Written by  G. L. Masetti Zannini
Ippolito d' Este and the villas of the Quirinale and Tivoli
Cardinal Ippolito d'Este took part in six papal conclaves, and received many votes, though never quite enough to secure his election as pontiff. Upon the death of Paul III, he was the preferred candidate of the French party, but his hopes of election were short-lived. Relationships between France and the Church were deteriorating at this time. Henry II of France had refused to participate in the Council of Trent, as a result of which Pope Julius III was threatening to depose the French king and transfer the crown into the hands of the Spanish Habsburgs. This threat so terrified Ippolito that he chose to flee Rome, returning to Ferrara where he remained until 1554, by which time the war with Siena was drawing to a close. Henry II, after his military failures in Tuscany, sought to restore order, coherence and unity to his party, and so he ordered Ippolito to return to Rome. This marked the beginning of the great program of patronage, both in Rome and at Tivoli, which made the Este family name so famous in the ancient seat of Christianity.
The cardinal, who received his investiture in 1538, had been destined for an ecclesiastical career since childhood. Born in 1509, he took his minor orders when only ten years old, and was simultaneously appointed to the archdiocese of Milan. However he was not much concerned with the affairs of archbishopric, instead choosing to remain in Ferrara and enjoy himself with hunting, dancing and theatrical shows. At the same time he applied himself to his studies: first, in Ferrara, under the guidance of Celio Calcagnini and Fulvio Pellegrino Morato, and subsequently at the University of Padova where he prepared for the political and ecclesiastical career which lay ahead of him.
Duke Alfonso I of Ferrara, in alliance with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor against Francis I of France and the Pope, had helped to defeat the French at Pavia in 1525 and occupied Reggio and Modena. But thereafter he changed allegiance, instead joining the League of Cognac against the Emperor. This switch, Alfonso hoped, would help him obtain the hand of Renée de Valois for his eldest son, and a cardinalship for the younger. The king of France was happy to accommodate him, but the duke of Ferrara had to wait almost a decade for his son's cardinalship which was finally awarded in 1538 at the express personal request of Francis I.
In the meantime, the Este cleric had accumulated, during his stay in France, a series of monastic benefices. These sinecures generated a substantial income, even before he received the archbishopric of Lyon ? and its associated wealth - in 1539. On 27 April 1548, upon the death of Cardinal Trivulzio, the 'Protector of the French Crown', Ippolito was chosen as his replacement. Consequently he was forced to move permanently to Rome, where he took up residence in the palazzo Orsini in Monte Giordano. As if this were not enough, he also took over the Carafa vineyard on the Quirinal hill.

The villa and its gardens, where cardinals Ippolito and Luigi lived for quite some time, represent a new stage in the elegant transformation of the entire Montecavallo district and its urban environment. In addition to the work of the Este family, this district was soon to host the Quirinal palace ? home initially to a succession of popes and then to heads of the Italian state (first kings and then presidents). After a long period of neglect across the whole area, the 'dead city' was beginning to come back to life.
The cardinal commissioned the designs drawn up by Leon Battista Alberti. Following his wishes, for reasons of both beauty and practicality, the villa was to be surrounded by flowering meadows, sunny pastures, fragrant woodlands, sparkling streams and fountains and clear bathing pools and other such features. And so at his behest gardens, grottoes, wooded groves and a nymphaeum were created, while artists like Girolamo da Carpi were employed to decorate the palace. The villa of the Quirinale, and even more so that at Tivoli ? the city which Julius II placed under cardinal Ippolito's governorship ? were filled with collections of artistic and archaeological treasures, and excavations were carried out in suitable locations for this purpose. Throughout the sixteenth century, highly valuable archaeological finds continued to be gathered from Rome and from Tivoli for the cardinal's palaces. From Rome, the Este orator Giulio Grandi and his nephew Alessandro, along with Pirro Ligorio, collected a variety of statues for the Atestiano Museum in Ferrara and the ducal library. Many were of great quality - like the bust of Lucio Vero, cardinal of Carpi, and the fourteen heads of philosophers which were to be displayed, along with those of other writers, on top of the library's bookcases.
The ownership of Tivoli was a form of reward for Ippolito's support for Julius III during his election. Ippolito d'Este made a triumphal entry on 9 September 1550, settling in the ancient Benedictine monastery which was then in Franciscan hands. According to a signed description by Pirro Ligorio, the internal decor was to be ennobled with tapestry illustrating the myth of Hippolytus, son of Theseus and the queen of the Amazons, while the hall which lay behind the portico was to be decorated with friezes painted with frescoes illustrating the virtues of wisdom, humanity, charity and patience. The deco-ration of the sala di rappresentanza, where the banquet of the gods is painted upon the vaulted ceiling, is attributed to Zuccari. Girolamo Muziano and his students effectively convey a clear geographical symbolism in the frescoed panel above the fountain, linking ancient Tivoli with its trees, water-falls and the temple of the Sybil to the cardinal's villas at the Quirinale and at Tivoli itself, with the Organo and Ovato fountains. Classical themes abound: the battle of Tiburio and Castello against the Latin peoples, Hercules Saxanus and his fight against Albion and Belgium, the return of the hero with the cattle of Geryon and the golden apples of the Hesperides, the death of the Etruscan king Anio, and the chariots of Apollo and Venus, drawn by horses and dolphins respectively. Alongside these classical images are those of biblical stories, always relating to aquatic themes: Noah's sacrifice after the flood, and Moses bringing forth water from the rocks with his staff.
The garden, the palace and the water features together constitute the 'villa' and they became so famous that even the Emperor Maximilian wished for a drawing. Fountains, wood-land groves, labyrinths and gardens of medicinal plants all combine to make this place extremely beautiful, and reflect the genius of the artists and the wise patronage of the cardinal. Grottoes, statues, twisted columns, glazed pottery and other marvels are what all that remains to be seen of this magnificence, as even the most recent restorations let us glimpse only an incomplete image of the cardinal's great dream. His death in Rome on 2 December 1572, and subsequent burial in the cathedral at Tivoli, marked the end of a great era.

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