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  • The feudal epoch and the noble families

    Over five centuries of medieval and modern history of Laconi can be recounted through the affairs of the most important and influential families of the epoch: the De Sena, the Castelvì and the Aymerich.  

    Lords of Laconi from 1421 to 1478

    The De Sena descend from the ancient and illustrious Piccolomini family of Siena, whose most important representative was the pontiff Enea Silvio who took the name of Pius II after having risen to the papal throne. Following bloody clashes between political factions connected to the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, a branch of this important Tuscan family was forced to leave Siena and take refuge in Sassari, where it would take the name De Sena in memory of its origins. 
    The first Piccolomini de Sena to reach Sardegna was Patrizio Cristoforo in 1396, whose grandson Giovanni would acquire the fiefdom of Laconi the 7th of February, 1421 (comprising the towns of Laconi, Genoni, Nuragus and Nurallao) from the Royal Fisc and was made its feudal lord by King Don Alfonso the Magnanimous. This gave him the right to participate in the Cortes being held that same year and chaired by the King himself. 
    Don Antonio, son of the previously mentioned king, was the most prominent representative of the family: second Lord of Laconi, first Lord of Sanluri (by investiture July 8, 1436), first Lord of Quartu (by investiture July 20, 1436 and sold back to the Councilors of the Municipality of Cagliari on July 16, 1467), he was nominated by the Sovereign in 1438 as Grand Constable (supreme leader of all the armies of Sardinia) and Grand Admiral of the Sardinian flotilla. 
    His sons, Don Pietro and Don Salvatore obtained prestigious marriages, wedding two princesses of Arborea, sisters of the last Marquis of Oristano, Don Leonardo d’Alagòn Cubello.
    In turn, Pietro’s son, Don Giovanni, married his cousin, Lady Eleonora d’Alagòn Morillo, Princess of Arborea and daughter of Leonardo.
    Due to these close ties of kinship with the Alagòn family, the De Sena fought alongside the Marquis of Oristano, resulting in defeat and utter disgrace.
    The fiefdoms belonging to the family were confiscated by the Royal Fisc in 1478 and given by King Don Ferdinando of Aragona to his uncle, Don Enrique Henriquez the 10th of November, 1479.
    Later, the De Sena family regained an important role in the history of the island when they received the hereditary office of Governor of Sassari and Logudoro beginning in 1524 and ending in 1670, the year in which Don Francesco, last of his stock, died. 
    In 1585, they became Lords of Austis and Olmedo.
    The last of the De Sena went extinct at the end of the 18th century after having retaken the surname of Piccolomini, abandoned so many years previously.  

