expel the party in control of the city. And Conrad Canini was to be their podesta for three years, but “iniquity hath lied to itself” [Psalms 26.12]. And this was fitting, for just two months earlier, he had had the archpriest of Parma, a man of the Fassoli family of Fornovo, killed. He also killed his nephew Brother Boniface Trauli (i.e. tongue tied), who was called Carotto, the son of Lady Alessante, sister of Lord Rolandino of Canossa. And although he had done these evil deeds, the men of Reggio (to whom he later proved ungrateful) allowed him to live in the church of St. Nicholas – which belongs to Fontanelle Monastery of Parma – despite the fact that William de Foligiani, bishop of Reggio, and, later, the Godenti wished to have it for themselves. It was also rumored that the bishop of Parma gave two hundred pounds to help the men of Gesso take over Reggiolo and that also when the men of Sassuolo were exiled from Modena, he sent two hundred men, horse and infantry, to their aid, yet because the men of Reggio came so quickly to the aid of the Modenese, the forces of Sassuolo could not accomplish what they wished, and so they returned through Gesso because they feared reprisal if they went through Reggio. These men later helped the men of Gesso burn Caviano, as we have recounted above.

In the beginning of the war, the men of Gesso were very daring, but they later slacked off.

Note that in the beginning of the war the men of Gesso were very daring: burning, destroying, and capturing men of the opposite party. Later, however, they began to slack off, because every day the men of Reggio “went up to” them “with a great multitude” (I Machabees 1.221, and destroyed Lord Rolandino’s crops, burned his houses, and dug up his vineyards (from which comes Vernazza wine). They also dug up Lord Guido de Albareto’s vineyard and burned his house. This house had many rooms and apartments. For it had a portico, a hall, many bedrooms, kitchens, stables, wine-cellars, ovens, small cells, bakehouses, and many secret rooms. Yet the voracious fire consumed all of these.

Reggio besieges Rochetta for fifteen days, where the men of Gesso were forces to take refuge

Also in this year of 1287, the men of Gesso took refuge in Rochetta because they were hard pressed by their enemies.  And immediately the men of Reggio came with their allies and besieged them for almost fifteen days.

The Parmese and Bolognese manage to have the siege of Rochetta lifted for the purpose of arranging a peace, but the men of Gesso do worse things

Then ambassadors came from Bologna and Parma in order to arrange a peace settlement between the men of Reggio and those of Gesso, between the besieging forces and the besieged.  And under the pretext of a peace agreement the siege was lifted.  But the men of Gesso then came forth, and there was no peace.  For they did worse things than before, plundering and destroying villages of the bishopric of Reggio.  Moreover, the captured men and by diverse, contrived, and unheard-of tortures sought to get them to ransom themselves.  Among those who did these things were men from Bergamo and Milan, and freebooters from Liguria, whom the men of Gesso had hired.  About these men can justly be repeated the words of Jeremiah, chapter6 and chapter 50 [.23, .42]: “They are cruel and unmerciful.”

The cruel acts of the free-booters from Liguria who were living in Gesso.

