BRIEF OUTLINE ON TUSCIA HISTORY
Etruscans to the end of Castro dukedom
by Piero Bruni – Translation by Lara Jane Walden)
The Tuscia territory comprises the southernmost areas of Tuscany,
those of northern Latium , and western Umbria, where the borders of
these regions meet.
After the Roman empire, Italy became a land of conquest and the Tuscia
in particular was long disputed by Popes, German Emperors and French
Kings. The cities most involved were Viterbo and Orvieto which were
often at war with each other. Because of its dominant and easily defendable
position, the Montefiascone stronghold, was forever the army headquarters
of either the Church or the invaders, according to the succession
The Tuscia is a land of volcanic origin. Almost all historical centres,
Pitigliano, Sovana, Tuscania, Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio, etc.
were built on tufa stone using tufa stone for the structure . These
townships constitute a great cultural heritage and have kept the ancient
medieval structures unaltered and in perfect harmony with the environment.
Such is the "Tufa Stone Civilization".
(from 2 million years ago)
Two million years ago, Central Italy, which until than had been covered
by the sea, began emerging as a consequence of tectonic upheavals.
About 600.000 years ago, the marine sediments which by that time had
completely emerged in our region were rent by more than one hundred
craters, from which large quantities of magmatic material was violently
extruded, covering vast areas between the Paglia, Tiber and Fiora
rivers. The afore-mentiontioned volcano, called Volsini, was characterised
by prevalently explosive activity, large emission of ashes and lapilli
but very little lava. The expulsion of volcanic material from the
craters eroded the underlying magmatic chamber, which, due to the
weight of the materials that had accumulated on the surface, collapsed,
forming a basin or cauldron. After being filled by rain, it gave rise
to Lake Bolsena.
Other lakes of volcanic origin in the Tuscia are: Vico, Mezzano and
Monterosi. Further south, in the province of Rome, another four lakes
originated in a similar fashion: Martignano, Bracciano, Nemi and Albano.
Towards the north, in Tuscany, volcanic activity developed around
Mount Amiata. The thermal baths of Saturnia, the Tufa stone cliffs
at Pitigliano, Sovana etc, are some examples of its activity in the
The height of the volcanic craters around Lake Bolsena were modest,
as mentioned earlier, because of the scarce amount of lava which descended
their slopes, whereas the ashes, which were hurled at a considerable
distance, reached the thickness of many tens of metres. Over the millennia
the ashes consolidated forming tufa stone, that is to say that soft
stone, with which from the remotest times, all the human settlements
were built in these areas. Other more resistent volcanic rocks are
"peperino", "nenfro" and basalt; others, like
"pumice" and "lapilli" are porous. The hills of
lapilli at Valentano and Monte Calvo are also note worthy.
As the volcanic activity decreased the territory became covered by
vegetation, consequently herbivores arrived (among them elephants,
as testified by a tusk which is kept in the Valentano museum) followed
by carnivores and finally, man.
(from 600.000 years ago)
Rain modelled the territory constituted by soft tufa stone. The rivers
eroded their beds slowly, but deeply, giving rise to wide valleys
and deep gorges, called, somewhat exaggerating "horrids".
For this reason our territory has been defined "a land of horrids
Rivers such as the Olpeta, the Lente and the Fiora are insignificant
in respect to the width and depth of the gorges in which they flow.
Evidently over the hundreds of thousands of preceding years the river
flow was greater and more tumultuous. We do not have points of reference
sufficiently distant on time, but if we consider relatively recent
events, and we compare Lake Bolsena to an enormous pluviometer we
can see that 13.000 years ago (the time of the biblical deluge according
to some) a series of eroded marks indicate that the lake was fifteen
metres higher than the present one, which proves that rainfall was
greater and rivers more tempestuous.
Lava relieves, together with the deep gorges dug by the rivers, have
conferred a very particular morphology to the territory, which from
ancient times determined the location of the present townships. In
fact settlement were built close to fertile ground supplied with water
and on sites which were easily defended. For this latter aspect, in
fact, the areas preferably chosen were prow shaped, overlying tufa
stone gorges and situated at the confluence of two rivers.
There are numerous examples: Pitigliano, Sovana, Farnese, Ischia di
Castro, Orvieto, the destroyed city of Castro etc. Even the volcanic
cones were used as a means of defence, as at Montefiascone, Valentano,
Capodimonte and many others.
With the passing of centuries the defensive requirements stayed the
same, therefore the town sites remained in the same places which had
been chosen by the ancient inhabitants. If for some reason they were
destroyed, they were re-built in the same place so as to recuperate
materials from the preceding buildings. The settlements remained substantially
intact and preserved their ancient medieval structure.
From the naturalists viewpoint, many of the ancient forests were felled
to gain space for agriculture. Many noteworthy examples of woods still
exist: The Cimini mountains, the Castro mountains, Mount Rufeno, and
the Lamone woodland which is characterized by of the enormous quantities
of volcanic rocks which make access difficult.
(from the Xth to the IIIrd century B. C.)
