The Lomellini family

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The head of the Lomellini family, Vassalo Lumello, native of Lombardy, is said to have been an illegitimate son of the Count of Meda. Few things are known about him, except that he became Consul of Genoa in 1197.

Probably in the hope of making up for his poor origins, his lineage - notably his five sons - were known for their exemplary behaviour and faithfulness, as attested in the second day of Boccacio's Decameron

That flaunted virtue was also a kind of investment which allowed the family to create a network of dense connections through its alliances with the nobility: the Gonzagues, Del Carettos and Anguisolas.
Parallel to this, a network of relationships with maritime and commercial trading posts developed: beginning as merchants, then shipowners, the Lomellinis eventually became bankers. Their connections offered them certain privileges.


Click on to enlarge the picture - Les 4 vertus des Lomellini -

“Allégorie des 4 vertus”
Sebastiano Conca
( Gaeta 1680-1764, Rome)
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Temperance Prudence
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Justice La détermination

In the 15th century, Marco Lomellini obtained from King Alfonso V of Aragon the monopoly over the cork trade in the entire kingdom. Ambrogio, who lived in Nantes, led the Irish leather and sugar trades, sugar produced by two other Lomellinis, Urbano and Battista, on Madera island.

Wisely, they focused their activities on much sought-after products such as:

- filler taken from the sap of the pistacia tree. At that time, filler produced in Chio was in particularly great demand for its consistency, as it was used for the manufacture of a type of chewing gum. This was almost a vital foodstuff at a time when immoderate use of garlic and onion made peoples' breaths utterly terrible, the kind of sailor's breath that would “drive scurvy away from damsels”,
- and alum, which was essential for cloth dyeing, which they would also bring back from Chio to then distribute everywhere in Europe.

It is precisely the trade of such heavy and relatively cheap products that justified the use of the large Genoese vessels, which could transport their freight in one trip from Chio to North-West Europe.

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At the beginning of the 16th century, numerous vessels belonging to the Lomellinis could be traced. In 1494, Angelo and Pasquale chartered their two ships to Charles VIII for the first French expedition against the Kingdom of Naples. In 1499, during the first Navarin-Lépante battle with the Turks, a Lomellina carried reinforcements together with the Bozella. In 1501, a Lomellina flew the admiral flag of Philip of Cleves, Duke of Ravenstein, during Louis XII's first expedition against Mytilene. At its return, on 25 November, the ship wrecked on Cythera Island, and it is only thanks to chronicler Jean d'Auton that a very lively description of that event was made known to us. In 1503, another Lomellina under the command of Prégent de Bidoux, chief of the French-Genoese squadron, fought Naples.

The owner of “our”Lomellina may well have been Agostino Lomellini, son of Ansaldo, the name of whom was found in a manuscript listing the various functions held by members of the Lomellini family at the beginning of the 16th century.

Agostino was in turn Consul from 1502 to 1513 and shipowner in 1514. He sat on the Council of the Elders in 1515, then at the Tax Council (Calleghe) in 1515. That same year, he owned a ship with 200 soldiers (fanti), and one year later in 1516 was an Officer of Supplies and Salt. Sitting again on the Council of the Elders in 1518, 1520 and 1526, he also held many official positions until 1528, among those Officer of Corsica in 1524 and 1526, and Officer of the Mint in 1525. Before that, he appeared to have lived with Luca Vivaldi in Lyons, a city famous for its exchange fairs between 1507 and 1513; he then briefly resided in Bruges in 1512. His name last appeared when he was an ambassador for the French Court in 1528.

The Lomellinis held senior offices three times as doges: Battista in 1533, Gianotto in 1571 and Giacomo in the 17th century.
This family cannot be talked about without referring to two activities for which they were particularly famous :
- the fishing and coral trade, which was at its climax in 1543 when Charles the Fifth granted the family the monopoly over coral fishing on the Tabarca island for more than three centuries.
- the other, less reputable activity began in 1622 when in association with Domenico Grillo, Ambrosio Lomellini, a descendant of the branch of the family living in Spain, obtained the Assiento (the assent) for the slave trade on behalf of the King of Spain.
At the beginning of the 18th century, three branches of the family were living in Genoa, and one in Spain. However, surprisingly, the Lomellinis totally disappeared at the end of the 18th century for lack of any male descendant.

© Max Guérout