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Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan, 1475-1497

That the venerable Father Bernardino da Feltre


"A

report has reached us here," wrote the young duchess, "that the venerable Father Bernardino da Feltre, who has been preaching in Verona this Lent, was heard to declare from the pulpit that he had received a message from heaven, warning him that he would die in Holy Week, after miraculously opening the eyes of a blind man. Now I am very anxious to know if this report is true, and since at Mantua you are sufficiently near Verona to learn the truth of these tales, I beg you to make inquiries and let me know the result."

A fortnight later, Isabella, who had been absent from Mantua, was able to satisfy her sister's curiosity and at the same time answer a previous note in which Beatrice had given her a bad character of one of the Marchesana's _proteges_, an archer in Fracassa's service. She writes:--

"MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AND HONOURED SISTER,

"Only yesterday I received two letters which you wrote to me on the 16th and 17th of April: the one in answer to my recommendation of Malacarno, Signor Fracassa's archer, the other regarding a report which had reached you as to certain words which Fra Bernardino da Feltre is said to have spoken at Verona. In reply to your first letter, I assure your Highness that if I had ever dreamt Malacarno could be guilty of such detestable crimes, I would never have pleaded his cause, since naturally I hate such conduct. But as I had been told his faults were

trifling, I consented to intercede with you on his behalf; and now I hear the bad character he bears, am well satisfied to hear the punishment which he has received, and praise your illustrious consort's prudence, while at the same time I thank you for the very kind expressions in your letter. As to Fra Bernardino's supposed prophecy that he would die this Holy Week after miraculously opening the eyes of a blind man, I find that there is absolutely no truth in the report you mention. Neither at Verona, nor yet at Padua, where he has also been preaching, did he ever use such language, which indeed his humility would forbid, and as I have learnt from a monk who attended his sermons. All the same, in order to satisfy you and make sure of the truth, I have made further inquiries, the result of which I now lay before you, begging you to commend me warmly to your illustrious lord.[23]

"Mantua, May 2nd, 1492."

From Vigevano, Lodovico and his wife moved to Pavia, where the summer months were spent in entertaining a succession of guests, and, as before, Beatrice and Isabella joined together in hunting parties and amusements of every description. Giangaleazzo had totally forgotten his passing vexation, the clouds which darkened Isabella's sad life seemed to lift for the moment, and once more harmony reigned in the ducal family. The _fetes_ in honour of her son's christening, which had been postponed in the previous summer, were now celebrated with increased splendour. Bramante was summoned to arrange a succession of dramatic performances, and a grand tournament was held in the park of the Castello, in which Messer Galeazzo and his brother and all the most skilled jousters at court took part. And the Moro's accomplished friend, Ermolao Barbaro, the young Venetian patriarch, who had been once more sent as envoy to Milan, composed a wonderful Latin epigram in honour of the occasion, praying Pallas not to avert her face in sorrow at the sound and tumult of war, which is after all but a mimic display, and calling upon her, the goddess whose wisdom Lodovico honours above all the thunders of Jove, to bless the great house of Sforza, illustrious alike in the arts of war and peace.


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