Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este and the d’Este dynasty
Ippolito II d’Este was born at the court of Ferrara in 1509. His father was the Duke Alfonso d’Este, Lord of Ferrara, his mother Lucrezia Borgia, and Pope Alexander’s VI nephew who came from Spain. Ippolito II d’Este belonged to one of the most important families of the Renaissance that made Ferrara one of the main centers of political power (part of northern Italy belonged to this dynasty), but also a center of culture and civilization in the Italy of the XV and XVI century.
Ippolito had an exceptional ecclesiastical career. At the age of 2 he was appointed bishop, Archbishop of Milan at the age of 7 and cardinal at the age of 30. He also had a brilliant diplomatic career, becoming in a short time the personal secretary of the French King Francis I who governed from 1515 to 1547. The Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este lived in France for a long time and his official residence was the Castle of Fontainebleau where many Italian artists worked.
Some of them can be found also at the Estense Court, such as Benvenuto Cellini and the architect Sebastiano Serlio. In 1550 he returned to Italy because he wanted to become Pope like his grandfather, but despite his immense wealth and diplomatic skills, he was unable to be elected because of the Spanish veto. In February 1550 Pope Julius III was elected and appointed Cardinal Ippolito “Governor of Tivoli.”
Ippolito d’Este and the construction of a marvelous Villa
Starting in the mid-1550’s the Cardinal will concentrate his energies on the construction of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli even if he tries to get elected Pope for five more times in vain. After 1569 there was a slowdown in the work of Villa d’Este. The Cardinal, affected by gout, more and more often retired to Villa d’Este, finding comfort in conversations with the artists and intellectuals of his court.
Villa d’Este was, firstly its summer residence, then its official one. Usually, he resided in the palace of Montecavallo better known as Quirinale in Rome. On December 2nd, 1572 he died in Rome but did not wish to return to Ferrara. He wanted to be buried next to his Villa, in the Church of Saint Mary Major, where he rests under a simple marble slab in front of the main altar together with his two successors and nephews Luigi and Alessandro d’Este.