Malatesta mälätĕˈstä [key], Italian family, ruling Rimini and nearby cities for almost 300 years from the 13th to 16th cent. Malatesta da Verucchio (d. 1312), a powerful Guelph leader, became (1239) podestà, or chief magistrate, of Rimini and used this position to entrench his family's position in the area. His hunchback son Gianciotto was married to Francesca da Rimini. With the expulsion of the family's Ghibelline rivals in 1295 the Malatesta rule in Rimini became well established, but papal investiture was made only in the following century. Branches of the family came to rule also Pesaro, Cesena, and Fano. In the 14th and 15th cent. several members of the family were noted condottieri in the service of various Italian states. The most famous was Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1417–68), a typical lord of the Italian Renaissance. A patron of arts and letters, he had the church of San Francesco in Rimini transformed into the Tempio Malatestiano [the temple of the Malatesta]. A despot excommunicated for numerous crimes, he engaged in a bitter conflict with the papacy over territorial claims, but he finally lost (1463) all his possessions except Rimini. His brother Novello, lord of Cesena, built there the fine Malatesta library. Sigismondo's son and grandson held the little state with difficulty, eventually losing it in 1500 to Cesare Borgia. Although the Malatesta family returned for brief intervals in the early 16th cent., Rimini passed definitively to the Holy See in 1528.

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