Patti della Condotta di Costanzo Sforza al servizio di Galeazzo Sforza Duca di Milano
Historical research

The Sforza Condotta: Costanzo Sforza’s Loyalty to Galeazzo Duke of Milan

Tempo di lettura: 12 minuti

Sforza Condotta Costanzo Sforza’s Loyalty to Duke of Milan –Eugenio Larosa

Below, I will present a typical CONDOTTA contract that provides an overview of the economy of the military profession in the second half of the 15th century.

“Nel nome di nostro Signore anno 1472 giorno di Venere 29 del mese di Maggio, quinta quindicina del secolo.”

“In the name of our Lord, in the year 1472, Friday the 29th day of May, in the fifteenth fortnight of the century.”

The document starts with the customary inclusion of the drafting date: Friday, May 29th, 1472. Having previously served the Venetian Republic, Costanzo Sforza now decides to transfer his allegiance to the Papal State. However, with his father Alessandro, the ruler of the city of Pesaro, experiencing deteriorating health, it becomes crucial for Costanzo to assume the prestigious and lucrative Sforza contract established by his father.

“Essendo el magnifico meser Constantio Sfortia desideroso de dimostrare con effecti la sua singolare observantia et devoctione verso lo Illustrissimo Principe et Excellentissimo signore Galeazzo Maria Sforza Viscont, e Duca de Milano ec, como quello che ab ineuntibus usque annis (fin dai primi anni) se è elevato et nutrito preso ad sua Excellentia , oltra la propinquità et coniunctione de affinità che ha con quella; etiam per sequire li vestigi dello Illustre et Inclito (famoso) suo patre et per acquistare perpetua laude et gloria ha deliberato condurse alli soldi stipendi et servicii de sua Excellentia sotto la cui ombra dispone de vivere et exercitarse .”

“The magnificent Messer Costanzo Sforza, driven by his unwavering loyalty and devotion to the esteemed Prince and esteemed Lord Galeazzo Maria Sforza Visconti, Duke of Milan, seeks to demonstrate his allegiance through actions. Having been raised and nurtured in the presence of His Excellency since his youth, and bound by close familial ties, he aims to emulate the renowned achievements of his illustrious father and attain everlasting honor and glory. Therefore, he has chosen to enlist, serve, and receive compensation under the esteemed patronage of His Excellency, as he intends to live and fulfill his duties.”

The document proceeds by emphasizing the mutual admiration and close relationship between the two princes, who, being relatives, had the chance to form a strong bond from a young age. As in other similar agreements, the Duke’s family and lineage are praised, with Galeazzo being portrayed as a worthy successor to his esteemed father. The opening paragraph concludes with Costanzo Sforza expressing his wholehearted readiness to serve under the leadership of the Lord of Milan.

“Et ad questo effecto ha mandato la prefata Excellentia el nobile et strenuo Nicolò da Barignano suo procuratore et mandatario con pieno et ampio mandato el quale serà scripto in de li presenti capituli. Però el dicto Nicolò col prefato Illustrissimo signor Duca quale ha continuamente amato esso mesere Constantio per la virtù et animo che appare in lui è divenuto e diviene a li capituli infrascripti.”

“And for this purpose, the illustrious lord has sent the noble and valorous Nicolò da Barignano as his representative and agent, with full and extensive powers that will be detailed in the following chapters. Therefore, the aforementioned Nicolò, together with the aforementioned illustrious lord Duke, who has consistently admired Messer Costanzo for the virtue and courage that shine through him, undertakes and will undertake according to the following chapters.”

Costanzo Sforza appoints Nicolò da Barignano as his representative to negotiate the terms of the condotta. While precise details about Nicolò’s background are unavailable, we do know that he settled in Fano at a young age. By 1461, he was already referred to as the “associate and commissioner of the most noble Duke of Milan” ( “familiare e commissario del nobilissimo duca di Milano” Carteggio Oratori Mantovani alla corte sforzesca, vol. III, edited by I. Lazzarini, Rome 2000, p. 239n). Despite facing some ups and downs in his career, he eventually rose to the position of squad commander and later served as the chancellor of Alessandro Sforza. He continued in this role for Alessandro’s son, Costanzo. Nicolò’s involvement in the chronicles of Costanzo’s marriage in 1475 is notable, as he was part of the entourage escorting Camilla d’Aragona, Costanzo’s future spouse. As Costanzo’s representative, Nicolò’s words should be regarded as those of Costanzo himself.

