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Giovanni de' Medici, also known as Giovanni dalle Bande Nere (April 5, 1498 - November 30, 1526) was an Italian condottiero.


Giovanni was born in the Northern Italian town of Forlìmarker to Giovanni de' Medici (also known as il Popolano) and Caterina Sforza, one of the most famous women of the Italian Renaissance.

From an early age, he demonstrated great interest and ability in physical activity, especially the martial arts of the age: horse riding, sword-fighting, etc. He committed his first murder at the age of 12, and was twice banished from the city of Florencemarker for his unruly behavior.He married Maria Salviati, and had a son, Cosimo (1519-1574), who went on to become Grand Duke of Florence.
Statue at the Uffizi.

Giovanni became a condottiero, or mercenary military captain, in the employ of Pope Leo X (Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici) and underwent his baptism by fire on March 5, 1516 in the war against Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbinomarker. Giovanni won after 22 days. He thenceforth formed a company of his own, mounted on light horses and specializing in fast but devastating skirmishing tactics and ambushes. In 1520 he defeated several rebel barons in the Marche. The following year Leo X allied with Emperor Charles V against King Francis I of France to regain Milan, Parmamarker and Piacenzamarker; Giovanni was called in under the command of Prospero Colonna, defeating the French at Vaprio d'Addamarker in November.

As a symbol of mourning for the death of Pope Leo X (December 1, 1521), Giovanni added black stripes to his insignia, whence comes his nick-name, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere (or Giovanni of the Black Bands). In the August 1523 he was hired by the Imperial army, and in January 1524 he defeated the French and the Swiss at Caprino Bergamascomarker. In the same year another Medici, Giulio di Giuliano, became Pope, and took the name of Clement VII. The new Pope paid all of Giovanni's debt, but in exchange ordered him to switch to the French side of the ongoing conflict. He did not take part in the battle of Pavia, but was soon severely wounded in a skirmish and later had to move to Venicemarker to be cured.

In 1526 the War of the League of Cognac broke out. The League's captain general, Francesco della Rovere, abandoned Milan in the face of the overwhelming superiority of the Imperial army led by Georg von Frundsberg. Giovanni was able to defeat the Landsknechts rearguard at the confluence of the Minciomarker with the Po Rivermarker.


On the evening of November 25 he was hit by a shot from a falconet in a battle near Govérnolo. The ball shattered his leg above the knee and he had to be carried to San Nicolò Po, where no doctor could be found.He was taken to Luigi Gonzaga's palace in Mantuamarker, where the surgeon Abramo, who had cared for him two years earlier, amputated his leg. To perform the operation Abramo asked for 10 men to hold down the stricken condottiero.

Pietro Aretino, eyewitness to the event, recalled in a letter to Francesco Albizi:

Giovanni de' Medici died five days later, of septicemia, on November 30, 1526.


Giovanni's premature death metaphorically signaled the end of the age of the condottieri, as their mode of fighting (which emphasized armored knights on horseback) was rendered practically obsolete by the introduction of the mobile field cannon. He is therefore known as the last of the great Italianmarker condottieri. His lasting reputation has been kept alive in part thanks to Pietro Aretino, the Renaissance author, satirist, playwright and "scourge of the princes", who was Giovanni's close friend and accompanied him on some of his exploits.


Lodovico de' Medici (Giovanni dalle Bande Nere) in four generations
Giovanni dalle Bande Nere

(Lodovico de' Medici)

Giovanni the Popolano
Paternal Grandfather:

Pierfrancesco de' Medici (the Elder)
Paternal Great-grandfather:

Lorenzo di Giovanni de' Medici (the Elder)

Medici Popolani line
Paternal Great-great-grandfather:

Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici

Founder of the Medici


Descendents of Lodovico de' Medici (Giovanni dalle Bande Nere) in four generations
Lodovico de' Medici

Giovanni dalle Bande Nere

Cosimo I de' Medici

Grand duke of Tuscany

Francesco I de' Medici

Grand duke of Tuscany

Marie de' Medici

Queen of France

Henrietta Maria of France

Queen of England

Later references

See also


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