Fabrizio Maramaldo, the Neapolitan leader who became the ultimate example of infamy

by Federico Quagliuolo

Say someone is "maramaldo”Means to launch a heavy insult: it indicates a coward, a traitor, a person who takes it out on the weak. Today it is hardly used anymore, but until fifty years ago the history of Maramaldo was studied in schools such as maximum example of infamy.

The Italian word has quite infamous Neapolitan origins: it refers to Fabrizio Maramaldo, a leader who, in 1530, killed the Florentine Francesco Ferrucci during the battle of Gavinana, which was the tombstone of the long history of Republic of Florence, which passed into the hands of the Medici family for the following centuries.

Ferrucci's death was like this sensational and striking for the time that it was talked about for centuries, with literature for and against. And the Neapolitan Maramaldo became one of the most famous anti-heroes of the modern age.

Maramaldo kills Ferrucci postage stamp
Commemorative stamp from 1930 for the 400th anniversary of the killing of Ferrucci

Maramaldo: an excellent soldier or a pirate?

Very little is known about the Neapolitan captain, even the historians are not even sure of his city of origin, but most believe it is Naples, as reported by the Treccani biographical dictionary.

According to some chronicles of the time, as a young man killed his wife and fled from Naples at just twenty years old. It was probably a honor killing, but there are also those who think this is yet another nastiness said about her. The only certainty is that it was from Noble family and who had aexcellent and refined education in the arts and military skills. And it was precisely with weapons that the young Fabrizio built one enviable career throughout Italy.

Maramaldo was in fact a captain of fortune, a man paid to lead armies of mercenaries. He fought for numerous lords of Italy, from the Este of Mantua to the Venetians, bringing back excellent results alternating with sound defeats, as in the case of the battle of Asti in Piedmont.

Era very strict in the discipline, quarrelsome of character, but also very delicate in speaking. He was said to be a gentleman and he was always well received in the courts throughout Italy.

The turning point of his military career came during the famous S.ACC of Rome of 1527, when he got the trust and esteem of Charles V of Habsburg, probably the most powerful man in the world at that historical moment: the troops of the Holy Roman Empire, aided by numerous mercenary armies (including the famous lansquenets, who brought the game of zecchinetta to Italy on that occasion), put Rome to fire and sword, plundering it. Precisely on this occasion Maramaldo received several letters from Venice and Mantua, in which they were commissioned theft of works of art in the city.

Maramaldo and Ferrucci

The murder of Ferrucci

A few years after the Roman events, on 3 August 1530, Fabrizio Maramaldo found his appointment with history. The battle of Gavinana, a town in the immediate vicinity of Florence, saw the family of Doctors, eager to take absolute control of the city, and on the other the ancient institutions of the Republic of Florence, standing for 400 years.

Republicans were led by Francesco Ferrucci, a charismatic general who was able to inflict heavy defeats to his enemiesdespite completely unbalanced forces in favor of the invaders. Instead, at the head of the Medici forces there was his own Fabrizio Maramaldo, who could count on support of Charles V of Habsburg, who brought the Spanish and German forces to Italy to put his hands on Tuscany as well. They were 3000 infantry against nearly 10,000 soldiers and horsemen.

Shortly before the battle began, Maramaldo sent a young trumpeter by Ferrucci to propose the surrender: the ambassador explained to the enemy that if the republicans left their posts, no one would die that day. Ferrucci, in response, he had the boy hanged, indignant at having received such a modest messenger.

The battle lasted 4 hours and was a bloodbath. The August heat was felt under the armor and the republicans, exhausted as they continually repelled new waves of enemies, they could do nothing against the sudden arrival of an entire contingent of lansquenets. They were fresh and very ferocious: they made a massacre.

The Republicans, however, did not give up not even in the face of certain death: the last survivors continued to fight even with their bare hands. Ferrucci himself was injured and, heedless of pain, heat and fatigue, he continued to incite his own.

Francesco Ferrucci
Portrait of Ferrucci

Vile, you kill a dead man!

The defeated Republican captain was taken prisoner and unarmed, then he was brought before Fabrizio Maramaldo.

The two looked into each other's eyes and Fabrizio, reduced to the death of one rag of a man, he shouted at his enemy: "Vile, you kill a dead man!" (although some historians believe he simply remained silent).

Maramaldo, furious, decided to skewer him with a spear, against any cavalry rule that requires not to rage on unarmed or imprisoned enemies. Then he urged his military to tear the body of the enemy, with the same fury that Belisario demonstrated against the Neapolitans 1000 years before this story.

Meanwhile, a little further away, another revenge also took place who did not become as famous as the death of Ferrucci: the other commander of the republicans, Friend of Arsoli, it was enslaved and bought by his archenemy, Marzio Colonna. Then it was tortured to death to avenge the killing of Colonna's cousin.

Other chroniclers of the time believe that this episode was instead invented from scratch from partisan literature of the time and that Ferrucci is simply died in battle.

True or not, the killing of Ferrucci passed down by mainstream literature was an angry response to another violence and became so famous that it is still referred to today as the ultimate example of cowardice.
It was like this ruined the image of Maramaldo, which was instead one of the best leaders of the Kingdom of Naples, paradoxically famous until recently for being a gentleman.

Garibaldi Ferrucci
Giuseppe Garibaldi, after the Unification, went to bow in front of Ferrucci's tomb

The legacy of Maramaldo

The story of Maramaldo was one of the many episodes that entered the common language, a bit like in the case of the Neapolitan verb "starracciare", which refers to a less famous event: the massacre of Storace which took place a few years later.

Today this story survives "Via Marramarra", name born from the distortion of the surname of Fabrizio. The leader's family of origin lived in those parts, but probably few like to remember it.

We have done this story justice with a plaque, told as part of the project "Stories of Naples in Borgo Orefici".

-Federico Quagliuolo

We dedicate this story to Valeria De Marco for her generosity in supporting the studies of Storie di Napoli. Support us too with a donation!

Maramaldo plate via Marramarra
Inauguration of the plaque dedicated to Fabrizio Maramaldo in Via Marramarra 17

References:
A. LIUZZO, Fabrizio Maramaldo. New documents, Ancona 1883
https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/fabrizio-maramaldo_(Dizionario-Biografico)/

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