Tempio Malatestiano - History and Facts | History Hit

Tempio Malatestiano

Rimini, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini is a former Franciscan church turned lavish Renaissance mausoleum.

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About Tempio Malatestiano

Tempio Malatestiano, translated as the ‘Malatesta Temple’, is an unfinished cathedral church in Rimini, Italy. It was originally a Franciscan church and later became a Renaissance church.

History of Tempio Malatestiano

The church was originally named for St. Francis, and was a thirteenth-century Gothic Franciscan church. Originally, it was very simple, being of a rectangular plan without side chapels.

The church in its current form was constructed in 1447, and was carried out at the behest of the nobleman and notoriously ruthless military commander of Venetian forces Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. Malatesta was part of a dynasty which ruled Rimini, and is the church’s namesake.

Malatesta hired architect Leon Battista Alberti to build a mausoleum for himself and his wife, Isotta degli Atti. The result was an elaborate and highly decorative monument to this couple, whose initials are emblazoned all over the Tempio Malatestiano. These changes were particularly detested by Pope Pius II, who virulently condemned them.

The project was never completed. Most notably, the dome that appears in Matteo’s foundation medal of 1450 – similar to that of the Pantheon of Rome and intended to be among the largest in Italy – was never built.

Similarly, the upper façade reached a great height but was never finished on account of Malatesta’s fortunes declining following his excommunication in 1460, and then his death in 1466. It appears today as it would have upon being abandoned.

Due to the church featuring many elements that referred to Malatesta’s history, life, and lover, the church was branded by Pope Pius II as ‘full of pagan gods and profane things’.

The church was severely damaged during the Second World War, and was reconstructed afterwards using pieces salvaged from the rubble.

Tempio Malatestiano Today

It is an unusual masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, with the church representing Malatesta’s secular power.

Reminiscence of antiquity is evident on the cathedral’s façade, which depicts the motif of the triumphal arch, and on the sides of the arcade motif, which imitate an ancient aqueduct.

Inside, works by famous Italian Renaissance painters and sculptors decorate the Cathedral, with particular highlights including Giotto’s Crucifix, fresco by Piero della Francesca, as well as a large canvas by Vasari.

Today, the church is open for visitors and locals alike who wish to enjoy the beautiful architecture or take a moment to contemplate and worship.

Getting to Tempio Malatestiano

From the centre of Rimini, the church is a 15 minute walk via Corso Giovanni XXIII. By car, it takes around 3 minutes via Via Roma. There’s also a regular bus – the number 4 – which departs every 90 minutes from 12 Colet in the city centre and takes around 15 minutes to reach the church.