CARRARA FAMILY, or Carraresi, a powerful family of Longobard origin which ruled Padua in the 14th century. They take their name from the village of Carrara near Padua, and the first recorded member of the house is Gamberto (d. before 970). In the wars between Guelphs and Ghibellines the Carraresi at first took the latter side, but they subsequently went over to the Guelphs. This brought them into conflict with Ezzelino da Romano; Jacopo da Carrara was besieged by Ezzelino in his castle of Agna, and while trying to escape was drowned. Another Jacopo led the Paduans in 1312 against Cangrande della Scala, lord of Verona, and though taken prisoner managed to negotiate a peace in 1318. To put an end to the perpetual civil strife the Paduans elected him their lord, and he seems to have governed well, leaving the city at his death (1324) to his nephew Marsiglio a man famed for his cunning. But Cangrande was bent on acquiring Padua, and Marsiglio, unable to resist, gave it over to him and was appointed its governor. Cangrande died in 1319, being succeeded by his nephew Martino, and Marsiglio soon began to meditate treachery; he negotiated with the Venetians in 1336, and in the following year he secretly introduced Venetian troops into Padua, arrested Alberto della Scala, Martino's brother, then in charge of the town, and thus regained the lordship. He died in 1338, and was succeeded by his relative Ubertino, a typical medieval tyrant, who earned an unenviable notoriety for his murders and acts of treachery, but was also a patron of the arts; he built the Palazzo dei Principi, the castle of Este, constructed a number of roads and canals, and protected commerce. He died in 1345. His distant kinsman Marsiglietto da Carrara succeeded to him, but was immediately assassinated by Jacopo da Carrara, a prince famed as the friend of Petrarch. In 1350 Jacopo was murdered by Guglielmo da Carrara, and his brother Jacopino succeeded, reigning together with his nephew Francesco.
In 1355 Francesco (il Vecchio) rose against his uncle and imprisoned him. Francesco changed the traditional policy of his house by quarrelling with the Venetians, in the hope of obtaining more advantages from the Visconti of Milan. When the former were at war with Hungary over Dalmatia in 1356 and asked Carrara to help them, he refused. Their resentment was all the more bitter when at the instance of the pope he mediated between them and Hungary and brought about peace on terms unfavourable to the republic. He received Feltre, Belluno and Cividale from the Hungarian king, but in 1369 a frontier dispute led to war between him and Venice. After some defeats, Venice was victorious and dictated peace; Carrara had to pay a huge indemnity and ask the republic's pardon (1373). In 1378 he joined the league against Venice formed by Genoa, Hungary and the Scala, and took part in the siege of Chioggia. But the Venetians were victorious, and by the peace of Turin Carrara found himself in the status quo ante, but he bought Treviso from Austria, to whom Venice had given it in the day of her trouble. In 1385 the Venetians set the Scala against Carrara, who thereupon allied himself with the treacherous Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The Scala were expelled from Verona, but Carrara and Visconti quarrelled over the division of the spoils. Visconti was determined to capture Padua as well as Verona, and made an alliance with Venice and the house of Este for the purpose. Francesco, seeing that the situation was hopeless, surrendered to Visconti, in whose hands he remained a prisoner until his death in 1392.
Francesco Novello, his son, resisted bravely, but was compelled to surrender owing to dissensions in Padua itself. He was forced to renounce his dominions, and received a castle near Asti, but he escaped to France, and after a series of romantic adventures succeeded in making peace with Venice, who was becoming alarmed at the restless ambition and treachery of Visconti; in 1390 he raised a small armed force and seized Padua, where he was enthusiastically welcomed by the citizens, and for several years reigned there in peace. But in 1399 Visconti recommenced his wars of conquest, which were to have included Padua had not death cut short his schemes in 1402. Carrara then allied himself with Guglielmo Scala, seized Verona, and tried to capture Vicenza. But the Vicentini had always hated the Carraresi, and after a short siege gave themselves over to Venice. This led to a war between that republic and Padua, for now that Visconti was dead the Venetians had no longer any reason to protect Carrara. Padua and Verona were besieged; the latter, defended by Novello's son Jacopo, was soon captured. Novello himself, besieged in his capital, although repeatedly offered favourable terms, held out for some months hoping for help from Florence and also from certain Venetian nobles with whom he was intriguing. Hunger, plague, the treachery of his captains and internal discontent at last forced him to surrender (November 1405). He and his sons Francesco III. and Jacopo were conveyed to Venice, and at first treated with consideration; but when their intrigues with Venetian traitors for the overthrow of the republic came to light, they were tried, condemned, and strangled in prison (1406). Novello's other son Marsiglio made a desperate attempt to recover Padua in 1435, but was discovered and killed. With him the house of Carrara ceased from troubling.
Bibliography. - G. Gattaro, "Istoria Padovana," in Muratori's Rer. It. Script. xvii., a very full account; P.P. Vergerius, Vitae Carrarensium, ibid. xii., untrustworthy; Verci, Storia della Marca Trivigiana (Venice, 1789); P. Litta, Le Famiglie celebri italiane, vol. iii. (Milan, 1831); W. Lenel, Studien zur Geschichte Paduas und Veronas im XIII. Jahrh. (Strassburg, 1893); G. Cittadella, Storia della Dominazione Carrarese in Padova (Padua, 1842); and Horatio Brown's brilliant essay on "The Carraresi" in his Studies in Venetian History (London, 1907).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)