Este, House of

   Princely dynasty which ruled the city of Ferrara from 1240 to 1598 and played an important part in Italian diplomacy and warfare. Originally ranked as marquises, they were made dukes of Modena and Reggio by an imperial grant of 1452 and in 1471 were elevated by the pope to the rank of dukes of Ferrara. The dynasty formed a brilliant and culturally attractive court. Under Borso (ruled 1450-1471) and Ercole I (1471-1505), the court was the center of a distinctive Ferrarese style of painting. Both Ercole I and his son Alfonso I (1505-1534) were lavish builders of palaces and churches. Borso collected an excellent library of classical and humanistic manuscripts, and the Este court became an active center of theatrical performances and public pageants.
   In 1429 Duke Niccolö III persuaded the prominent schoolmaster Guarino Guarini to become tutor to his son Leonello, and the excellent court school thus created became famous throughout Italy, rivalled only by the other major court school conducted by Vittorino da Feltre for the marquis of Mantua. Both schools attracted aristocratic pupils from throughout Italy and even from abroad. The school at Ferrara became the foundation for a revived local university, with Guarino teaching the studia humanitatis, that is, the central academic subjects associated with Renaissance humanism.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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