The Etruscan people originated ethnically from the south-east, perhaps
from Lydia, and established themselves in central Italy between the
Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Arno and Tiber rivers, beginning around the
10th century B. C. Gradually they also moved north and southwards
of the aforesaid rivers. The Etruscans submitted the less evolved
local populations and eventually became integrated. They excelled
in metal work, the construction of weapons, the arts, navigation,
hydraulic and civil engineering.
They were organised as a group which comprised twelve cities, those
in central Italy being: Arezzo, Cerveteri, Chiusi, Cortona, Perugia,
Populonia, Tarquinia Veio, Vetulonia, Volsini, Volterra and Vulci.
Each city was governed by a "Lucumone" and these twelve
"Locumoni" met yearly in the "Fanum Voltumne"
temple near Lake Bolsena.
Tarquinia was probably the oldest city they founded in the 8th century
B. C.. They reached a peak in development around the 6th century B.
C. and from thence a slow decline which ended in the 3rd century B.
C. with their submission and assimilation by the Romans who were their
long standing antagonists.
The Etruscans are considered a "mystery" because no original
document has been found which allows reconstruction of their exact
origins and history. Inscriptions engraved on tombs are barely sufficient
for us to understand their alphabet. Available historic documentation
is rather dubious because it is referred to by Roman historians after
numerous centuries had elapsed following the events.
No etruscan cities have been found, as they were all destroyed and
re-adapted by the successive populations, but, on the other hand a
great number of necropoli hewn into tufa stone have remained, in which
the tombs frequently reproduce the surroundings in which the ancients
had lived. Personal belongings, sometimes precious, were buried with
the dead so as to allow the continuation of life after death, in accordance
with their religious beliefs.
The majority of those objects have been either destroyed or stolen
over the millennia, but a great number of others are now kept in museums.
Their examination has helped the archaeologists reconstruct the history
and life style of the Etruscans. The painted vases and frescoed tombs
with their illustrations supplied more information than written text
and proved very useful in this respect. The Etruscans' wealth, their
spirituality and superiority with regards to worldly belongings transpire
from the ironic smiles we read on their faces. The most worthy necropoli
in our territory are at Norchia, Tarquinia, Tuscania, Cerveteri, and
Vulci. Many smaller ones, of great interest, are situated in smaller
centres such as Sovana.
An important Etruscan city, Bisanzio, arose on the volcanic promontory
west of Capodimonte, as testified by the numerous ruined tombs in
the underlying valley. On the mount itself an interesting dove-cote
tomb dating back to the Etruscan-Roman period is still visible.
The most important Etruscan museum is Villa Giulia in Rome. Other
museums in our area , are located at Vulci, Viterbo, Tarquinia, Tuscania
and even in small centres such as Ischia di Castro, Bolsena, etc..
The Etruscans were accustomed to building "hewn" or "cut"
roads deeply dug in the tufa stone, probably so as to make them suitable
for their carts by eliminating eventual gradients. Numerous such "cut"
roads are to be seen in the areas of Pitigliano, Ansedonia and Castro.
(753 B.C. –476 D.C.)
It is remarkable that an initially small city such as Rome, similar
to many others within Europe, was able to conquer all the then known
world in such a short time notwithstanding the surrounding powerful
peoples of the time: the Etruscans and the Gauls to the north, to
the south the Greeks of Magna Grecia and the Carthaginians.
As the Romans expanded northwards, the Etruscan cities fell one by
one . Cerveteri first, then Tarquinia in 309 B. C.. In 264 B. C. the
Romans conquered the Etruscan city of Velzna, where Orvieto currently
stands. The population was transferred to a less defendable place,
not far from where Bolsena stands today. The Romans took possession
of the enormous wealth of Velzna. Plinius refers it yielded 2000 gold,
silver and bronze statues with which the Capitol hill was adorned,
but a few decades later they welted to coin sufficient money to finance
the second war against Carthage. The vast plains along the Tyrrhenian
Sea were covered by the light blue linen flowers: the cloth was to
be used to make sails for the hundreds of ships which the Romans were
rapidly constructing to sail against Carthage.
Christianity began to spread in the period when the Roman Empire was
at his height. In an attempt to avoid cruel persecution the Christians
met secretly in catacombs: one of these is in Bolsena.
Around the year 300, during the reign of Diocletian, a young girl,
Christine was martyrized in Bolsena. She was later sanctified and
made patron saint of the same town. Her feast day falls on the 24th
of July and her torture is enacted yearly.
In the year 313 the Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity,
which then became the state religion. The Church received gifts, bestowals,
heredities and after a few years it became a financial authority as
well. The Bishop of Rome was recognised as having a prevalent position
being the legitimate successor of Peter the apostle who had died a
martyr in Rome.
In 395 the Roman Empire split into the Eastern Roman Empire, with
a Greek matrix and Constantinople (ex Byzantium) as its capital and
the western Roman Empire with Rome as its capital. The latter ceased
its existence in 476 when the last emperor, Romolus Augustus, was
deposed by the barbaric chieftain Odoacre.
