Malatesta, Sigismundo

   Tyrant ruler of Rimini, a charge he obtained in 1432, at the age of 14. Sigismondo was ex-communicated in 1462 by Pope Pius II and cast to hell in front of St. Peter's on charges of impiety and sexual misconduct related to the suspicious death of his wife, Polissena Sforza (1449), probably from poisoning. In 1450, Sigismondo had commissioned Leon Battista Alberti to complete the Tempio Malatestiano, begun by Matteo de' Pasti as a renovation of a church already on the site that housed the funerary chapels of his ancestors. By the time Alberti became involved in the project, Sigismondo had decided to convert the structure into some sort of pagan shrine that spoke of his glory as ruler. He retrieved the remains of famous men, including the Greek humanist and Neoplatonist Gemistus Pletho, an advocate of paganism whose body Sigismondo discovered during the 1465 campaign against the Turks in the Morea when he commanded the Venetian army. The project gave the pope added ammunition in his defamation campaign against Sigismondo. Sigismondo was also the patron of Antonio Pisanello and Piero della Francesca.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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