We saw earlier the mercenaries from the Insubrica region in the service of the Venice Republic, notably we wrote, last May 2018, about Bernardino Checco from Locarno. We wish to go further and to explore more in details mercenary connections between Ticino – Venice. Consequently, there is another family from Ticino that served the Venice Republic.
The illustrious Neuroni family, from Riva San Vitale, Ticino, has been among the numerous names that drew our attention. This family was very devout, dedicated to the Church as well as to the military service.
According to Oldelli, Neuroni had an ancient family background: it originated from the name Nubiloni and thereafter Nuironi. The family had already established itself in Riva San Vitale, near Lugano, before 1290.
In 1400, the family core moved to Lugano, but other members were dispersed throughout various parts of Ticino. It is interesting to introduce the courageous members of this lineage who died on duty for the Venice Republic fighting against Turks.
Captain Antonio Neuroni with his two brothers Fabrizio and Gian Pietro were killed in 1669 defending the walls of Candia. The Siege of Candia (modern Heraklion, Crete) was a military conflict in which the Ottoman forces besieged the city led by the Venetians.
The siege lasted more than 21 years from 1648 to 1669, becoming the second longest siege in the human history after the siege of Ceuta. The Ottoman soldiers were finally victorious despite the unprecedented resistance and struggle of Candia.
Colonel and general commander of the militia of the Venetian Republic, Gian-Maria Neuroni, was, according to Oldelli, in Corfu when Ottomans attacked the city. As a matter of fact, on 8 July 1716, the Ottoman army comprising of 33’000 soldiers began the assault of Corfu, the most important of the Ionian islands. Despite the indecisive naval battle, the Ottoman overland army continued that day its advancement towards the city.
On 19 July, after capturing outlying forts, the Ottomans started the siege of Corfu. The defence was led by Count Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, who had in his disposition 8’000 men. The extensive fortifications and the determination of the defenders withstood several assaults. A great weather storm on 9 August 1716 —which the defenders attributed to the divine intervention of Corfu’s patron saint called Saint Spyridon—caused numerous casualties among the besiegers, forcing the Ottoman army to brake off the siege, retreating from the outskirts of the city.
The heroic defence of Corfu inspired composer Antonio Vivaldi who wrote the allegorical oratorio called Juditha Triumphans, the Baroque masterpiece. Vivaldi’s Venetian Juditha is like a symbol of triumph of the Venetian defence and victory of Corfu in August 1716.
Lieutenant-Colonel Pietro Antonio Neuroni, the brother of Gian-Maria Neuroni who has been mentioned before in the article, served like his brother the militia of the Venetian Republic. According to Oldelli, he was on duty in Navarre Spain. Few details are known in fact about his service, except that he died in Pamplona.
There had been another “Ticinese” soldier who was most likely active in Pamplona during 1569-1570: his name was Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino (1520–1586) known as El Fratin (in English: The Little Friar). Paleari Fratino was from Morcote, situated near Lugano.
He was a military engineer who served the Spanish Emperor, Charles V, and then, to his son Philip II of Spain. He is known for having designed the first Martello tower as well as many other fortifications. Insubrica Historica will necessarily write about Paleari Fratino in the future, as Dr. Marino Vigano, our friend and an honoured history researcher, has published a brillant
biography on Paleari’s .
- Oldelli, Dizionario storico-ragionato degli uomini illustri del canton ticino, Veladini Lugano, 1807 pages 121-122
- G. Martinola, La Compagnia Neuroni, Rivista militare della Svizzera italiana, Band 22, 1950