Francesco Ferruccio statue

On this day in history: Florentine soldier celebrated in Italy’s national anthem killed

History of Italy News

Francesco Ferruccio, the military leader whose heroic attempt to defend Florence against the powerful army of the Holy Roman Empire, died on the battlefield on 3rd August, 1530. The Italian national anthem recalls his heroism.

A Florentine by birth, Ferruccio led the army of the Republic of Florence as the city came under attack during the War of the League of Cognac. Pope Clement VII was conniving with the emperor Charles V to overthrow the republic and restore power in Florence to his own family, the Medici.

Despite being outnumbered, Ferruccio’s soldiers engaged the Imperial forces at Gavinana, just outside Florence. They killed their leader and drove them back. However, the enemy was reinforced by the arrival of 2,000 German mercenaries under the leadership of the condottiero, Fabrizio Maramaldo.

His army almost annihilated, Ferruccio was taken prisoner. Despite being wounded, he was stabbed in the throat by Maramaldo and bled to death. The act was seen as so cowardly and against the code of chivalrous conduct that the word maramaldo entered the Italian language. Maramaldo as a noun means villain, while maramaldesco is an adjective used to describe someone as ruthless or villainous.

Ferruccio recognised in national anthem

More than 300 years later, Goffredo Mameli recalled Ferruccio in the lyrics of a song, Il Canto degli Italiani. It later became the national anthem of the united Italy.

Also known as Fratelli d’Italia – Brothers of Italy, the song cites a number of heroic figures and historical events  Mameli considered inspirational. Among them was the hero and his defence of Florence.

Goffredo Mameli’s anthem made its debut in 1847. The reference to Ferruccio occurs in the penultimate verse of the full version, in the lines:

“ogn’uom di Ferruccio, ha il core, ha la mano”

which translates as

“Every man hath the heart, and hand of Ferruccio”

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