    Lords, then Marquises, of Laconi from 1479 to 1769

    Galcerando and Pere de Castelvì, belonging to the ancient Valencian family of the dei Conti of Carlet, came to Sardinia for the first time following Alfonso the Benign in 1323. However, they did not stay long and, after the Infante’s repatriation to Spain, they also returned to their homeland, laden with honors. The first members of the family to permanently establish themselves in Sardinia were the bothers Alberto, Luigi and Pietro. In 1479, the brothers acquired the fiefdoms of Sanluri and Laconi from Don Enrique Henriquez y Suero, uncle of the King, Don Ferdinando II the Catholic, and decided to possess them together for 17 years. The 13th of July, 1495, Pietro sold his portion to Luigi who, dead without any direct heirs, left all his property to his brother Alberto’s children. Pietro, son of Alberto, became Lord of Laconi and first Viscount of Sanluri by concession the 11th of August, 1507. That same year, with Privilege of Queen Lady Giovanna the Mad, he obtained the title of Don. Don Artaldo, grandson of Don Pietro, was the first Count of Laconi (by concession the 24th of April, 1561), third Viscount of Sanluri, Knight of the Order of Santiago and in 1560 married his cousin Lady Maria Castelvì y Flors, heir to the Baronage of Ploaghe. His son, Don Giacomo, received the investiture of his maternal title in 1594 and the elevation to Marquis by the County of Laconi in 1605. Definitively uniting the titles of Marquis of Laconi, Viscount of Sanluri and Baron of Ploaghe, he became one of the most powerful feudal lords on the island. Don Francesco - second Marquis of Laconi, seventh Viscount of Sanluri, second Baron of Ploaghe - was able to obtain important marriages. In his first marriage, he wedded Lady Caterina d’Alagòn of the Marquises of Villasor from whom he received no descendants. His second marriage found him wedded to the Lady Francesca Lanza of the Princes of Trabìa, a powerful aristocratic family from Sicily. From this union came a bountiful supply of progeny, among them Don Agostino, noteworthy for the sad events that would devastate Sardinia in the second half of the 17th century. Nominated by the people as “Father of the Fatherland” for having defended the rights of Sardinia and the privileges of the Sardinian Parliament (of which he was Prima Voce, Prime Minister), Don Agostino was murdered in 1668 at the hands of unknown assassins. Certain of the involvement of Viceroy Don Emanuele de los Cobos, Marquis of Camarassa, a number of Sardinian nobles, led by Don Jaime Artàl de Castelvì, Marquis of Cea and cousin of Don Agostino, conspired to avenge the Marquis of Laconi, eventually killing the Viceroy in an ambush. This act had grave consequences, culminating in the decapitation of Don Artàl and the slaying of numerous representatives of the Sardinian nobility. Don Agostino’s heir was his only son Don Giovanni Francesco who, according to his merits, was conferred the title of Grandee of Spain of I Class bound to the title of Laconi in 1705 (a privilege which elevated the feudal lord to the greatest of honors and to a level of prestige befitting a cousin of the King). When Giovanni Francesco died without having conceived any legitimate children, the fief was passed on, following the wishes of Don Agostino recorded in his will, to the descendants of his cousin Don Anastasio, fourth Lord of Samassi and Serrenti. It was therefore inherited by his niece Lady Maria Caterina of Castelvì y Sanjust who was the last Marquise of Laconi to bear his name. She married the Count of Villamar, Don Gabriele Antonio Aymerich Zatrillas, with whom she had a son. However, due to his son’s premature death, all of the Count’s titles were transferred to his nephew Don Ignazio Aymerich Castelvì who became the eighth Marquis of Laconi, sixth Count of Villamar, thirteenth Viscount of Sanluri, Baron of Ploaghe, Lord of Stunnu, Crastu, Lionesu, Riu Tortu, and Montis de Ledda, Grandee of Spain of the I Class, and Prima Voce of the Military Parliament (branch of the Sardinian Parliament), a duty incumbent upon the Marquis of Laconi. The Castelvì family married into the Aymerich family on numerous occasions: Don Francesco of Castelvì y Cavaller married Lady Brianda Aymerich Margens, Don Angelo of Castelvì y Cavaller married Lady Anna Aymerich y Margens, Don Giacomo of Castelvì y Castelvì married Lady Maria Aymerich y Margens; regarding their children, Don Salvatore y Aymerich married Lady Isabella Aymerich y Bellit and Don Giovanni Battista of Castelvì y Aymerich married Lady Giovanna Aymerich Bellit.

