The family from Carrara (whose members are called Carraresi) was an aristocratic Paduan family. Originating from the post-Longobard era, it grew in importance during the municipal age until it assumed the command of the city domination of Padua between 1318 and 1405.
The da Carrara family should descend from a group of arimanni of Germanic origin who, at the end of the tenth century, descended to Italy following some emperor. When they arrived in the Padua committee, they received some properties distributed in Conselvano and in Saccisica.
The first known member of the family, Litolfo di Gumberto (cited in 1027 as benefactor of the abbey of Santo Stefano), does not yet seem to enjoy jurisdictional rights over his funds. But during the twelfth century a series of favorable circumstances allowed the Carraresi to put together a real fiefdom, placing the center of power in the castle of Carrara San Giorgio. The family enjoyed the great consideration of the emperors Henry IV (kingdom from 1056 to 1105), Federico Barbarossa (1152-1190) and above all Enrico V (1105-1125), who took the Carraresi under his own protection and conferred special privileges on them. The marriages of Giacomino di Marsilio, who lived in the second half of the 12th century, were fundamental. He married Speronella Dalesmanini and then Maria da Baone, representatives of two important families of the Paduan rural nobility.
A few decades later the Carraresi went through a period of difficulty and progressively lost their rural possessions to the benefit of the nascent city municipality. They were further affected by the struggles between the town and the emperor and the tragic Ezzelinian parenthesis. In 1250, Jacopo da Carrara had tried in vain to resist in his castle of Agna to the militia of Ezzelino III, of which he was a fierce rival. The castle was conquered, Jacopo was assassinated and in the events that followed the ancient family cards of the Carraresi were lost. During this period, the family secured the benevolence of the population, which gave hospitality in their castles during the raids of the Ezzelinian troops.
When feudal rights had ceased to exist, during the 13th century the Carraresi were forced to urbanize, maintaining some of the rural properties where they spent holiday periods. They soon became one of the most important families in Padua. Of the main branches in which the family was divided, in addition to the one that held the name Carraresi, there were the counts of Anguillara and the Papafava.
In the municipal age, Padua was considerably enriched. Guelph traditions and a particularly powerful diocese, the city economy benefited from the affirmation of a new class of artisans and bankers, as well as the flourishing commerce that ensued. The large urbanization due to the crisis of the thirteenth century, mainly related to the Ezzelini period, significantly increased the city population and the city walls were consolidated. In the following years the municipality resumed its vigor and became one of the most important in Italy also from a cultural point of view, especially with the development of the University of Padua. However, internal conflicts arose between the new enriched social classes and the old nobility, long since split in the factions of the Guelph majority and the Ghibelline minority, also in struggle with each other.
The influence of Padua on the surrounding territory included at the beginning of the XIV century the control of important cities such as Vicenza, Bassano and Rovigo, the alliance with the Patriarchate of Aquileia and the Estensi as well as the collaboration with Venice. An important turning point for the city's fate was the decline in Italy of the king of Germany Henry VII of Luxembourg in 1310, anxious to restore the imperial power in Italy, waned after the death of Frederick II of Swabia in 1250. The king began a military campaign against the cities that refused to submit; the Guelph Padua did not submit and Henry VII but managed to avoid the clash; Henry VII however punished it by favoring the occupation of Vicenza by the Ghibelline Cangrande della Scala, lord of Verona. He diverted the waters of the Bacchiglione to weaken Padua, who preferred to avoid the clash with Henry VII, elected at that time Holy Roman Emperor in Rome.
Thanks to the Paduan diplomacy led by Albertino Mussato, the situation was recomposed but the subsequent appointment of Cangrande to the imperial vicar of Vicenza and the aims that these had on Padua precipitated the events; in 1312 the city council declared war on Verona. The massacres and devastations that followed saw a truce in 1313 with the death of Henry VII, who had been engaged in a similar conflict in Tuscany. The war with Verona had restored vigor to the struggles between the various Paduan factions and the serious situation created led to the establishment of an extraordinary city council dominated by an oligarchy of families enriched with trade and usury, which had greater powers than normal Town Council.
In 1314, the Council of the Eight Wise Men, appointed by the extraordinary Council to govern Padua, decreed the expulsion of twelve Ghibellines linked to the Carraresi. This decree raised the anger of the family; Niccolò da Carrara and Obizzo dei Carraresi Papafava led the popular revolt and the families of the usurers of the Ronchi and Alticlini were destroyed, who for years had committed all sorts of abuses and had inspired the expulsion of the Ghibellines. The next day a city assembly entrusted the government with a new council of eighteen elders and the war with Verona was resumed. It was in this period that, after the umpteenth diversion of the Bacchiglione waters by the Vicentini / Veronese, the Paduan family built the Brentella canal, which still introduces the Brenta waters into the Bacchiglione riverbed. During an attempt to resume Vicenza, the Paduan army was put to flight and among the captured were Marsilio and Giacomo da Carrara and Albertino Mussato. To negotiate peace, Cangrande sent Giacomo da Carrara (also known as Jacopo) to Padua, who convinced the city council to accept the Scaliger's conditions and saw its prestige increase.
