In the 12th century Mirandola belonged to the powerful family of the Countess Matilda of Canossa (1046-1115) and it was later a secular domain of the Pico Family, and very famous in Italy for being the native town of Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), an eminent humanist with an exceptional memory and culture.
Pico Dynasty in Mirandola
Of Lombard origin, the Pico family exercised important offices in Modena and Reggio. During the 12th century Pico, the founder of the dynasty was Podestà of Reggio while Francesco Pico was Podestà of Modena in the early 14th century. He obtained the fiefdom and the 'Pieve of Quarantoli' from Emperor Henry VII (1275-1313), making Mirandola the capital of the Duchy, dominated by the castle of the Pico, which was already well established in the early 14th century.
The Pico family played a key role in building development in Mirandola which, between the 14th and 16th century, was reinforced by massive walls with corner towers and an impressive array of civic and religious buildings such as the church of San Francesco (14th century ), the Cathedral (15th century), the Collegiate church (15th century), the Municipality Palace (15th century) and others.
In the 16th century the Pico were at the centre of important military events. The struggles among noble families for control of the city brought a siege by Pope Julius II (1443-1513), and, after these events the fortifications of Mirandola were greatly strengthened, while the castle was transformed into a Royal Palace.
Between the late 16th and early 17th century the Pico Dynasty continued to grow ever more, acquiring the titles of Princes and Dukes. With the Duchy crisis in Italy the economic difficulties of the city, combined with waves of plague, greatly affected the city and the sights of the Dukes of Ferrara, and led gradually to the descent of Mirandola and the end of the Pico dynasty.
Where did the name come from?
The name Mirandola comes from 'Mirandula', from the Latin mirari (to 'watch attentively'). Historically, this ancient walled city played a very important role because its strategic location - its ability to 'watch attentively' - that attracted the attention of both the great medieval lords and of the Church State.
17th century and onwards in Mirandola
Duke Francesco Maria (1661-1689), accused of treason for having handed over Mirandola to the French, was deprived of the duchy by Emperor Charles VI of Habsburg (1685-1740), which was granted instead to the Dukes of Ferrara.
With the Estensi there was a clear decline of the duchy and an almost complete end to its urban development - along with a deterioration of the magnificent palaces built by the Pico.
After the Napoleonic age, the city participated in the struggles of the Risorgimento, entering the kingdom of Italy in 1860. Always an agricultural centre of considerable renown, Mirandola today boasts important agro-industries and services affecting the surrounding territory.
See also Mirandola for a travel and visitor guide.