Leonardino della Scala, called Mastino I, was an Italian leader, belonging to the Verona family of La Scala. Son of Jacopino della Scala, he was podestà of Cerea and Verona in 1259, Captain of the People of Verona from 1260 and captain of the Casa dei Mercanti from 1261 to 1269.
Ghibelline ideals, he showed that he preferred peace to war: he had the city walls adversaries already expelled as the family of the Counts of San Bonifacio and he signed friendly peace treaties with the Guelph and very close Mantua, as well as with the Este family. A reporter of the time, to sum up the Mastino captain in a few words, said: "Peace was made". After the brief period in which he held the office of mayor, he left the post to the Venetian Andrea Zeno. In doing so, it obtained from the increasingly powerful Venice, the possibility, for the Veronese merchants, to trade and trade freely in the waters of the Adige.
Mastino, despite having among its objectives from the beginning a plan to conquer the lordship of Verona, knew how to act without causing fear to the citizens and out of town. He particularly took into account the advice of his brother Alberto, who was also very skilled. Mastiff understood that the support of the merchant class, of which he was a part, which produced wealth and could supply soldiers, as well as having the majority in city councils, was very important.
In 1259, by unanimous will of the population, Mastino was elected podestà of the people, or potestas populi, a charge in which the people identified themselves. Mastino became in 1261 the mayor of the Domus Mercatorum, the council of the Verona merchants, of great importance: he could thus dispose of the Arts, which in the city essentially held power. The charge remained in his hands until 1269, when he transmitted it to his brother (who in 1277, when he took the title of captain and rector of the craftsmen and of all the people, will assume extraordinary powers and thus will be born the lordship of the Scaligeri) . In the years that followed, peace continued, though interrupted by tumults, easily tamed.
Complying with the will of his people he brought peace with the Guelph exiles, with the Este family and with the Mantuan people. However, he managed to conquer Trento in 1265 and Vicenza in 1266, even if the two conquests were of short duration, given that the bishop power was strong in the north and the influence of the municipality of Padua to the east.
In 1266 the last scion of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, Corradino di Svevia, son of Emperor Conrad IV and Elisabetta di Baviera, gave news of his imminent armed arrival in Italy, under the pretext of restoring peace among the Italic municipalities, martyred from the continuous internal struggles. The Duke of Swabia decided to cross the Alps only in 1267, after having appeased the German feudal lords, with whom he did not enjoy great esteem. Meanwhile, Mastino, helped by the Conte del Tirolo, had managed to drive the bishop of Trento out of his seat, imposing the Veronese Lordship in that important border town, thus greatly enlarging the territory controlled by Verona, even for a short time. Finally, on October 21, 1267, Corradino crossed the gates of Verona, welcomed festively by Mastino who decorated the city and set up large and abundant banquets for the arrival of the illustrious guest. But while in Verona ambassadors had come from most of the cities of Veneto, Lombardy and even from Tuscany and Sicily to pay homage to the young Corradino, in Rome, Pope Clement IV, on November 18, 1267, issued the excommunication to the German prince and towards all the Italian Ghibellines who supported him, in particular Verona. The people of Verona were deeply impressed, but most of them soon forgot, "still being able to attend the Dominican Masses". Soon Corradino was invited to Pavia and went there, in 1268, escorted by the same Mastino and his Veronese militias. Arrived in Pavia, where he was again welcomed with joy, he raised Mastino to the title of mayor of the Lombard city.
In Verona, while Mastino was absent, the situation was soon degenerate: the party of the Counts of Sambonifacio, led by Count Lodovico, allied with Pulcinella delle Carceri, succeeded in eliminating the Scaliger garrisons of Legnago, Villafranca, Illasi, and many other Veronese countries. This led to a bitter struggle between the countryside, which involved not only the two rival armies, but also the local population, who were forced to give asylum to both the Scaligeri and their opponents. In a particularly heated clash, Bocca dalla Scala, brother of Mastino, lost his life. Soon, however, the Captain of the people and his troops won: they regained control of the fallen towns and villages, and talks were made of peace and alliance with Mantua, which has always been the home of the Veronese refugees, who were punished even if not with the cruelty that the traitors will undergo under the governments of Alberto I or Mastino II.
In 1274, Mastino managed to impose his brother Alberto as podestà of Mantua, thus guaranteeing a lasting peace and a period of friendly relations between the two cities. During the periods of peace, Mastino dedicated himself to embellishing and enlarging its palaces and its castles, to taking care of the economy and the commerce of the city and inviting artists and writers from all over the Veneto to its court.
On Corradino's death, the glorious Hohenstaufen dynasty died out. But soon, an embassy of the new Germanic emperor, Rudolf of Hapsburg, arrived in Verona with the imperial banner and the personal banner of the emperor. He brought the greetings of the new sovereign and waited for the usual act of fidelity on the part of the Municipality and of the people of Verona. The Council met and put into the hands of the ambassador the oath of fidelity of Verona, which returned to be a fief under the "protection" of the emperor of Germany. While Verona was safe under Germanic control, relations with the Church were always very precarious. Excommunication still weighed on the city.
At Sirmione, a small town on Lake Garda not far from Verona, there was a large community of heretics Càtari and Patareni, who had now assumed the spiritual and administrative control of the city. They were governed by a bishop, who had concentrated all his powers in his hands. The Inquisition Court first sent numerous inquisitors to Sirmione, to verify the situation: given the power that the heretics were taking, the bishop of Verona, Fra 'Timido, promoted a military campaign against Sirmione to block the powerful Cathar bishop Lorenzo, supported from the Albigene bishop of Tolosa, Bernardo di Oliba. Alberto, the brother of Mastino, left for the city of Catullo with the militia of Verona and after a very brief siege, managed to make it capitulate. Heretics and heretics were captured and taken to the Veronese prisons, under the tutelage of Mastino. He kept them in prisons without harming their safety, holding them harshly but without excessive punishment. A few years later, under the captain of Alberto, 166 heretics were publicly burned in the Arena and the city was finally dissolved by excommunication, thanks to reconciliation with Pope Nicholas IV.
While the Guelph city of the Padana plain rejected the lordship of Charles I of Anjou, Verona, in 1274, swore allegiance to Alfonso X of Castile, but, obeying the will of Pope Gregory X, he recognized as king Rudolf of Habsburg, who he ceded to the pontiff the exarchate of Ravenna and the duchy of Spoleto, and renounced the dominion of the kingdom of Sicily: peace with the church was in fact a necessity for Mastino, above all for the peace within Verona.
On October 26, 1277, Mastino della Scala was treacherously murdered along with his faithful Antonio Nogarola, near his home. Most sources indicate as assassins Isnardo de 'Scaramelli, an exponent of the Pigozzo family and perhaps some members of the Spallino family. Other sources, however not very reliable historically, show Alberto to conspire against his brother to usurparne the place and have it killed at night. This last hypothesis seems unreal since Alberto would have inherited the position of Mastino and that he had received wide political recognition from him. Indeed, Albert warned quickly returned from Mantua, where he was mayor, and, having arrived in the city, his revenge left no escape for the conspirators.
Mastino had only one legitimate son, Niccolò (1267-?), Who was podestà of Mantua in 1292 and armed knight by his uncle Alberto in 1294.