The Early Middle Ages, that is to say the historic period which reaches
the year 1200.
Rome's function as "centre of the world" continued increasing
rather than ceasing with the fall of Western Roman Empire, thanks
to the presence of the Pope and the immense power the Church exercised
on the world.
In the Tuscia, well preserved monuments of Roman origin are very few:
the most interesting are the amphitheatres of Sutri and Ferento, used
to date for plays and concerts and the cities of Cosa and Vulsinii.
Thousands of kilometres to the east, another evolved world capital,
Peking, had enclosed its empire within the Great Wall. Between the
frontiers of the Roman Empire, defended by "limes" (fortified
border lines) and the Great Wall of China, lived the "Barbars"
that is a multitude of nomadic populations: Visigoths, Ostrogoths,
Vandals, Longobards, Hungars, Avars, Huns, Mongols, Sciites etc. who,
yearning for new territories an adventure, often managed to overflow
into the two empires. Their favourite destination was Rome.
In 489-493, the Goths invaded Italy, overcoming Odoacre's opposition
and killing him. Their king, Theodoricus, founded a reign with Ravenna
as capital. He kept the military administration for himself and left
the civil administration to the Romans. Though his people practised
the religion of Ario he was tolerant toward Christianity.
After his death he was succeeded by Atalaricus, a minor, with the
regency of his mother Amalasunta. Young Atalaricus died soon afterwards
and Amalasunta became Queen of the Goths in 535.
At Atalaricus' death, Amalasunta's cousin, Theodatus thought he had
better claims to the throne. The controversy ended with the marriage
between the two cousins, but shortly thereafter , Theodatus imprisoned
Amalasunta on the Martana island in Lake Bolsena, where he had her
killed. Thus Theodatus became king of the Goths.
Fearing Theodatus, before their marriage , Amalasunta had asked the
Emperor of the Eastern Empire, Justinian, for help. Though too late,
the latter sent his Greek troops thus putting an end to the Gothic
reign in 553.
Under Justinian, the Eastern and Western Empires became reunited and
the Mediterranean Sea again became "Mare Nostrum". As always
without a fleet the "barbars" were driven back toward the
interior. However, Arabs and Longobards soon proved the frailty of
the reunited Empire.
The Longobards, also of Germanic origin, descended into Italy in 568
and occupied the north and part of the central territory, including
Viterbo. Their capital was Pavia.
The Greeks were forced to retreat (in the face of) the victorious
Longobards invasion, but were able to keep the Pentapolis, that is
to say a strip of fortified territory from Ravenna to Rome, which
divided Italy in two. South of Pentapoli the invaders occupied Spoleto
and Benevento. The occupied territories were divided into more or
less independent dukedoms.
In 590 Gregory I became Pope: this fact solemnly consolidated the
Bishop of Rome's supremacy as the highest judge concerning religious,
dogmatic and disciplinary matters. It was an explicit assertion of
authority, no longer an honorary acknowledgement as it had previously
been. By means of the Bishops, a great hierarchic organisation at
the service of the Roman Church was thus consolidated in Europe.
Many barbaric reigns still professed the religion of Ario and other
pagan gods, but troops of missionaries, monastic centres and abbeys
laboured at their systematic conversion.
The Longobards were among the first to be converted. Their king ,
Autary, married the catholic Theodolinda, and it was she, together
with the Pope who promoted the conversion.
Autari was succeeded by Liutprand, also converted to Christianity.
In 728 he donated the villages of Sutri and Nepi , south of Viterbo,
to the "saintly apostles Peter and Paul", that is to the
This donation, added to the riches accumulated since the times of
Constantine, constituted the origin of "Peter's heritage"
whose revenues , at that time, were used solely for charity. Though
there was no clear design to create a state of the Church, at that
time, the slow historic process began which was to ensure the papacy
Costantinopole was no longer able to effectively defend the Pentapolis
as it had to ward off the Arabs and Persians who pressed upon its
boundaries in the east. The Longobards took advantage of the fact
and conquered Ravenna, threatening Rome also.
Wanting to free themselves from both the weak protection of Constantinople
and the pressure placed on them by the Longobards, the Popes asked
the Franks for help. The latter descended into Italy, defeated the
last Longobad king, Desiderius, and ended his reign in 773.
Many Longobards remained in Italy, particularly in Como, where the
school of "comacini" masters (sculptors, architects, masons
and stone cutters) developed, contributing to the development of an
architectural tradition, which then merged into the romanic style.
Example of romanic style in the Tuscia area are quite numerous: the
ciborium in the Sovana cathedral, St. Flaviano at Montefiascone, the
churches of St. Peter and St. Mary at Tuscania,and the crypt of the
This is the period in which monasticism arose and spread: the strict
rules prescribed prayer, intellectual work and manual work. Hermitism
spread in the Tuscia area as well as monasticism. The hermits lived
on charity, dwelling in solitary caves far from the inhabited areas.