The end of hostilities saw the economy of the many battles creep up again, but the mutual suspicions between the cities linked to the Guelphs and those linked to the Ghibellines made the wars shortly resume. A new attack in Vicenza in 1318 of troops organized by the Paduan was rejected and the Scala reaction saw the devastation of many cities of the Lower Padovana. With the Veronese army encamped at the gates of the city, James again led the peace negotiations, with which Padua undertook to give the Scaligeri control over Este, Monselice, Montagnana and Castelbaldo, as well as allowing the return of exiled Ghibellines to the city. The Carrarese thus secured the favors of the Ghibellines, among whom were his relatives Niccolò, Marsilio and Obizzo. These events followed a period of violence by the returned Ghibellines, who took revenge for the wrongs suffered by forcing many Guelphs to leave the city and Giacomo da Carrara to a difficult role as mediator. In the chaos that prevailed, the Pisan Obizzo degli Obizzi renounced assuming the post of war captain (military dictator).
The situation was serious to the point that the city council was no longer able to manage it and decided to entrust the fate of government to one of the most influential citizens, who was able to restore harmony between the warring factions. The choice fell on the rich Guelph Giacomo da Carrara, who had shown excellent skills in business, politics, military and diplomatic; he was also well accepted by the Ghibellines and the people in general, and had married Anna, daughter of the powerful Venetian doge Pietro Gradenigo. The speech of 24 July 1318 with which the choice was made to the citizens was entrusted to the famous jurist Rolando da Piazzola, at the end of which the Padovani acclaimed Giacomo "captain of government". The new lord of Padua were entrusted with full powers and were declared his subordinates to all previous rulers, including the mayor, the heads of the armed forces and the administration, leaving its substitution at its discretion.
Padua was the last of the great cities of northern Italy to preserve the democratic freedoms of the communal era but, unlike what happened in many other municipalities, it did not lose them for the despotic assertion of the new sovereign but by popular acclamation. Later, Giacomo I da Carrara would become an imperial vicar with the office of lord of the city.
The election of James did not placate the ambition of Cangrande, who soon resumed his attacks assisted by the Estensi and the imperial troops led by Henry II of Gorizia, who ruled Treviso on behalf of the Duke of Austria and pretender to the imperial throne Federico The Hapsburgs. With the city on the brink of capitulation and deprived of the support of the allies, James entrusted the defense to Henry II, making an act of submission to the Duke of Austria, who however sent as imperial vicar Ulderico di Valse. He arrived in Padua and forced Cangrande to a truce, receiving the powers and the confederation of the people from James.
At this stage the Paduan exiled men gave the Verona people a hand and new struggles were created between the major Paduan families. A new nocturnal assault was thwarted by the ghibellino Niccolò da Carrara, which made the Veronese infiltrated the city inoffensive. The subsequent siege was again rejected by the Padovans with the help of the Germans who arrived with Henry II and Ulderico. Cangrande was wounded and forced to repair Monselice. The victory gave breathing to the Padovani, who reorganized under the guidance of Ulderico. In 1321 Ulderico returned to Germany and Frederick I replaced him with Henry of Carinthia and Tirolo, who had great problems in subduing the Paduan exiles.
In 1324 Giacomo da Carrara died after having elected his nephew Marsilio to his successor. The latter, however, was initially subordinated to the Habsburgs, who continued to exercise power with Henry of Carinthia and Tyrol until 1328.
The da Carrara family would have retained control over Padua until 1405, with the parenthesis Scaligera 1328-1338 and Viscontea 1388-1390. Among the jurists who were used in the city government was the famous Raniero Arsendi, known as "the monarch of laws". The lord of Padua Marsilietto Papafava da Carrara was part of the family branch called Papafava.
In 1405 James III, son of the last Lord of Padua, Francesco Novello, fell prisoner of the Venetians. According to official historiography, a plague epidemic in Padua forced it to surrender; Francesco Novello and his other son Francesco III gave themselves to the Venetians and later the three Carraresi were strangled in prison.
In 1435 Marsilio, the third and only son of Francesco Novello remained alive, tried to regain control of Padua but was captured and beheaded in Piazza San Marco.