“Primo el predicto Nicolò per vigore del suo mandato ha conducto et conduce el dicto meser Constantio ad soldi servicii et stipendio del prefato Illustrissimo signor Duca de Milano et de la Illustrissima madona Duchessa sua consorte et de sui figlioli et successori per anni otto fermi et dui altri ad beneplacitum de esso signor Duca incomenzando al Kalende de zugno proximo che vene.”

“Nicolò, in virtue of his mandate, has led and continues to lead Messer Constanzo to the pay, services, and salary of the Most Illustrious Lord Duke of Milan, the Most Illustrious Lady Duchess, their children, and their successors, for a period of eight years, and an additional two years at the discretion of the aforementioned Duke, starting from the first day of the upcoming June.”

This portion of the document outlines the temporal terms of the condotta. On June 1, 1473, the condotta period commences and will endure for 8 years, with an additional 2-year period of respect. The period of respect refers to the time following the termination of the condotta, during which the condottiero is prohibited from engaging in hostilities against their previous ally, although they are free to enter into new contracts. The duration of these two years is at the Duke’s discretion (ad beneplacitum) and may or may not be enforced.

“Ha promesso et promette che dicto mesere Constantio serà per tutto el tempo de la presente sua ferma fidele et liale ad sua Excellentia et, al stato et soi, ut supra; et che li amici d esso signor Duca et de li soi ut supra tenerà reputerà et tracterà per amici, et li inimici per inimici ; et a li inimici del prefato signor Duca et de soi ut supra non darà per alchuno modo directo nè indirecto secreto nè palese aiuto nè favore .”

“He has promised and pledges that Messer Constanzo will be faithful and loyal to His Excellency and his state, as indicated above; that he will consider the friends of the aforementioned Lord Duke and his as his own friends, and the adversaries as enemies; and that he will not provide any form of aid or favor, either directly or indirectly, to the enemies of the aforementioned Lord Duke and his, whether in secret or in public.”

The paragraph ends with the condottiero swearing allegiance to the Duke, the Duchess, and their heirs, pledging to treat the Duke’s enemies as their own enemies and to refrain from providing them any form of assistance or favor, be it direct or indirect, secret or overt. Although the phrase “per alchuno modo directo nè indirecto secreto nè palese aiuto nè favore” may appear superfluous, it serves as a reminder that during that era, there were instances where individuals would indirectly support or assist an enemy for personal gain, and this oath ensures that such practices are strictly prohibited.

“Item ha promesso et promette el dicto Nicolò, et obligato et obliga el prefato meser Constantio che ad tempo di pace tenera continuamente sexanta homini d’arme bene in ordine et in punto secondo il mestier de le arme, con soldo stipendio et provisione de ducati seimilia d’oro de camera per caduno anno durante la presente ferma. li quali spenderà in mantenere bene in ordine et in punto li dicti sexanta homini d’arme, et che starà continuamente residente con la persona sua presso de sua Excellentia in la quale residentia spenderà altri duomilia ducati in stare et vivere onorevolmente: li quali duomilia ducati sua Excellentia gli darà oltra li soprascripti seimilia ducati per stare et vivere presso di quella onorevolmente.”

“Nicolò, along with Messer Costanzo, pledges that during times of peace, Costanzo Sforza will diligently uphold a company of sixty well-equipped and prepared men-at-arms, adhering to the standards of the military profession. In return, he shall receive an annual salary of six thousand gold ducats throughout the condotta period. These funds will be utilized to maintain the sixty men-at-arms in excellent order and condition. Moreover, Costanzo Sforza will maintain a continuous residence in the presence of the Duke, for which he will allocate an additional two thousand ducats to live in an honorable manner. His Excellency shall provide these two thousand ducats, in addition to the aforementioned six thousand ducats, to support Costanzo Sforza’s honorable residence in his company.”

In this section of the document, the specific number of men-at-arms that Costanzo Sforza is obligated to maintain during peacetime is outlined, which amounts to sixty. Furthermore, the financial arrangements are established, whereby the Duke will provide an annual stipend of six thousand ducats for the soldiers, along with an additional two thousand ducats to support Costanzo Sforza in his esteemed position at the court of Milan.

“Et oltra ciò con la detta sua compagnia et con la persona propria andarà e starà ad fare guerra per tutta Italia e fora de Italia, contra caduno signore signoria potentia communita et persona de qualunche grado condixione et dignità, se sia neminem excipiendo etiam si suprema dignitat fulgeret temporali vel spirituali (senza eccezione alcuna … suprema dignità del temporale e spirituale) secondo per sua Excellentia gli sarà ordinato.”