Some hermitages are on the cliffs in which flank the Fiora and Olpeta
rivers; the hermitage of Poggio Conte, near the bridge of St. Peter
is particularly interesting.
Beginning in the year 632, that of Mohammed's death, the Islamic religion
began spreading in the Mediterranean area. the Arabs conquered Anatolia,
Sicily, north Africa, they crossed the strait of Gibraltar and conquered
southern Spain. Cordoba and its mosque became the heart of the Arab
world. The "mare Nostrum" became an Arab lake. These new
invaders of Europe adversed Christianity and Roman civilisation without
any opportunity for mediation.
From Spain they crossed the Pyrenees with the intention of invading
the Frankish reign and Europe. At that time the inept Merovingian
dynasty reigned over the Franks, but the effective power was determined
by the great vassal Charles Martel, who vanquished and stopped the
Arabs at Poitiers in 732. In the successive centuries the Tuscia was
repeatedly invaded and pillaged by Saracen pirates who had installed
themselves in Sardinia and Corsica . To avoid lootings, death and
slavery, the population built a network of signaling towers along
the coast, the remains of which are still visible.
Once the Saracens disembarked near Rome and plundered the basilicas
of St. Peter and St Paul. In 964 they razed Vulci to the ground. The
coastline inhabitants of the Tuscia were forced to abandon their villages
and seek refuge on an overhanging hill, where they founded Montalto.
The inhabitants of Marta and Capodimonte repeatedly sought refuge
on the two islands of Lake Bolsena.
GROWTH OF THE
STATE OF THE CHURCH
The Pope had asked Pepin the Short, son of Charles Martel, for help
against the Longobards. A French delegation came to Rome to ask counsel
as to who should reign over the Franks. Pope Zaccarias answered: "
it is better that he who is to be made king is the one who effectively
detains power, rather than one who is such by name but no longer exercises
such a power". This put an end to the Merovingians and marked
the beginning of the Carolingian dynasty.
Pepin the Short became the Church's most trustworthy ally. Out of
gratitude he rid the Pentapolis of the Longobards and instead of giving
back to Eastern Roman Empire, he donated it to the Church.
Pepin the Short died in 768, succeeded by his son Charlemagne who,
as aforesaid , came to Italy, defeated Desiderius and put a definite
end to the Longobard reign in 773.
Charlemagne suppressed the Longobard dukedoms and substituted them
with counties and marquisates, instituting feudalism.
In 786 Charlemgne detatched from the "Tuscia Longobardorum"
(which at the time also included the greater part of Tuscany), Viterbo,
Orvieto, Sovana, Marta, Montefiascone, Tuscania and Bagnoregio and
ceded it to the Pope. The aforesaid territory was called "Tuscia
Romanorum". The name Tuscia is still used with reference to the
Viterbo Province, whereas further north the same name was successively
transformed into Tuscany.
HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
The Frankish reign, which included a good part of today's France and
Germany, was the greatest military power of the time.
Within the Frankish reign and well beyond their reach, the Church
had an organised hierarchic network consisting of bishops sees, parishes,
monasteries, and abbeys. Each parish, from the Atlantic to the Eastern
Europe, from Ireland to Sicily, had at least one parish church, assigned
to a parish priest whose role was that of acting as a strict spiritual
and political guide over tens of millions of believers. The allegiance
between monarchy and papacy gave rise to the greatest Medioeval imperial
On Christmas day of the year 800 Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne
Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, thus equalling him to the other
Christian Emperor of Constantinople.
Charlemagne was the effective temporal guide of the Church. In fact,
in a letter to the Pope he wrote "our role is that of defending
the Church of Christ in all places, yours is to raise your hands towards
Heaven contributing to our battles with your prayers, so as to attain
victory in all places".
In the year 814 Charlemagne died, succeeded by his son Ludwig, nicknamed
"the Good", under which the vassals seized greater independence:
Charlemagne had reduced them to obedience, Ludwig was incapable of
doing so. Three years later the Empire was divided between Ludwigs'
sons, multiplying divisions, conflicts and rivalries. Then the empire
faced a major crisis, until the Carolingian dynasty ended in year
THE EMPIRE UNDER
THE SAXON DYNASTY
After the Carolingian dynasty had come to an end, the Empire was broken
up, giving rise to a French and a German state in central Europe.
These frequently competed against each other for the possession of
Italy which continued to be a yearned for land of conquest. The Popes
took advantage of this rivalry to ask the French for help against
the Germans and vice versa according to the changing circumstances.
In 962, Pope John XII called the German Otto of Saxony to Rome and
crowned him Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, which at that time was
reduced to being constituted solely by the German part.
With the Saxons the entire ecclesiastic hierarchy underwent a further
submission to feudalism in as much as an imperial control in papal
elections with a right to repeal was established. Church and Empire
were united to the benefit of the Empire which relied on the ecclesiastic
hierarchy to keep itself in power, and the latter, in turn, on the
tens of millions of believers. The 93 bishoprics and abbeys in Italy
and Germany were turned by Otto into counties, where the bishops became
feudal lords having the titles of viscounts, that is bishops-counts.
