The Glory of Rome Comes Back to Life. Real and Ephemeral Triumphal Arches for a Renaissance Wedding. Rimini, 1475


  • Claudio Passera Università di Parma



In1475, Elisabetta da Montefeltro and Roberto Malatesta’s wedding took place in Rimini. Four wooden triumphal arches marked the processional route of the princess’ entry. Over them, figurants impersonating historical characters welcomed the newlyweds and the most important guest, Federico da Montefeltro. The design of these ephemeral architectures was inspired by the Arch of Augustus, a gate in the former city wall dedicated to the Roman emperor in 27 BC. This essay investigates how the ceremony transformed Malatesta Rimini into a new Rome, reconstructing a monument of the city’s glorious past with temporary materials and modifying the urban landscape with ephemeral decorations. It clarifies how the poems proclaimed during the triumph associated Federico da Montefeltro with the figures of Julius Caesar, Themistocles, and Furius Camillus, thus celebrating his new alliance with the groom. Finally, it illustrates how Malatesta’s allies sent artists to the nuptials as diplomatic gift. They made the feast an occasion to exchange different performance cultures, including that of the Roman triumph studied by the Italian Humanists, whose influence on the celebrations is analysed here. This essay also focuses on the presence in Rimini of theatrical events similar to those designed by Filippo Brunelleschi for the religious performances acted in the Florentine churches of Santa Maria del Carmine and San Felice in Piazza. By the second half of the fifteenth century, the Florentine craftsmen had exported such sets into the Italian courts with the most up-to-date theatre culture, for example Pesaro. Here, a few days before the Malatesta wedding, the city ruler Costanzo Sforza married Camilla d’Aragona during a five-day lavish festival. By comparing the primary sources of the two events, various similarities with the Rimini celebrations will be revealed. 

Keywords: Renaissance Italy; Wedding Feast; Spectacles; Rimini; Roberto Malatesta