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Duchy of Massa and Carrara

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Title: Duchy of Massa and Carrara  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Principality of Lucca and Piombino, Marquisate of Ceva, County of Guastalla, County of Apulia and Calabria, Anglo-Corsican Kingdom
Collection: Carrara, Former Countries on the Italian Peninsula, Massa
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Duchy of Massa and Carrara

Duchy of Massa and Carrara
Ducato di Massa e Carrara



Coat of arms

Capital Massa
Languages Italian
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Monarchy
Historical era Italian Renaissance
 •  Established 22 February 1473
 •  French rule 1796-1814
 •  Disestablished 14 November 1829

The Duchy of Massa and Carrara was the duchy that controlled the towns of Massa di Carrara and Carrara; the area is now part of unified Italy, but retains its local identity as the province of Massa-Carrara.


The core of this territory was formed on 22 February 1473 when Iacopo Malaspina, Marquis of Massa, purchased the Lordship of Carrara (villages of Carrara, Moneta and Avenza).

At first the marquis resided in Carrara but, as Carrara was frequently invaded by French forces, he moved to Massa.

The house of Malaspina became extinct in the male line two generations later. In 1520 Ricciarda Malaspina, granddaughter of Iacopo and last direct heir of the house, married Lorenzo Cybo, member of an influential Genoese family related to the Medici and with Pope Innocent VIII. From this marriage originated the new house of Cybo-Malaspina.

Under his rule the land went through a very prosperous period, thanks to a high demand for Carrara marble in various courts. Alberico I, aware that its territory was surrounded by more powerful and influential neighbors, submitted in 1554 to the Holy Roman Empire of Charles V. Due to cultural and economic achievements under the government of Alberico I, the city of Carrara was awarded the title of marquisate in 1558. In 1568 Massa was elevated to a principality by Emperor Maximilian II.

In 1664 the territory of Massa became a duchy and Carrara became a principality. The Cybo-Malaspina gained the title of Dukes of Massa and Princes of Carrara.

In 1738 Maria Teresa Cybo-Malaspina, the last descendant of the family, married Ercole d'Este, the last male heir of the Duchy of Modena. Their daughter Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d'Este thus passed both duchies to her son Francis.

In 1796 the Este were deprived of their possessions by Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion. Napoleon annexed the territory to the Cispadane Republic, then merging it in the Cisalpine Republic.

During this time the territory was briefly fought between Napoleon and the Austrian anti-French coalition (1799), and experienced a rapid succession of different administrative systems more or less provisional (Department of the Apuan Alps, Imperial and Royal Provisional Regency of Massa-Carrara, then again Department of the Apuan Alps and finally District of Massa).

As a final administrative change, in 1806 the French emperor gave the Duchy of Massa and Carrara to the Principality of Lucca and Piombino, ruled by his elder sister Elisa Bonaparte. During the Napoleonic domination Mary Beatrice was forced to take refuge in Vienna at the court of her husband, the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este, uncle of Emperor Francis I of Austria.

With the fall of the Napoleonic regime, the Congress of Vienna reassigned to Mary Beatrice all the territories that had been subtracted. At that time the Duchy of Massa and Carrara included the territories of Massa and Carrara, Aulla, Casola in Lunigiana, Comano, Filattiera, Fivizzano, Fosdinovo, Licciana, Montignoso, Mulazzo, Podenzana and Tresana.

In 1829, at the death of Mary Beatrice, the Duchy of Massa and Carrara was annexed to the Duchy of Modena and Reggio by her son Francesco IV d'Este.

In 1859, with the deposition of Francesco V d'Este, the Duchy of Modena and Reggio (which also includes the territories of Massa and Carrara) was permanently attached to the Kingdom of Sardinia, with the formation of province of Massa-Carrara in December 1859.

Marquis, Princes, then Dukes of Massa and Carrara

  • Annexation of the Republic and Cisalpine Cispadana following the invasion of Napoleon (1796–1806)

Policy and Economy

From the information that can be extracted from the large Cybo-Malaspina Archive, and from rescripts and dispatches of the Crown of the two Duchess Maria Teresa and Maria Beatrice d'Este (apart from several other sources) can be reconstructed the policy held by the Duchy of Massa and Carrara in the period roughly between 1450 and 1800.

The merge of the Malaspina family with the Cybo family brought the territory to a rather lavish court life. In the conduct of foreign policy the Cybo-Malaspina maintained a role as an intermediary between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Republic of Genoa. Alberico I brought large urban restructurations in the cities of Carrara and Massa, mainly for prestige reasons. Both cities were equipped with new city walls - with representative functions, rather than military, since the policy of the territory was not expansionist - and new ducal palaces. In Carrara was established the Office of Marble (1564), to regulate the marble mining industry. The city of Massa, in particular, saw much of its plan redesigned (new roads, plazas, intersections, pavings) in order to make it worthy of an Italian country's capital.

The War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was the beginning of the period of deep economic crisis for the duchy. The Empire punished with heavy fines the Cybo-Malspina, who had given hospitality to French troops on its territory. Already Alberich III, but especially Alderamo, found themselves forced to sell many city goods. Alderamo arrived to force people to buy food at a premium, and also because of the luxurious and extravagant lifestyle of the nobleman, the economics of the Duchy was brought to its knees. The financial situation recovered only by dynastic union between the families of the Malaspina and the Este, achieved with the marriage of Maria Teresa and Ercole d'Este in 1741.

From that date, the Duchy of Massa and Carrara gradually lost its political autonomy, going to gravitate more and more closely into the city of Modena sphere of influence. Under the domination of the Este, the Duchy of Massa Carrara rose to occupy a strategic position, in that it provided a sea outlet to the hinterland domains and promised an easier trade route. Already under Maria Teresa road links between the Duchy of Modena to Massa Carrara were significantly improved: in these road reform attempts belongs the construction of the famous Via Vandelli, starting as early as 1738.

In 1751, was made a first attempt for the excavation of a dock and the construction of a port in the city of Carrara. The port would have been functional to the trade and military activities of the Este, would have housed in a safe place the small fleet of the Duchy of Modena and, finally, would have been essential to free the marble exports from dependence of other nearby ports. Unfortunately, the coast had a tendency to silt up and after a few years, the construction work had to be suspended.

In 1807 Napoleon's engineers built the important mail road to the Foce, to link the cities of Massa and Carrara through the inland hills. During the Napoleonic rule were also initiated other public works such as the bonification of the plains, the plantation of coastal pine trees to combat malaria and arrangement of river banks. These works were continued by Maria Beatrice and successors in subsequent decades. In 1821 the Este Land Registry was established, with the task of regulating and listing the properties of the inhabitants of the duchy.

The years following the annexation to the Duchy of Modena were particularly complex, both for the insurrectional riots that characterized the historical period,

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