Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Galeazzo Maria Sforza (January 24, 1444 – December 26, 1476) was Duke of Milan from 1466 until his death. He was a member of the Sforza family of Milanese rulers, famous as patrons of the arts and music. He was also famous for being lustful, cruel and tyrannical.

He was born to Francesco Sforza, a popular condottiero and ally of Cosimo de' Medici who had gained the dukedom of Milan, and Bianca Maria Visconti. He married into the Gonzaga family, and on the death of his wife Dorotea, married Bona di Savoia. Galeazzo was murdered in the Church of Santo Stefano in Milan.


Sforza was famous as a patron of music. Under his direction, financial backing and encouragement, his chapel grew into one of the most famous and historically significant musical ensembles in Europe. Composers from the north, especially the Franco-Flemish composers from the present-day Low Countries, came to sing in his chapel and write masses, motets and secular music for him. Some of the figures associated with the Sforza chapel include Alexander Agricola, Johannes Martini, Loyset Compère, and Gaspar van Weerbeke. Most of the singers at the chapel fled after Galeazzo's murder, however, and took positions elsewhere; soon there was a rise in musical standards in other cities, such as Ferrara, as a result.


Despite his love of music, Sforza is also known to have had a cruel streak. He was a notorious womaniser who often passed his women on to his courtiers once he tired of them. He once had a poacher executed by forcing him to swallow an entire hare (with fur intact), had another man nailed alive to his coffin, and a priest who had predicted a short reign was punished by being starved to death. This made him many enemies in Milan.


There were three principal assassins involved in Sforza's death: Carlo Visconti, Gerolamo Olgiati and Giovanni Andrea Lampugnani, all fairly high-ranking officials in the Milan court.

Lampugnani, descended from Milanese nobility is recognized as the leader of the conspiracy, his motives based primarily on a land dispute, in which Galeazzo failed to intervene in a matter which saw the Lampugnani family lose considerable properties. Visconti and Olgiati also bore the duke enmity - Olgiati was a Republican idealist, whereas Visconti believed Sforza to have taken his sister's virginity.

After carefully studying Sforza's movements, the conspirators made their move on the day after Christmas, 1476, the official day of Santo Stefano, the namesake of the church where the deed was to be committed. Supported by about thirty friends, the three men waited in the church for the duke to arrive for mass. When he arrived, Lampugnani knelt before him, and after some words were exchanged, rose suddenly, stabbing him in the groin and breast. Olgiati and Visconti soon joined in, as did a servant of Lampugnani's.

Sforza was dead within a matter of seconds, and all the assassins quickly escaped the ensuing mayhem, save for Lampugnani, who became entangled in some of the church's cloth and was killed. His body soon fell into the hands of a mob, which dragged it through the streets, slashing and beating at it and in the end, hanging it upside-down outside his house. The beheaded corpse was cut down the next day and, in an act of symbolism, the "sinning" right hand was removed, burnt and put on display.

Aftermath of the assassination

Despite the initial public reaction, the government brought swift justice, soon encouraged by the public as well.

The conspirators had given little thought as to the repercussions of their crime, and were apprehended within days. Visconti and Olgiati were soon found and executed, as was the servant of Lampugnani who had participated in the slaying, in a public ceremony which culminated in their corpses being displayed as warnings to others.

Evidence from the conspirators' confessions indicated that the assassins had been encouraged by the humanist Cola Montano, who had left Milan some months before, and who bore malice against the duke for a public whipping some years before. Olgiati also uttered the famous words, while being tortured, "Death is bitter, but glory is eternal."

Similar elements indicate that this assassination was likely influential in the Pazzi Conspiracy, a subsequent attempt to dethrone the Medici family in Florence.


With his second wife, Bona di Savoia, Sforza had three children:
* Gian Galeazzo Sforza (1469-1494), who became duke upon his father's death
* Bianca Maria Sforza (1472-1510), who married Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
* Anna Sforza (1476-1497), who married Alfonso I d'Este

With Lucrecia Landriani, he had one illegitimate daughter:
* Caterina Sforza


*cite book|last=Martines|first=Lauro|title=April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici|publisher=Oxford UP|city=New York|year=2003

External links

* [ Biographical notes to Galazzo Maria Sforza]

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