With this, the Savoy duchy, the republic of Venice, the republic of Florence were established on vast regional bases. Even the Visconti duchy, also locked up between Savoy and Venice, shrunken in the territory, nevertheless has the conditions for a life of its own. It is smaller than the Savoy duchy and the territory of Venice; but it possesses centrality, homogeneity, compactness which are as many elements of equilibrium. In the same years, the Papal States and the kingdom of Naples also rose to new life. The state of the Church was in danger of death. Broken again, at the beginning of the century; Bologna, Perugia, the major cities, independent in fact; Rome, occupied for a long time by Ladislao, then almost held in dominion by Braccio da Montone, an Umbrian lord of the new type of lords-leaders or condottieri-lords. If the State of the Church had only had the defensive resources available to the remaining states of the peninsula, it would not have escaped the death sentence that seemed to hang over it. But his legal titles were sanctified by religion; they had something of absolute value. They could not save, today, from ruin; but they made the restoration possible tomorrow. As it was now. The need to return to Rome was alive in the popes: the need, indeed, to have a firm and robust point of support, not only to reside there but to organize from there the resistance to the dissolving forces of Catholic and papal unity, give vigor and continuity to the work of defense of “ecclesiastical freedoms”. The last century had been full of painful experiences on the nationalistic moods of the monarchies and the episcopate of the West. Just as the empire had turned to take particular care of its own territory, the same need had the papacy. The time of medieval universality, in which the ties of the papacy with Rome were predominantly ideal, is over, also for the Church. Now, the popes find their lands pressed from all sides, by Florentines, by Venetians, by leaders, by Angevins of Naples, by Visconti. The latter appear to be particularly dangerous, namely Filippo Maria, who presents himself as executor of the will of the Council of Basel against Pope Eugene and has in the pay the best and most ambitious leaders of the time, Francesco Sforza and Niccolò Piccinino. Now, these two invade the Marche and Romagna. But the pope allied himself with Venice and Florence and tried to win Sforza by investing him with the Marca d’Ancona (March 1434): the principle of Sforza’s fortune. Even more, a new event that occurred in the kingdom of Naples acts on the pope: the death of Queen Giovanna II without heirs and the appearance of Alfonso of Aragon, king of Sardinia and Sicily, who, after having also aspired to Corsica, had his eyes on Naples, as if to resume and complete the work begun by his ancestor Peter after Vespers. Adopted at first by the Queen, Alfonso was then supplanted by Louis III of Anjou. Now he reappears to assert himself. But all Italian governments are turning against him. According to Nexticle.net, Filippo Maria Visconti also took part in the general raising of shields against Alfonso: although, perhaps, especially out of regard to Genoa, his city, a very enemy of the Aragonese, which would have been able to give itself to France or Renato d’Angiò, who was now opposed to Alfonso, as heir of Louis III, if he had seen the duke unable to defend it. And the route that the ships of Genoa and Visconti inflicted near Ponza on Alfonso was a decisive event of the war. The king himself fell a prisoner. But brought before the Duke of Milan, the scene changed. The two princes felt more in solidarity than disagreement: in solidarity with Renato d’Angiò who, given his ties with France, also constituted a serious danger for the Visconti dukedom; in solidarity with the pope, against the Florentines, against the Venetians, perhaps even against Sforza who had created his own base and cast his eyes both on the Visconti lands and on the Neapolitan ones. New war: on the one hand, Filippo Maria and Alfonso, on the other a coalition, at the center of which were Venice, Florence and Genoa which rebelled against the Visconti. Sforza was leader of the coalition. Result: Visconti got the worst of it, he was expelled from Tuscany and Romagna, he lost other lands on the Adda, he had to marry one of his daughters to Sforza, that is, to make him heir; but Alfonso reconquered the provinces of the kingdom, aided by those same barons who had already helped his competitor, besieged and took Naples, entered it in 1442, took over the reins of the government, restored the authority of the state.
But he immediately aroused new and greater opposition in Florence which had many mercantile interests in the kingdom and saw that king, also lord of Sardinia, placed just a short distance from Tuscany and Livorno; opposition in the pope who did not intend to remain extraneous to the dynastic changes of a vassal kingdom and to be kept well guarded. There is no doubt that this return in strength of the kingdom made it appear more and more necessary for the pope to secure Rome, to truly keep it as master, to free it from the suggestions and dangers that came from the south. This was seen with Eugenio IV and, moreover, with Niccolò V (1447-55), when the conciliar opposition was won and the government of the Church gathered again in one hand. Then, in the person of Cardinal Vitelleschi, a new Egidio Albornoz appeared, who subjected Colonna, Savelli, Caetani, Annibaldi, I seized their city, destroyed their castles, the Romans received a triumphal welcome almost the new father of the city after Romulus. The aversion to feudatars and that to Alfonso made the Romans well disposed towards the pope and his government. By now the exhortations to independence, the appeals to republican greatness to be restored, are in vain: as we saw with Stefano Porcari that in 1447, on the death of Eugenio, while Alfonso was encamped at the gates, he shouted freedom. Thus the papal power took root in Rome as never before. The papacy returned to Rome, in a definitive way, and was more strongly linked to its seat than in the past. And the old toil around the State of the Church also resumed: Sisyphus’ fatigue in a certain way, but not so much that it did not mark, in every phase, some progress, if only because of the wearing down of the forces that opposed it; feudatarî and city. In 1429, Bologna too had submitted to Pope Martin V, of the Colonna. With Cardinal Vitelleschi, Lodovico Scarampi, patriarch of Aquileia, emerged in this restoration effort. They are representative men, in this phase of the history of the Church and the papacy, which is the history of a prince and a state, political history, rather than a religion. It will take another revolution, another era which, without denying the Renaissance, you restore elements of medieval life; it will take this to give the popes the appearance of popes.