Rimini (formerly called Ariminum) is located just a few kilometers from Bellaria-Igea Marina. Despite the earthquake in 1672 and World War II bombings, many monuments from earlier eras are preserved there.
We started the tour from one of the two main markets of the city, Piazza Tre Martiri (Three Martyrs Square), named after three guerrilla men named Luigi Nicolò, Adelio Pagliarani and Mario Capelli, hanged by Nazi German occupiers on August 16, 1944. As you will soon see, this square was also a place of other dramatic events.
On the square there is the 16th-century Torre dell’Orologio (clock tower), with the eighteenth-century calendar with the signs of the Zodiac and the phases of the moon. On the lowest level there is a portico which middle, blind arch commemorates the inhabitants of Rimini who died during World War II. I saw similar monuments in various cities of Italy and France, which I think proves false the popular statement that national martyrdom is a unique Polish feature.
Probably this is the place where Julius Caesar gave a speech to his soldiers and uttered the famous words “the die is cast” (Greek: anerriphtho kybos) – he borrowed this phrase from Menander, his favorite Greek comedy author. This phrase is much more known in the Latin version – “alea iacta est”. These words, although in a slightly different form, are still visible in the motto of the Rimini’s coat of arms. These famous words were said on January 10, 49 BC, after Caesar’s army crossed the nearby river Rubikon, then the border between the province of Gallia Cisalpina and the “proper” Rome, which meant an open rebellion against the Senate. On the Piazza Tre Martiri, which used to bear the name of Julius Caesar, there is a modern monument of him pointing towards Rome:
Near the square there is the Cathedral of St. Francis, better known as Tempio Malatestiano. In the middle of the fifteenth century, Rimini was ruled by the condottiero (mercenary) Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, known as the Wolf of Rimini, from a family with a very unusual motto ” The Indian elephant isn’t afraid of mosquitos”. He commissioned an architect named Leon Battista Alberti to rebuild the gothic temple into a Renaissance mausoleum. Although the project has not been completed due to financial problems of the lord and his death, it played an important role in the history of Renaissance architecture. The facade of the building refers to the triumphal arches, including the arch of Augustus, about which I’ll tell a bit later.
Sigismondo is even more interesting than his church. Two of his wives died in unexplained circumstances, and the father of the second one, duke of Milan Francesco I Sforza, accused Sigismondo of murdering his daughter. According to the historian Robert Hughes, Sigismondo publicly sodomised the emissary of Pope Pius II, the fifteen-year-old Bishop of Fano in the main square of Rimini, in exchange for which he was not only excommunicated, but even received the dubious honor of the unique ceremony of “canonization into Hell”. Then his image was publicly burnt in Rome and an alliance was formed against Sigismondo. It included the Pope, the Republic of San Marino, King of Naples Ferdinand I (about which I will write more in report from the trip to Campania), Malatesta’s furious father-in-law, Francesco Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, the ruler of Urbino, called the “Light of Italy”, an outstanding figure of the Renaissance. Sigismondo suffered a defeat against this crusade, which did not prevent him, however, from commanding the Venice soldiers in the Peloponnese against the Ottomans in the following years. It is ironic that ultimately both rivaling cities Rimini and Urbino were captured by Caesar Borgia.
We do not know, however, whether the above-mentioned allegations were true or whether they were Malatesta’s enemies’ propaganda. You can make analogies with Lucrezia Borgia, whose black legend probably does not fit into reality. The fact that after 10 years of relationship with Isotta degli Atti he took her as the third and last wife, suggests that higher feelings were not alien to him. Sigismondo was also a poet and patron of art. Cesena branch of the Malatesta family founded Biblioteca Malatestiana, the first modern publicly accessible library, founded in Cesena and inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register.
It can be added as a curiosity that Sigismondo is the main character of the novel by Edward Hutton. He also appeared in “Orlando by Night” LARP (live action role-playing game) as a vampire of the Brujah clan.
Another monument of Rimini is the Tiberius Bridge (Italian: Ponte di Tiberio), built of Istrian marble in the years 14-21. It is one of the oldest objects of this type and is in excellent condition – cars still drive it today. Interestingly, to adapt the bridge to terrain conditions and cross the river at the most favorable location, it was not positioned perpendicular to the banks, but slightly twisted at an angle of 13°. Originally, the bridge stood over the Marecchia River, but in the 20th century river’s course was changed to minimize flood damage and now the bridge connects the banks of a not very large canal.
Then we went to Piazza Cavour, the second of the city’s main squares. The square was named in honor of the first prime minister of the united Italy, counted among four “Fathers of the Fatherland”.
A monument to Pope Paul V built in 1613 (and thus still during the Pope’s lifetime) can be found there. His pontificate was turbulent – the Pope condemned Galileo (he was rehabilitated only by John Paul II in 1992) and the work of Copernicus, “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”, which was placed in the Index of Forbidden Books. Pope’s striving to strengthen the Church’s position against secular power led to a conflict with the Republic of Venice. The entire Republic was covered by an interdict which meant that the rites and services of the church in its territory were banished from having validity (it was the last such case in history). If it were not for the intervention of the French king Henry IV, Venice could have even converted to Protestantism. Paolo Sarpi, a lawyer representing Venice, was stabbed 15 times (he survived, though) by the assassins, who were then received cordially in the Papal States.
During the Napoleonic wars, in order to save the monument from French soldiers, the people of Rimini cancelled the epigraph from the marble pedestal and replaced the papal tiara with a bishop’s mitre, transforming Paul V into San Gaudenzo, the patron saint of the city. Although the original dedication was restored to the monument in 1890, people continue to associate the statue with the figure of San Gaudenzo.
The square also features neoclassical Teatro Amintore Galli, built between 1843 and 1857…
… fish market from 1743…
… and the ancient Fontanna della Pigna, which enchanted Leonardo da Vinci and inspired him to design the hydraulic pipe organ, which reconstruction is now exhibited in the local museum. The fountain is adorned with the inscription of Da Vinci ‘s words regarding it. Leonardo visited Rimini in 1502, when he worked as an engineer and military adviser to Cesare Borgia, for whom he drew extremely precise, as for the then standards, the plan of the city of Imola, which we passed through on our way to Bellaria. Leonardo also drew a sketch of Cesare.
Castel Sismondo was built on behalf of Sigismondo Malatesta between 1437 and 1466 with the participation of, among others Filippo Brunelleschi, who also designed the dome of the Florence Cathedral. Unfortunately, we did not see the inside.
Arch of Augustus, built in 27 BC, the oldest of the existing triumphal arches, is present in Rimini coat of arms. In antiquity, Rimini and Rome were connected by a route called Via Flaminia, and at the top of the arch there was a bronze statue of Octavian August driving the quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses abreast. Faces of Jupiter and Apollo were carved on the outside of the arch and Neptune and Roma on the inner side. In the Middle Ages, it became a fortified gate (battlements were added), part of urban fortifications, which were demolished in the 1920s.
The last object we saw in Rimini was the eighteenth-century lighthouse (Faro di Rimini) rebuilt after the destruction of the Second World War.