“With his company and personally, Costanzo Sforza commits to participate and fight in wars throughout Italy and even beyond Italian borders. He will be ready to confront any lord, power, community, and individual of any rank, condition, and dignity, without exceptions, even if it concerns a supreme temporal or spiritual authority. Costanzo will obey everything that is ordered by His Excellency.”

Costanzo Sforza and his company are authorized to engage in warfare across Italy and potentially beyond its borders. They are expected to be prepared to confront any lord, power, community, or individual, irrespective of their social standing, status, or authority. There shall be no exceptions, regardless of whether the enemy holds a high temporal or spiritual position, including the Pope. In essence, Costanzo Sforza’s company will be fully prepared to confront any adversary without limitations or restrictions based on the opponent’s position or prestige.

“Item ha promesso el promette el dicto Nicolò che per tempo di guerra esso meser Costantio tenerà cento homini d’arme con la provisione infrascripta de ducati dodecemilia, bene in ordine et in ponto secondo el mestiere de le arme ut supra.”

“Furthermore, Nicolò promises and confirms that during the period of war, Costanzo Sforza will maintain one hundred men-at-arms with the following provision of twelve thousand ducats, adequately equipped and ready for military service as previously specified.”

These one hundred men-at-arms will be at the disposal for military service, and Costanzo will receive a provision of twelve thousand ducats to cover expenses and maintain his company in excellent condition during times of war. This clause reaffirms Costanzo’s commitment to make his troops available and guarantee their promptness and preparedness in the context of military operations.

“Et viceversa el prefato Illustrissimo signore Duca de Milano etc, ha promesso et promette al dicto Nicolò da Barignano procuratore et mandatario ut supra che darà al prefato messere Constantio singulis annis duranti (ogni anno) questi capitali per soldo stipendio et provisione, et per mantenere li soprascripti sexanta homini d arme per tempo di pace ducati seimilia, et per la persona d’esso messer Constantio per vivere dignamente et honorevolmente presso de sua Excellentia, ducati duomilia quali tutti ducati octomilia gli farà dare d’oro de camera o la valuta, e de li quali ducati octomilia gliene darà de presenti la mità, cioè ducati quattro milia, per prestanza, facta la conclusione de li presenti capituli; et el resto, videlicet li altri quattromila ducati, gli darà in tre termini, videlicet de quattro in quattro mesi in questo primo anno sì che in fine del dicto anno serà integramente satisfatto de li dicti octomilia ducati . El successive poi da anno in anno sua Excellentia li farà respondere el dicto suo soldo et provisione de ducati octomilia in quattro termini, videlicet de tre in tre mesi pro rata; ita che in fine de caduno anno sera integre sotisfatte de la dieta summa de ducati octomilia d’oro de camera o de valuta.”

“The Duke of Milan has made a binding commitment to Nicolò da Barignano, acting as a representative and procurator, regarding the financial support for Messer Costanzo and his company of sixty men-at-arms during peacetime. An annual sum of six thousand ducats will be allocated for their salaries, provisions, and maintenance. Additionally, for the personal expenses of Messer Costanzo at the Duke’s court, two thousand ducats will be provided. The total amount of eight thousand ducats will be paid in gold or the prevailing currency. Half of this sum, equivalent to four thousand ducats, will be disbursed as an initial payment upon the conclusion of the agreement. The remaining four thousand ducats will be paid in three quarterly installments within the first year, ensuring the full payment of eight thousand ducats by the end of the year. In the subsequent years, the Duke will continue to pay the eight thousand ducats in four quarterly installments, with three installments every three months, ensuring the complete payment in gold or the current currency by the end of each year.”

In this paragraph, the document specifies the detailed payment arrangement that the Duke of Milan will make to Nicolò da Barignano and Costanzo Sforza. During peacetime, the Duke commits to providing 6000 ducats for the upkeep of the 60 men-at-arms and 2000 ducats for Costanzo Sforza’s sustenance at the court. Out of the total sum of 8000 ducats, an initial payment of 4000 ducats will be made immediately after the contract is signed. The remaining 4000 ducats will be paid in three installments, each installment due every four months throughout the year. In the subsequent years, the Duke of Milan will continue to pay the 8000 ducats in four installments, with each installment due every three months, thereby ensuring the complete annual payment of this sum. This clause establishes the Duke’s obligation to provide the necessary funds for supporting Costanzo Sforza’s army and ensuring a suitable standard of living for him at the court.

