Briefing - The “Last” Italian War; the Castro Wars, 1641-1649.
Castro was an ancient city of Latium west of Lake Bolsena, north of Rome. For centuries a dependency of the Papal States, in 1537 Pope Paul III made his illegitimate son Pier Luigi Farnese the Duke of Castro. The fief remained in the Farnese family for more than a century thereafter. But in 1642 Duke Odoardo Farnese – who was also Duke of Parma and Piacenza – had a run-in with Pope Urban VIII, a member of the Barberini family. The duke had a lot of debts. The Pope demanded that the duke pay some of them. The duke refused. So on October 13, 1641, a small papal army under Urban’s nephew, Taddeo Barberini, Prince of Palestrina and “The General of the Holy Church,” occupied Castro and some other territories. Duke Odoardo still refused to pay his debts, so on January 13, 1642, the pope formally confiscated Castro and several other fiefs. This initiated the “First Castro War,” 1642-1644.
Duke Odoardo slowly mobilized a miniscule army, and secured an alliance with Grand Duke Ferrante II d’Medici of Tuscany, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and Duke Carlo II de Nevers of Mantua, all of whom had territorial issues with the papacy, and secured support from France, just then at war with Spain, the dominant power in Italy. Eventually Odoardo was able to raise an army of some 3,000 troops. After much delay, the duke advanced into the States of the Church, inflicting a defeat on Don Taddeo, who handled the papal army badly, not least because he was pocketing a substantial portion of the money appropriated for its support (In fact, the shortage of funds became so severe that jokes circulated about collecting “Alms for the Pope’s Army.”). In mid-1643 an armistice was called. Desultory peace negotiations went on for a time at Orvieto, to no avail. Late that year, hostilities were resumed, though little fighting took place. Finally, under pressure from the French, on March 31, 1644, Pope Urban concluded the Treaty of Ferrara with Duke Odoardo and his allies, which ended the war on the basis of status quo ante bellum, which included an agreement by the duke to pay his debts. Thus ended what was sometimes called the “Barberini War.”
A few weeks later, Pope Urban died, to be succeeded on the See of Peter by Innocent X, a reforming pope.
In 1646, Duke Odoardo died, to be succeeded by his son Ranuccio II. Ranuccio repudiated his father’s agreement to pay the debts. Worse, he refused to recognize Cristoforo Guarda, whom the pope had appointed Bishop of Castro. And as the good bishop was traveling to his new see, his party was ambushed and he was murdered. Determining that the deed had been committed at the instigation of Duke Ranuccio, the pope ordered the occupation of the fief, touching off the Second Castro War, which lasted only a few weeks.
A papal army quickly invested the citadel of Castro. Meanwhile, Duke Ranuccio collected together an army, which he entrusted to the command of Jacopo Gaufrido. A civilian functionary – he had been Secretary of State of Parma – Gaufrido lost a hard fought battle in August against an army from Bologna, and was himself captured while trying to escape. Soon afterwards, having heard news of the defeat of Gaufrido’s army, Castro surrendered.
In victory, Innocent X dealt harshly with his enemies. Gaudrido was tried for making war on the Church, and punished severely. Ranuccio – on whom the pope was unable to lay his hands – was excommunicated. As for Castro, since its people had put up a stout defense, on September 2, the pope ordered the city destroyed and the populace dispersed.
The Castro War was pretty small, even by contemporary standards. Aside from the handful of dead and the destruction of Castro, it’s principal consequences were that the papal treasury received a thorough overhaul, since Innocent soon discovered that a lot of money destined for the army never made it, and the production of a great deal of art, for although defeated, the graft he collected permitted Don Taddeo to amass an impressive number of notable works, as may be noticed by anyone who’s visited the Barberini Palace and National Gallery of Antique Art, at No. 13, Via Quattro Fontane, Rome, including such items as Camassei’s “The Massacre of the Niobids.”
The Castro Wars were the last wars between Italian states, which were thereafter now thoroughly dominated by Hapsburg interests.