Under the Saxons, papacy plummeted to very low levels of morality
as it was in the hands of two factions, one imperial, the other belonging
to the Roman aristocracy. Simony, concubinage and corruption were
widespread. One Pope was suffocated with a pillow , another was elected
when he was less than 20 years old, at times there where up to three
popes who excomunicated each other reciprocally. Word was even spread
of an improbable papess. The emperor thus imposed a series of German
popes, who were in part driven away by the Roman nobles. In the year
1014 the Saxon dynasty ended.
The eastern schism occurred in 1054. The Patriarch of Constantinople
separated from the Church of Rome, giving origin to the Orthodox or
THE EMPIRE UNDER
THE FRANCONIAN DYNASTY
(Fight for investitures, 1073-1122)
The Saxon dynasty was followed by the Franconian one. Disputes between
Church and Emperors regarding investitures became rather heated.
Popes and sovereigns agreed in affirming that regal power was a divine
concession, whereas the sovereigns considered they were such because
of the direct will of God, the Popes claimed that, as representatives
of God in earth, it was up to them to nominate the sovereigns.
In the feudal system, investiture was the ceremony with which the
sovereign granted his vassal possession of a feud through the consignment
of a sword which symbolised temporal power, but in successive periods
the sovereigns also gave the pastoral staff, a symbol of divine power,
assuming the right to nominate the viscounts (bishop-counts).
As a result of popular acclaim and by the will of cardinals, in 1073,
Hildebrand of Soana in Tuscany (now Sovana) was made Pope with the
name of Gregory VII. Humble, but brave and tenacious, he was convinced
the authority bestowed upon him derived from Christ, thus he used
it to moralize the Church and reaffirm its right with respect to the
With great audacity he issued the "dictatus papae", in which,
among other things it was ordered that: only the Roman Pope could
be called universal – the Pope was the only man whose feet were to
be kissed by all the sovereigns – the Pope could legally destitute
emperors – no one could condemn a decision made by the apostolic see
– the Roman Church never erred and would never do so – whoever is
not with the Roman Church cannot be considered a Catholic – the Pope
could resolve a vow of loyalty made to the unjust . priestly dignity
was superior to regal dignity.
As an efficacious means of pressure the emperors threatened to invade
the State of the Church, whilst the Pope could strike them with excommunication.
To this the emperors would respond by electing other popes enslaved
The Franconian emperor Henry IV, contested Gregory VII stating that
regal power was conceded directly by God and could not depend on a
man, albeit a Pope. He gathered together the German bishops and had
Gregory VII deposed.
In turn, Gregory VII excommunicated him. Many German bishops repented
their act end ended by dissociating from the emperor.
Having pondered the adverse situation, not long before Christmas1076.
Henry IV moved into Italy where, at Canossa, barefoot and repentant
he begged for the Pope's forgiveness. Having denied him pardon for
three days, the Pope ended by granting it to him in exchange for an
oath of faithfulness. The problem remained unsolved because further
contestations, destitutions and excommunications ensued.
Henry IV conquered Rome in 1084 and had an anti-Pope elected, while
Gregory shut himself within Castel Sant'Angelo. He was freed by the
Normans who had taken office in Southern Italy. He died in Salerno
the following year. Henry IV did not emerge victorious either: he
was deserted by his vassals and died in poverty in 1106.
In 1122 with the Worms pact, the fight for investiture ceased with
a compromise: Henry V of Franconia recognized the Church the right
to nominate its own prelates. The Franconian dynasty ended in 1125.
Wile the Popes and the emperors vied for the right of granting feuds,
the various populations who had until then been passed on from one
feudal lord to another, like animals, grew aware of their strength
and began organizing themselves in Communes. They substituted the
feudal lords nominated by the Pope or the emperor with magistrates
elected by the people. Being unable to check the desire for freedom
and in an attempt to turn the situation to its own advantage, Church
and empire competed with each other in granting the communes exemptions
so as to obtain help from their troops in exchange. The emperors partisans
were called Ghibellines and those of the Pope Guelphs.
The revolution promoted by the communes experienced an exalting moment:
with their council decisions and injunctions they created the new
Italic law, a new art and the Italian language. The communes recognized
the Pope spiritual authority only, without accepting civilian interference.
The first communes in the Tuscia to hoist the flag of rebellion against
papal authoriry were Viterbo, Orvieto, Tuscania and Castro. So as
not to remain isolated, the smaller townships allied themselves with
the major communes, promising they would repay by providing a sum
of money annually and to go to war or stay at peace at their will.
The formula for allegiance was simple: "you shall be a friend
of my friend, and an enemy of my enemies" the various promises
were sworn on the Holy Gospel.
The communes had an irresistible passion for widening their boundaries.
Wars and pacts ensued between communes so that the castles of our
regions came and went from one faction to the other. Castro and Sovana
had to fight against Siena for the possession of Maremma, Orvieto
against Viterbo for the possession of the lake Bolsena valley, Tuscania
against Viterbo for the possession of the same lake valley and Viterbo
against Rome because of traditional enmity.