During the period of military contracts in that era, it was customary to request a sum of money called “prestanza.” This practice involved the Duke providing the necessary funds for the purchase and maintenance of the soldiers’ armaments. However, often this practice was not honored, and the equipment was not adequately replenished. To address this situation, within the Sforza troops, figures such as commissaries or provosts were established. These officials were responsible for overseeing the state of the troops during the period of the contract, ensuring that the men-at-arms were adequately equipped, and that the contractual agreements were respected. Their role was to enforce proper resource management and ensure the fulfillment of the agreed-upon terms, thereby guaranteeing the readiness and effectiveness of the military forces under the Duke’s command.

“Item, ha promesso e promette sua Excellentia che li predicti homini d’arme sexanta che esso meser Constantio, ha da tenere gli darà le stantie in Romagna, overo in altri lochi (luoghi) dove ad sua Excellentia parirà, havendo poi la persona sua ad stare presso la prefata Excellentia.”

“In addition, the Duke of Milan has promised that the sixty men-at-arms whom Costanzo Sforza will retain will be provided with accommodations in the region of Romagna or in other locations determined by the Duke himself, at his discretion. Furthermore, Costanzo Sforza will be required to reside at the Duke’s residence.”

The issue of soldiers’ accommodations was of great importance during that time, not only from a military perspective but also from an economic standpoint. The community that hosted the soldiers was responsible for their sustenance. Numerous historical correspondences exist in which citizens from various cities sought the Duke’s intervention to resolve disputes with the soldiers or to request their removal from the accommodations.

“Item ha promesso et promette, el pregato Illustrissimo signore Duca al dicto Nicolò stipulante et recipiente in nome d’esso messere Constantio, che in tempo di guerra li darà ducati dodecemilia d’oro de camera o la valuta ut supra, singulo anno durante la presente ferma et referma del beneplacito s el haverà loco: con li quali ducati dodecemilia, esso D.Constantio, debba servire in la guerra con homini d’arme cento bene in ordine et in ponto secondo el mestere dell’ arme ut supra, li quali cento nomini d’arme debba servire per quelo tempo che serà adoprato in la guerra.”

“The Duke of Milan has promised and continues to promise Nicolò, acting on behalf of Costanzo Sforza, that during the period of war, he will be given 12,000 ducats of gold, either in camera or their equivalent currency, every year throughout the duration of this contract, at the discretion of the Duke. With these 12,000 ducats, Costanzo Sforza is expected to maintain a company of one hundred fully equipped and trained men-at-arms, as described previously. These one hundred men-at-arms are to serve for the entire duration of their engagement in warfare.”

This section of the condotta outlines the payment arrangements during the time of war. As mentioned earlier, it states that one hundred men-at-arms will be enlisted, and the Duke is obliged to supply the required 12,000 ducats. While specific details of the payment terms are not provided, reference is made to the previously specified conditions (UT SUPRA), suggesting that the same payment arrangements apply, subject to necessary monetary adjustments.

“Item ha declarato et declara el prefato signor Duca, che alhora se intende essere tempo de guerra, quando da esso signor Duca serà richiesto che se mette in ponto de guerra, et serà adoperata da Sua Excellentia et havera la prestanza in la guerra.”

“The Duke has declared and declares that when he himself requests Costanzo to prepare for entering into war and to be employed by his Excellency, Costanzo will have the availability and performance throughout the duration of the war.”

In the concluding section of the treaty, it is stated that the commencement of war is determined when the Duke himself calls for the mobilization of the troops and formally declares a state of war. At this juncture, Costanzo Sforza is entitled to request the essential provisions and support throughout the duration of the war.

“Fatto nel castello di Pavia, ecc.”
“written at the Castle of Pavia”  
The place where the document was drafted and signed.

Here is the power of attorney conferred by Costanzo Sforza to Nicolò da Barignano for the purpose of finalizing the condotta contract. The signatures of Marco di Domenico Trotti, the notary and chancellor of the Duke of Milan, Niccolò da Barignano, acting as the representative of Costanzo Sforza, and Cicco Simonetta, the esteemed secretary of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, are also appended to the document.

Author : Eugenio Larosa

Sources and bibliography:

  • Canestrini, Giuseppe (1851) Documenti per servire alla storia della milizia italiana dal xiii secolo al xvi
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  • Anonimo (1836) Le nozze di Costanzo Sforza con Camilla di Aragona celebrate in Pesaro nel MCCCCLXXV. Tip.Alvisopoli, Venezia (google books)


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