During the medieval period, Italy went from being a Lombard kingdom to one ruled by the Franks and eventually became a regular part of the Holy Roman Empire from 10th century onwards.
Towards the late medieval period, Italy became home to a number of wealthy towns and cities which strove for greater independence, often wresting it from the hands of Holy Roman emperors. During this period, a number of Italian knights rose to prominence.
For many notable Italian knights, the career began at a mercenary company from where they would ascend to the ranks of knighthood through their valor. Following are some of the most famous Italian knights.
Ettore Fieramosca was an Italian mercenary, later knight, who served a number of notable European monarchs. He began his career as a page to Ferdinand I of Naples and played an active part in the First Italian War from 1494 to 1498.
He initially served as a part of the armies of Frederick IV but eventually turned to the service of Catholic monarchs of Spain in their campaign against France. He was made a count by the Spanish monarch, Ferdinand the Catholic, but turned against the King following disagreements with the crown.
Ettore famously took part in the ‘Challenge of Barletta’, a contest between thirteen Italian knights and thirteen French knights. Ettore led the Italians to victory in the challenge.
Bartolomeo Fanfulla was a notable Italian condottiero who was eventually awarded knighthood and rose to lead a group of Italian cavalrymen against many battles of the 16th century. Until 1499, Fanfulla tried his luck as a soldier of fortune, fighting for whoever paid best.
From 1499 onwards, he fought on the side of Florence, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire against Pisa and the invading French. His valor on the battlefield earned him significant fame and he virtually took part in all major Italian battles in early 16th century.
On the battlefield, Fanfulla usually had a small army of his own, commanding 50 armed men who fought directly under his personal command. Like Fieramosca, Fanfulla was also a part of the ‘Challenge of Barletta’ and following the victory of the Italian knights in the tournament, was formally knighted by a Spanish magistrate.
Fabrizio Colonna was an Italian condottiero and a knight who occupied important political positions in the 15th and early 16th centuries. Like most other Italian knights of the period, he actively participated in the Italian battles against French invasions by serving on the side of the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and the Papal States.
In the Holy League that waged war against France from 1509 to 1515, Colonna served on the prestigious position of a general. At the Battle of Ravenna, he was the commander of the armies of the Papal States against France.
Being an avid military strategist, Colonna was considered one of the most successful military commanders of the period. Having descended from a powerful family, Colonna was appointed to important positions during his life, including the grand constable of the kingdom of Naples and as the count of Tagliacozzo.