Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance
Urbino is a walled city in the Marche region of Italy, south-west of Pesaro, a World Heritage Site notable for a remarkable historical legacy of independent Renaissance culture, especially under the patronage of Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482. The town, nestled on a high sloping hillside, retains much of its picturesque medieval aspect, only slightly marred by the large car parks below the town. It hosts the University of Urbino, founded in 1506, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Urbino. Its best-known architectural piece is the Palazzo Ducale, rebuilt by Luciano Laurana.
The modest Roman town of Urvinum Mataurense ("the little city on the river Mataurus") became an important strategic stronghold in the Gothic Wars of the 6th century, captured in 538 from the Ostrogoths by the Byzantine general Belisarius, and frequently mentioned by the historian Procopius.
Though Pippin presented Urbino to the Papacy, independent traditions were expressed in its commune, until, around 1200, it came into the possession of the House of Montefeltro. Although these noblemen had no direct authority over the commune, they could pressure it to elect them to the position of podestÃ , a title that Bonconte di Montefeltro managed to obtain in 1213, with the result that Urbino's population rebelled and formed an alliance with the independent commune of Rimini (1228), finally regaining control of the town in 1234. Eventually, though, the Montefeltro noblemen took control once more, and held it until 1508. In the struggles between the Guelphs and Ghibellines where factions supported either the Papacy or the Holy Roman Empire, the 13th and 14th century Montefeltro lords of Urbino were leaders of the Ghibellines of the Marche and in the Romagna region.
The most famous member of the Montefeltro was Federico III (or II), Duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482, a very successful condottiere, a skillful diplomat and an enthusiastic patron of art and literature. At his court, Piero della Francesca wrote on the science of perspective, Francesco di Giorgio Martini wrote his Trattato di architettura ("Treatise on Architecture") and Raphael's father, Giovanni Santi, wrote his poetical account of the chief artists of his time. Federico's brilliant court, according to the descriptions in Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano ("The Book of the Courtier"), set standards of what was to characterize a modern European "gentleman" for centuries to come.
In 1502, Cesare Borgia, with the connivance of his Papal father, Alexander VI, dispossessed Duke Guidobaldo and Elisabetta Gonzaga. They returned in 1503, after Alexander had died. After the Medici pope Leo X's brief attempt to establish a young Medici as duke, thwarted by the early death of Lorenzo II de' Medici in 1519, Urbino was ruled by the dynasty of Della Rovere dukes (see also War of Urbino).
In 1626, Pope Urban VIII definitively incorporated the Duchy into the papal dominions, the gift of the last Della Rovere duke, in retirement after the assassination of his heir, to be governed by the archbishop. Its great library was removed to Rome and added to the Vatican Library in 1657. The later history of Urbino is part of the history of the Papal States and, after 1861, of the Kingdom (later Republic) of Italy.