Many phases of the struggle against Pope and emperors were disputed
at Viterbo and Orvieto, which being favoured at one time by the Pope
and another by the Emperor, perforce had to side with one or the other
of the contenders.
THE EMPIRE UNDER
The Franconian dynasty was succeeded by that of Hohenstaufen. The
objections against the Church were continued by the emperors Frederick
I, called Redbeard, and by his grandson Frederick II.
Frederick Redbeard effected four expeditions to Italy against the
Pope and the Guelph communities. In 1164, he permitted Viterbo, which
at the time was Ghibelline, to add to its coat of arms the two winged
eagle which represented the Empire. The inhabitants of Viterbo became
enslaved to Frederick Redbeard, if only to fight the hated Romans.
In 1167 the troops from Viterbo followed the imperial army and attacked
Rome, from which they returned bearing the bronze doors they had unhinged
from St. Peter's Basilica. Viterbo was the seat of the two anti-Popes
created by Frederick Redbeard. They followed the emperors fate until
he was vanquished in Lombardy by a league of Guelph communes.. Viterbo
was also defeated and placed under the Church's control: therefore
it had to give back the stolen doors. Frederick Redbeard drowned in
Frederick II, king of Naples and Sicily, had a German father and Sicilian
mother. He was crowned emperor in 1220 and followed the same political
line as his grandfather Redbeard. Thanks to a series of negotiations
with the Muslims he obtained the restitution of Gerusalem, of which
he had himself nominated king.
As a consequence of his disagreement with Pope Gregory IX, he was
excommunicated. He reached Rome and occupied the Montefiascone stronghold.
He was well met by the Ghibellines at Viterbo, but then the Guelph
party prevailed as it was led by a cardinal and by a young woman named
Rose (later to become St. Rose, patron of Viterbo). The Guelph defeated
Frederick and drove him from the city.
He was excommunicated by Pope Innocentius IV and civil war ensued
in Germany ending with his destruction "stripped by God of all
his honour and dignity". In 1218 the Empire was transferred to
the Hapsburg dynasty.
Frederick II remained king of Sicily. Under the influence of Arab
culture, his court at Palermo was the centre for literature, arts
and science. He wrote a treatise on falconry in Latin, founded the
University of Naples , constructed numerous buildings, among which
the famous "Castel del Monte (Castle on a Hill) in Apulia.
At the sudden death of Frederick II in 1250, the Hohenstaufen dynasty
ended, but the challenge against the Church was again taken up by
Manfred, king of Sicily, Frederick's illegitimate son.
One of the principal defenders of the rights of the Church was Innocentius
III (1198-1216) who led the papacy to its ultimate power. He identified
the Montefiascone stronghold as the ideal place in the Tuscia in which
to install the Rector of the St. Peter's Patrimony.
In 1231 Gregory IX instituted the Inquisition entrusting it to the
Dominican Order. Terror was added the subtle means of persuasion,
when in 1252 Innocentius IV authorized the Inquisition to use tortures.
The Communes' rebellion caused the Papacy to lose control over the
State of the Church. Pope Urban IV was even forced to flee from Rome
which had become a free Commune.
In 1261 he sought refuge in Viterbo and Orvieto which granted him
hospitality more out of the forthcoming prestige and financial convenience
than out of submission. As he was a French Pope he was not recognized
by the Ghibellines whom he considered "extremely venomous scorpions
and snakes", so that in the end he sought refuge in Perugia.
The political situation was precarious, the Ghibellines throughout
Italy placed pressure on Manfredi, king of Sicily, so as to have him
cast the final blow against the tottering Church domain and take the
crown as king of Italy.
To counteract Manfredi the Pope turned to the French court, offering
Manfredi's reign to Charles of Anjou, the king of France's brother.
He struck the Ghibellines with a series of excommunications and sent
the people of Viterbo letters exuding blandishments, indulgences and
thousands of blessings from Heaven so as to obtain their help. The
people of Viterbo let themselves be convinced and decided to take
arms on behalf of the Church.
The French and the people of Viterbo defeated Manfredi's Saracen armies
and his Ghibelline upholders. Meantime Urban IV died, but his successors
were able to return to Rome victoriously.
THE POPE TRANSFERS
In 1268 the cardinals met at the papal Palace in Viterbo to elect
a new Pope. Some wanted a French Pope and others, an Italian. Philip
III king of France, his brother Charles of Anjou and Prince Henry
of Cornwall came to Viterbo personally to urge the election. The Prince
of Cornwall was murdered during Mass in the St. Sylvester Church (now
called Gesus' Church) for personal matters. Months passed without
the cardinals being able to agree as to a candidate. They were locked
(clausi cum clave) inside the palace under the threat they would be
let out only after the election had been effected. As the situation
still stalled, the population unroofed the building and rationed their
food. Finally, after almost three years from the beginning of the
conclave, the Italian Gregory X was elected . Other Popes followed
but were short-lived. Among them the Italian Nicolò III Orsini,
who was very active at enriching his relatives.
