Filippo Pigafetta

Birth: 1533


Filippo Pigafetta (1533-1604) was a descendant of the famous navigator Antonio Pigafetta. Little is known of his training, perhaps carried out at the University of Bologna. In his youth he devoted himself to his military career, becoming also an expert in the design and technique of fortifications. In 1556 he followed his cousin Valerio Chiericati to the siege of Civitella, with the rank of captain. In 1561 he was in Paris, besieged by the Huguenots.

In France he remained a few years, attending the intellectuals of the time including Pierre de Ronsard. Returning to the arms trade, in 1568 he was in Cyprus and in 1571 he took part in the battle of Lepanto. In the following years he traveled to the Mediterranean: in 1573 in Constantinople, following the Venetian ambassador; in 1576 he went to Crete, later he visited Alexandria, Egypt and Sinai in 1577.

Of such travels he left ample reports rich in geographic information and military annotations on the types of defenses and fortifications he could observe, in view of the perennial conflict that at that time opposed the Ottoman Empire to the European states. In October 1579 he was in the Venetian delegation sent to Florence to attend the coronation of Bianca Cappello, Francesco de 'Medici's wife. Back in Veneto, he lived a period dedicated to the study and literary production of his relatives or his friend Giulio Savorgnan, an important military engineer of the Serenissima, with whom he shared the same interests of military and ballistic art.

Between 1582 and 1583 he traveled to France, England, Spain and Portugal, perhaps to gather information on behalf of the Serenissima. In 1585 he went to Rome with the Venetian embassy to Sixtus V. He was sent to the Pope's service, in 1587 he was sent to Syria and Palestine and the following year he was sent to Spain and then to Paris. In 1589 he was commissioned to collect the testimony of the Portuguese Duarte Lopes on the Congo.

Thus was born the Relatione of the Congo realm (published in 1591), a text that was very successful. From 1592 until 1599 he was at the service of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I who sent him following the small Tuscan contingent that participated in the war in Hungary against the Ottomans and then on a mission to the Holy See. In 1601 it was again on the Balkan front following troops sent by the pontiff. In 1604 he returned to Veneto and died there on 26 October 1604.

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