Rienzi, Cola di

Rienzi or Rienzo, Cola di

(kô`lä dē rēĕn`tsē, rēĕn`tsō), 1313?–1354, Roman popular leader. In 1343 on a mission to Pope Clement VI at Avignon, he won the papal confidence. While there he befriended Petrarch. Returning to Rome as papal votary, he won great popular support and received (May, 1347) wide dictatorial powers, which he claimed to hold under the pope's sovereignty. He crushed the barons and began great reforms in an effort to rouse an Italian national conscience. Calling himself tribune of the sacred Roman republic, he sought to rally the support of the other Italian cities and dreamed of a popular Italian empire with Rome as the capital. The pope, aroused by his policies, incited the barons against him. Renzi was defeated (Dec., 1347) and fled. At Prague in 1350 he disclosed to Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV his conviction that they shared a call to regenerate the Roman Catholic Church and the world. Charles, however, responded by jailing him and in 1352 sent him to Avignon to face the Inquisition. The new pope, Innocent VI, subsequently absolved and freed Rienzi and sent him with Cardinal Albornoz to Italy. The cardinal made him senator, and Rienzi entered Rome in triumph, but his violent and arbitrary rule soon resulted in a popular uprising and in his murder. In modern times Rienzi has been idealized as a forerunner of Italian nationalism.


See study by V. Fleischer (1948, repr. 1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Rienzi, Cola di


(Rienzo; pseudonym of Niccolô di Lorenzo Gabrini). Born 1313 in Rome; died there Oct. 8, 1354. Italian political figure.

Cola di Rienzi dreamed of reviving Rome’s former greatness. In his public speeches he exposed the feudal magnates who had seized power in Rome during the Avignon captivity of the popes. In May 1347, Rienzi led an antifeudal uprising of the popular party, which resulted in the establishment of a Roman republic. He was proclaimed tribune of the people. Inspired by Petrarch, he forced the feudal lords to swear allegiance to the republic and to transfer their castles to the government; he set the tax system in order and abolished customs duties. He called on the other cities in Italy to join Rome. In December 1347 the feudal magnates headed by the Colonna family rose in revolt and reestablished their rule over Rome. Rienzi managed to escape. In 1350 he was arrested by the archbishop of Prague, where he had gone to try to win Emperor Charles IV’s support for the realization of the plans for the rebirth of the Roman republic. In 1352 he was transferred to the papal prison in Avignon as a heretic. The new pope, Innocent VI (Clement VI’s successor), decided to use Rienzi’s popularity to restore his own authority in the Papal States. Innocent therefore sent him to Italy in late 1353 with a political mission. Rienzi and a detachment of condottieri entered Rome in August 1354, where a republic was again proclaimed, headed by Rienzi. However, the increase in taxes that he implemented to pay the mercenary troops needed for the struggle with the feudal lords provoked an uprising of the Romans on Oct. 8, 1354, during which he was killed.


Maksimovskii, V. N. Kola di Rientso. Moscow, 1936.
Mariani, M. “Cola di Rienzo. ... ” Studi romani, 1960, vol. 8, no. 6.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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