Once, for example, when they captured a certain poor man, who had never harmed them in any way but, indeed, would have served them if he could have, they tied him up, took him to Gesso, and said to him, “Set a ransom on yourself,” that is, “Show how much you can give us.” But when he said that he had nothing to give, they immediately struck him in the mouth with a stone and knocked out six teeth and loosened a seventh. And they did the same to many other men. They tied cords around the heads of some men and pulled them so tightly that their eyes started from their sockets and fell down on their cheeks. And they strung some men up by the thumb of one hand; others, by the testicles; still others by the little toe of one foot. They tied others with their hands behind their backs, and made them sit down with their feet in a bucket of live coals, which they then blew on to make hotter. And they tied up some with a string running from the big toe of their right foot to one of their teeth; then they punched them in the back with a goad until they pulled out their own teeth. They bound up others with their hands tied to their heels, like sheep being carried to slaughter, and hung them up on a stake all day long without food or drink. They rubbed the calves of other men’s legs with rough wood, cutting through the flesh until they reached the bone. Simply to see such miseries was a great pity. But when the leaders of Gesso rebuked them for doing such horrors to Christian men, the freebooters were angered and threatened to leave them. And so they were compelled, willy nilly, to allow such things. And they thought up and did many other tortures, which I have not described for the sake of brevity. I have written these things, however, to show that some men are crueller than beasts. And so it is truly just and right that men of this kind be tormented by the demons in hell, as Isaiah described, saying, 5 [.14]: “Therefore hath hell enlarged her soul, and opened her mouth without any bounds, and their strong ones, and their people, and their high and glorious ones shall go down into it.” Also the Lord says, Matthew 25 [.41]: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels,” because you not only did not do works of mercy, but rather did such torments as the demons themselves. Whence job said, 24 [.12]: “Out of the cities they have made men to groan, and the soul of the wounded hath cried out, and God doth not suffer it to pass unrevenged,” and the Lord, Jeremiah 9 [.9]: “Shall not my soul be revenged on such a nation?” Certainly, he will be avenged, because “the Lord is the God to whom revenge belongeth” [Psalms 93.1]. Thus it is recorded in Job 4 [.8-9]: “I have seen those who work iniquity, and sow sorrows, and reap them, Perishing by the blast of God, and consumed by the spirit of his wrath.”

The number of the men of Gesso who fortified themselves in Rochetta and the date they did so. Why Rochetta is called Tiniberga. Three thousand men were at the siege of Rochetta.

The men of Gesso fortified themselves in Rochetta on the Kalends of August, that is, on the feast of St. Peter in Vincoli, and they stayed there until the feast of the martyrs Hippolytus and Cassian [August 13]. And a certain young man who was with them the whole time told me that there were only three hundred men inside and two hundred and forty horses. Outside among the besieging forces, however, there were three thousand men, counting the men of Reggio and their allies, who were spread out in various divisions and armies here and there in the mountains around Rochetta. And if Reggio could have captured it (as they could have done if it had not been for the Parmese and the Bolognese attempting to make peace), the war would have been ended without a doubt, for all the leaders of their enemies were within Rochetta, and the besieging parties had mangonels and trebuchets, whose blows Rochetta would not have been able to withstand. Rochetta is just one mile from Sassuolo and ten from Reggio. It is in a valley surrounded by mountains, and in the middle of the valley is a small mountain, on which Rochetta is built. This castle is also called Tiniberga, for the following reason: Certain men of Bergamo, among its leading citizens, were banished from the city without hope of ever returning because of a homicide that they were guilty of. And they went to Reggio and petitioned the council for a place where they could settle safely. And the citizens of Reggio granted them permission to search for an uninhabited place anywhere in their bishopric, where they would be allowed to build a fortress suitable to their needs. And so they built Rochetta and called it Tiniberga. This place now belonged to Lord Bernard of Gesso.

The Bolognese carry off hostages which they took at Rochetta

Also in the same year when the podesta of Bologna and the Bolognese citizens got the men of rochetta out the difficulty of the siege, they took with them to Bologna Lord Rolandino of Canossa and placed him in chains as a security for the peace, and they kept him prisoner a long time.  They did the same with Lord Bartholomew de Panceri, a judge and citizen of Reggio, and with the provost of Carpeneti, the son of Lord Albert de Fogliani and brother of Lord Francis.

All the men of the ancient Imperial party gather together hoping to capture Modena. Their captain is Thomasino of Sassuolo, but “iniquity hath lied to itself” [Psalms 26.12].