    Marquises of Laconi since 1769

    The Aymerich family, originally from Catalonia, came to Sardinia in the 14th century following the Infante Don Alfonso the Benign. In 1358, Pietro was nominated as Cagliari’s ambassador to the King Don Pietro IV; Matteo became a resident of Cagliari in 1370. Beginning in the mid-15th century, more detailed information is available regarding Martino and Nicola Aymerich, who were Councilors for the city of Cagliari. In particular, Martino was charged with the office of Consul of the Sicilians and was invited to Barcelona as Cagliari’s ambassador to the King Don Giovanni II in 1458. One of Martino’s sons, Giovanni, a valiant warrior who died fighting for the King, was knighted on the 22nd of December, 1476. Pietro, Head Councilor of the city of Cagliari, inherited the role of Consul of the Sicilians from his father and obtained the tender of the Royal Customs in 1485. In that same year, he was nominated as prosecutor and administrator of the Marquisate of Quirra da Violante Bertran Carroz. In 1486, he acquired the Lordship of Mara Arbarei (Villamar) from the Dedoni family. Salvatore I, son of Pietro, second Lord of Mara, founded a chapel under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin of Hope in the Cathedral of Cagliari the 30th of January, 1494. His son, Don Salvatore II Aymerich Botèr, obtained the Diploma of Nobility December 20, 1521 and was invited to the Court of Madrid in 1524 as the acting representative of the Sardinian Parliament. He eventually succeeded in obtaining an exemption for the Sardinian people to the “extraordinary donation” (mandatory payment) in the occasion of the royal weddings. A Knight of the Order of Santiago, in 1535 he took part in the undertakings of Tunis following the Emperor Carlo V, and was nominated Governor of the fortress La Goletta for his extraordinary merits. On December 20, 1535, that same Emperor would allow him to decorate his shield with the Imperial Two-Headed Eagle. Don Salvatore II was a canny businessman, engaging in financial speculation and feudal wheeling and dealing that resulted in a notable augmentation of the family’s patrimony and, thereby, of the political weight wielded by the Aymerichs among the factions of Cagliari’s aristocracy. This same Salvatore would commission the famous painter Pietro Cavaro to create a magnificent retablo for the sake of the enrichment of the Parish of Villamar. His grandson Don Ignazio I Aymerich y Canì, will eventually be honored with the title of Count of Villamar for his exploits on the battlefield. His sons Don Salvatore III and Don Silvestro Aymerich y Cervellon were involved in the vendetta that brought about the murder of the Viceroy Camarassa, thought to have ordered the assassination of the Marquis of Laconi that took place at the end of 1600. As is well known, Don Silvestro and his wife Lady Francesca Zatrillas, were condemned for their responsibility in the slaying of the Marquis of Camarassa and were executed in 1671. His property was confiscated for high treason and lèse-majesté. After a long battle, Don Gabriele Antonio Aymerich y Zatrillas, son of Don Silvestro and Lady Francesca Zatrillas (widow of the Marquis of Laconi, Don Agostino of Castelvì), obtained the rehabilitation of his parents’ honor and the recognition of his hereditary rights, reentering into possession of his family’s feudal estates in 1709 and thereby becoming the fourth Count of Villamar. He also regained possession of the estates belonging to his mother’s family and maintained the title of Marquis of Sietefuentes until 1714 when he lost the litigation against the other claimants to the title who had divvied up the estate after the condemnation of Lady Francesca. As his second wife, Don Gabriele Antonio took Lady Maria Caterina of Castelvì y Sanjust, seventh Marquise of Laconi, twelfth Viscountess of Sanluri, Baroness of Ploaghe, descendant of that Don Anastasio named as heir by the last will and testament of Don Agostino of Castelvì. Through this marriage, the Castelvì family titles passed over to the Aymerich family. 
    Don Ignazio III Aymerich y Brancifort, grandson of Don Gabriele Antonio, was the first of the Aymerich family to become Marquis of Laconi. He also became Prima Voce of the Military Parliament (a duty attached to the title of Marquis of Laconi). In 1774, he was the delegate of all three branches of the Sardinian Parliament for the swearing in to the throne of the new King of Sardinia, Vittorio Amedeo III. He was reputed to be a man of notable charm and to be much loved by the population, so much so that when insurgents from Cagliari expelled the Viceroy Balbiano along with all other Piedmontese (Sa die de sa Sardigna, “The day of Sardinia”) from Sardinia in 1794, there was a popular furor calling on him to be the new Viceroy (an honor which he refused). His brother Don Michele Aymerich y Brancifort was the Bishop of Ales and Torralba in 1788. Don Ignazio IV Aymerich y Zatrillas was the next to inherit the titles and was Great Cross Knight of the most holy Maurizio and Lazzaro, Squire to her royal highness the Duchess of the Genoese, Gentleman of the Bedchamber to His Majesty the King of Sardinia Vittorio Emanuele I and beginning in 1820, General of the Cavalry Militia. His son, Don Ignazio V Aymerich y Ripoll, Gentlemen of the Bedchamber to His Majesty the King Carlo Alberto, was part of the delegation that, in 1847, presented to King Carlo Alberto the formal request for the administrative unification of Sardinia with the Royal States of the Mainland and was, as a result, the last Prima Voce of the Military Parliament thereafter dissolved. 
    Of liberal convictions and friend to the Count Camillo Benso of Cavour, Don Ignazio was appointed Senator of the Kingdom to the new Subalpine Parliament at Turin in May 1848. 
    He dealt with grave socio-economic problems on the island, was an expert on agriculture and, in Laconi, thanks to the abundant presence of mulberry trees, was able to incentivize the production of silk through the breeding of silkworms. The silkworms were incubated in a large room in the Palazzo which, in fact, is still informally known as the “Room of the Silkworms”.
    He was the first person to introduce threshing machines in all of Sardinia when he imported them to Laconi, completely revolutionizing the laborious thresh work which used to involve both men and animals. 
    He also fought strongly for the construction of railways in Sardinia. In his position as municipal and provincial Councilor of Cagliari, he authored various important treaties dedicated to agriculture and transportation on the island. In fact, he is to be thanked for the bus route that connects Laconi to Cagliari).
    After the destruction of the Castle due to fire, he initiated the construction of the Palazzo of Laconi, commissioned to the architect Gaetano Cima and completed in 1846.
    After a lengthy sojourn in France, he decided to decorate the new Palazzo in the manner of the grand gardens and parks that embellished the castles of that country, planting valuable and exotic flora in the woods above the town. He also created waterfalls, boulevards and springs, all of which contribute to the park’s unique and particular character.  
    In 1918, the Marquis Don Carlo Aymerich Sanjust, an engineer ahead of his times with respect to the rest of the island, converted a portion of the park into a coal-powered energy plant, providing electrical light to a large part of the country and powering a mill to which all residents of Laconi had free access. 
    The current Marquis Don Giuseppe Aymerich Asquer continues to uphold his ancestors’ sense of social responsibility with his important contribution to the University of Cagliari, first as a professor of the Math Department, and then as the department’s Rector Magnificus for numerous years.