In 1305, following a thousand intrigues, the king of France had a
French Pope, subordinate to his political policy, elected in Viterbo.
The man did not even come to Viterbo at the time of the conclave :
he established himself in Avignon where he subsequently had the entire
papal court transferred.
LUDWIG THE BAVARIAN
The Rectors represented the Church's Authority with regards to the
Patrimony, and they being French, employed their time with nothing
other than accumulating wealth and exercising an oppressive dictatorship.
There being no Pope present, the Ghibellines, among whom Dante Alighieri,
were enlivened by new hopes.
They greeted Emperor Henry VII of Luxemburg enthusiastically, when
he came to Italy with a strong army in 1310, but just south of Siena
, he became ill and died. His soldiers suspected he had been poisoned
by a friar so they slaughtered a great number of friars. With the
death of Henry VII, the Ghibelline dream of creating a lay, united
Italy faded for good.
In 1326 Ludwig the Bavarian came to Rome wanting to be crowned Emperor
at St. Peters. To reach this objective he nominated an anti-Pope who
had slapped Pope Bonifacio VIII at Anagni 25 years previously, under
the instigation of the king of France Philip the Beautiful.The Bavarian
ravaged the Tuscia but on the way back to Germany he underwent ponderous
defeats at Florence and Milan.
An epidemic of plague exploded in 1348, which manifested itself with
black buboes at the armpits and groins, and people died within three
days. Three quarters of the inhabitants of Viterbo, Orvieto and Florence
died. The nobles tried to elude the disease by seeking refuge in isolated
mountain places. It was during this epidemic that, while at a refugee
in Fiesole, Boccaccio wrote the Decamerone. Orvieto and Viterbo remained
so depopulated that they had to call in the survivors from the surrounding
townships, which being abandoned, fell into ruin.
THE POPE RETURNS
Taking advantage of the fact the Pope had established himself at Avignon,
Viterbo, having as Prefect the Ghibelline Di Vico, increased the Communes
properties to the Church's disadvantage, reaching the apex of its
conquests with the occupation of Orvieto.
In 1352, Pope Innocent VI, an austere energetic man, decided to tame
the rebels and take the Holy See back to Rome.
He sent the Spanish cardinal Egidio Alvarez Albornoz to Montefiascone;
the man was more soldier than priest, having fought side by side with
the king of Castille. He formed alliances with a series of local families,
the Farnese and the Orsini, and for a brief period he had 10.000 men
placed at his disposal by the Romans "because of their heartfelt
desire to damage Viterbo".
Prefect Di Vico had to surrender. Prostrated at the cardinal's knees
he renounced the conquered lands and publicly confessed his fellony,
swearing to keep faith to the Church. After having humiliated him
by leaving him genuflected for a long time, Albornoz admonished him
severely and then pronounced his absoluion.
At this point Albornoz could fully exploit his victory: he abolished
the city armies and the republican constitutions of the Communes and
substituted the magistrates elected by the people with ecclesiastic
officials. As a powerful affirmation of the Church's sovereignty he
had sturdy strongholds built at Orvieto and Viterbo. After two centuries
of badly hidden adversity with respect to the Communes, the Popes
could freely dominate within the Patrimony provinces. In 1367 Pope
Urban V made his solemn entry to Rome. The Church had won.
It appeared as if the Rome's earth beneath them burnt the feet of
Pope Urban V and his court. He rested a long time at the Montefiascone
stronghold, than he decided to return to Avignon, notwithstanding
the Guelph appeals, including that of Petrarch.
After his death, the college of cardinals, which for the greater part
was composed by Frenchmen, met in 1377 in Rome. As a consequence of
the tumultuous pressure placed upon them by the Romans, the college
submitted to nominating an Italian Pope, Urban VI.
The following year the cardinals recanted the election of Urban V1
and elected the anti-Pope Clement VII. The great western schism thus
exploded and for 40 years it was impossible to know who was the legitimate
Pope. Religious antagonism between Pope and anti-Pope rapidly degenerated
into civil war.
Urban VI had many cities belonging to the State of the Church on his
side and the Republic of Siena. Clement VII who had established himself
at Anagni, just south of Rome, had an army of Bretons and Viterbesi
mercenaries at his service, captained by the son of the deceased Prefect
For safety's sake the French anti-Pope sought refuge with Queen Joanna
of Naples, causing the Roman Pope to wage war against her.
Taking advantage of the absence of the papal army which was fighting
against Naples, Di Vico again re-conquered the entire State of the
After a serie of alternating and complicated events the Roman Pope
made peace with Queen Johanna, and, with the help of the Orsini recuperated
the State of the Church. Di Vico was killed, while the French anti-Pope
and his court moved from Naples to Avignon.
The schism became aggravated successively because the Italian cardinals
elected a third Pope. Christianity faced the spectacle of three Popes
who excommunicated each other in the name of Christ which claimed
to represent. In 1410 Hadrian V was poisoned by Cardinal Cossa, who
succeeded him. The three Popes summoned councils after councils which
never reached any objective. Finally they resorted to weapons.
After battles and bloodshed and 40 years of scandals, the Council
of Constance 1n 1417, solved the schism and elected Pope Martin V.
His taking office in Rome was not immediately possible because during
the schism the Church had lost all authority over its State.
With the waning of Communal freedom the military art had become a
profession and people of all creeds ran beneath the banners of this
or that captain, according to profit.
The most famous captains of fortune in the Tuscia were Braccio da
Montone and Tartaglia, lord of Tuscania. These mercenaries had allied
with each other and it was obvious they were going to acquire the
Through burdensome and costly negotiations, Martin V recuperated the
Patrimony. So as to end disagreements Queen Johanna accepted to adopt
Louis of Anjou as a son, indicating him as heir to the throne of the
reign of Naples. Beaccio da Montone left for Umbria and Tartaglia
was decapitated. Martin V solemnly entered Rome in 1420.
WAR AGAINST THE
DUKEDOM OF MILAN
After Martin V, Eugene IV of noble Venetian descent, was elected Pope.
Hostility arose between the family of the deceased Pope and the newly
elected one, causing a new war. Other calamities befell the State
of the Church; in 1433, Visconti, Duke of Milan declared war against
the Pope and sent an army headed by Captain Francesco Sforza.
Lacking the means to oppose Sforza, Pope Eugene IV hired him as general
of the Pontifical Army . Because of this volte-face, Visconti became
further irritated and instigated the Romans who forced the Pope to
escape to Florence. Another Di Vico appeared among the numerous personages
who allied with Visconti.
The Pope entrusted Bishop Vitelleschi with the charge of recuperating
the Patrimony and the latter re-conquered Rome, deposed Sforza, captured
Di Vico and had him decapitated. Thus ended the Di Vico family who
had so tormented the Church.
There being no sign of war, in 1443 the Pope left Florence to return
to his beloved Rome. The Sforza Palace at Onano remains as evidence
of this period.
THE REINAISSANCE POPES
In 1453 unexpected news 31 upset Europe: Mohammed II had entered Constantinople
"walking over the corpses of 50.000 Christians", thus putting
an end to the Eastern Roman Empire. The risk for an invasion of Europe
Many artists, philosophers and men of letters who had fled Constantinople,
sought refuge in Italy, especially in Florence, where they were welcomed
by the Medici court. The Greek bases of their culture later left its
mark in the development of Humanism and the Renaissance.
Notable artists lived and worked in this period: Brunelleschi, Michelangelo,
Oalladio, Bramante, Donatello, Cellini, Masaccio, pier della Francesca,
Botticelli, Mantegna, Leonardo, Titian, the politician Macchiavelli
and many others who enlightened Italian culture.
The Renaissance Popes must be given credit for having been generous
patrons of letters and arts, rivalling the courts of Florence, Milan,
Ferrara, Naples and Urbino.
Insead, as bearers of the word of Christ, these Popes were a real
disaster for the Church, to the point that their immoral behaviour
was the cause of the Reform and Protestantism.
In 1492 the conclave elected Pope Rodrigo Borgia who took the name
of Alexander VI. The cardinals had yielded to shameless corruption,
made of gold, promises and flattery. They all new that, while a cardinal,
Borgia had five children, among which the famous Lucretia and Caesar,
and it was known that recently his lover was the young Giulia Farnese,
wife of Orsino Orsini, who had borne him a daughter.
A few months after his election he had no qualms over nominating his
illegitimate son Caesar as Cardinal together with the 26 year old
Alexander Farnese, brother to Giulia. With reference to this the Venetian
ambassador referred to his senate that "the promotion of Alexander
Farnese as Cardinal was not honest as it was preceded by an obscene
The Pope scarcely heeded these comments and the Roman clergy even
less, seeing they shared the same customs. A historian wrote that
"to have a young woman take vows in some convents was the same
as destining her to prostitution".
The pleasurable idleness of Pope Borgia and his court was troubled
by Charles VIII of France who, against the Pope's will demanded the
throne of Naples. He came to into Italy with a powerful army, conquered
numerous castles, including Viterbo.
The Neapolitan army which was supposed to defend Rome surrendered.
A confederated army was thus formed with the participation of Milan,
Venice, Spain and Germany.
For fear they would cut him off on his return route re-entered France
hastily. Along the way Tuscania was destroyed savagely for having
refused him hospitality. Defeated by the confederates Charles VIII
concluded his ambitious expedition miserably with the destruction
of his army and financial ruin.
The Borgia's time has also come to an end. He intended poisoning o
cardinal at a dinner in his honour but mistakenly drank the wine destined
to the other and died. His son Caesar drank the same wine but managed
to survive, though barely.
Martin Luther came to Rome in 1510 hoping to find "the living
centre of Christianity". Instead he found the Borgia's Rome.
He returned to his native Germany with a feeling of hatred towards
the simonian clergy and its cardinals which were lacking in faith
and morality. