Ten Things I Learned About Caterina Sforza

I could list more than ten things, Caterina’s life was so fascinating! But let’s start with these:

  1. She was married at aged ten. While this wasn’t unusual for the times, what was unusual was that her new husband didn’t wait until she was the ‘accepted’ age of 14 but, rather, insisted on consummating the marriage immediately. 

2. Caterina gave birth to six children by the time she was aged 25! She never let a pregnancy stop her, including holding up a papal election (see below). 

3. Caterina was a skilled alchemist. She focussed on the more practical elements of alchemy involving treatments and cures that involved careful and repeated distillation of numerous ingredients. Her reputation was well known, and she was consulted by other alchemists around Italy. Her Gli Experimenti is a compilation of all her cures and treatments, including those for plague, scrofula, sleeplessness, and wounds of all sorts. 

Her collection also includes beauty treatments for bad breath, lightening hair, creams for the face, thin beards, and sunburn.

There is also a sneaky recipe for making tin look like silver and one for adding weight to a shield. It’s amusing to think of her fooling her enemies with fake silver, although no record of her doing this exists that I could find. 

4. When she was a child her father, the Duke of Milan, insisted she received the same education as her brothers. This included military training and history as well as weapon training. 

5. Caterina was extraordinarily well-read. One of the books we know was in her library was Boccaccio’s Famous Women, written between 1361 and 1362. I’ve also read it and have included references in Turning the World to Stone! 

6. While there is no evidence, it’s likely Caterina met the artist Sandro Botticelli. Her image appears in one of his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, The Healing of the Leper, part of the Temptation of Christ cycle. 

7. Caterina is one of the only women we know of who wore and used armour. Her personal chest plate is on display in Forli, the town where she was countess and where she protected the people against enemy forces. 

8. Caterina delayed a papal election to ensure her family’s needs were secure. When Pope Sixtus IV died, Caterina occupied the Castel Sant’Anglo in Rome while seven months pregnant to ensure the deal made between the College of Cardinals and her husband was confirmed in writing. Without her husband, and thereafter her son’s, inheritance formally recognised in writing, their future would have been in jeopardy.

9. Later in her life Caterina came up against Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI’s son. After Cesare had taken over Imola, one of Caterina’s territories, he had a map made of the city by his ‘General Architect and Engineer’, Leonardo da Vinci. The map da Vinci created is the first example of an ichnographic map every made (bird’s eye view) and can still be used to navigate the city today!

10. Back to Caterina’s recipes again, but this one deserves its own slot. One of her recipes gives instructions on how to make a toad throw a stone. The belief in the Renaissance was that toads carried a stone in the top of their heads and, if removed, was effective against poison. 

I hope you found these as interesting as I did, keep an eye out for more!

Order here: https://mybook.to/Caterina

Copyright K Evans 2023

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