Also in that same year all the men of the ancient party of the Emperor Frederick, who had been expelled from their cities and had been travelling about in exile, decided to capture some city in which they could live again without shame and trouble, and take vengeance on their enemies if they would not allow them to live in peace. Yet they had come to this plan out of pure hard necessity, because the men of the Church party would show them no mercy whatsoever by receiving them in peace and allowing them back into their cities. Therefore, they came up with this plan for taking over a city. Moreover, Lord Rolandino of Canossa and the men of Gesso had sworn to those of Sesso that they would never by any means go back to Reggio unless they could do so peacefully – as was fitting. Therefore, all those of the ancient imperial party (from Cremona, Parma, Reggio, Modena, and Bologna) joined with the men from Gesso and Sassuolo, and in addition they had with them some five hundred knights from Verona and Mantua and two hundred from Germany. Then on September 6, a Saturday, near the hour of matins, Thomasino of Sassuolo with his forces entered the city of Modena through Bazoaria gate by going through the bed of the river. Then he began to run up and down throughout the city crying out that the city was his and his soldiers’. And they captured the fortification of the gate which was near the moat, and set up their flags and standards there. But [Psalms 26.12]: “Iniquity hath lied to itself,” who thereby [Job 5.12]: “Bringeth to nought the designs of the malignant, so that their hands cannot accomplish what they had begun.” For they began to kill little children still in the cradle. And God quickly took vengeance for these innocents in two ways: First, by receiving the little ones immediately into his kingdom, thereby giving eternal’ life to those they killed; second, by not allowing them to capture the city. For they would undoubtedly have captured it if they could have opened the gate, but suddenly they could not do so, because it had been barred above by a huge iron bolt. Thus it was not particularly smart of Thomasino of Sassuolo to go about shouting, “The city is ours,” before the gate was open. Moreover, the two hundred German knights had not yet arrived to help them – though they did come later. Furthermore, the five hundred who had come from Mantua and Verona were waiting outside with the rest of the army, but were unable to enter. But when the gate would not open, they set fire to it so that they could enter through the burned-out gate. But there were two problems with the plan: First, there was a strong wind blowing against them so that the flames bursting out against them forced them back away from the gate; and, second, there were so many hot coals left afterward that they were still unable to enter. And when some of them cried out, “To the fire, to the fire!” the citizens woke up and, terrified, grabbed their arms, and fought off the enemy valiantly. They cast them out of the city, put them to flight “with the edge of the sword” and “pursued them” [Judith 15.6] all the way to Sassuolo, and beyond, for they managed to keep them from entering Sassuolo.

The burning and destruction of Sassuolo

Sassuolo was abundantly supplied, filled with all kinds of foodstuffs: grain, wine, animals, and arms, because the foreign troops who had come to capture the city had left all their goods there, save for the arms needed in battle.  But the Modenese burned that castle with all its goods, refusing to allow anyone to carry off anything…And so the Modenese returned to their cities and began diligently to search out the traitors.

Lord Garzone is hanged, along with thirty-four others

And they captured Lord Garzone de Garzoni and tortured him until he died.  Then, after his death, they hanged him at the Bazoaria gate.  They also hanged thirty-four other men for the same reason, some of whom were innocent, as it was said.

The men of Gesso did not keep peace with those of Quattro Castella

Also in this year on September 8, near the hour of Vespers on the feast of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the men of Gesso attacked the forces of Bianello and Quattro Castella, as I saw with my own eyes, and carried off oxen from the fields, that is to say, ten teams of oxen and one young steer.  Moreover, they captured four children, and killed one man.  And all this despite the fact that they had a peace agreement with them, for the men of Bianello and Quattro Castella had paid tribute to them.  Yet the men of Quattro Castella, or perhaps it was the men of Bianello, captured one Cremonese mercenary and turned him over to Monaco, and after he had been mildly tortured, he became a member of Monaco’s party and lived with him.

This text was first published in The Chronicle of Salimbene de Adam, translated by Joseph L. Biard (Binghampton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1986).  This work is part of Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.  We thank the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies for allowing us to republish this text.

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