Open main menu
Francesca da Rimini (1837), by William Dyce.
The death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta by Alexandre Cabanel (1870).

Paolo Malatesta (c. 1246 – 1285) was the third son of Malatesta da Verucchio, lord of Rimini. He is best known for the story of his affair with Francesca da Polenta, portrayed by Dante in a famous episode of his Inferno (Canto V). He was the brother of Giovanni (Gianciotto) and Malatestino Malatesta.

In 1269, Paolo married Orabile Beatrice, last Countess of Ghiaggiolo; the title was inherited by their son Uberto. Despite usually depicted as a romantic man with little attention to worldly matters, the historical Paolo was long present alongside his father in the wars against the Ghibellines of Romagna. In 1265 he fought against Guido da Montefeltro and, together with Guido da Polenta of Ravenna, against the Traversari.

In March 1282, Pope Martin IV chose him as podestà of Florence; on this occasion Dante probably met him. However, Paolo's career came to an end when his affair with Francesca da Polenta was discovered by her husband Gianciotto, who killed them.

Forty years later, around 1323, Paolo's son, Ramberto, claimed to have avenged his father's death by murdering Gianciotto's son and successor, Uberto, Count of Giaggolo at a banquet in his home.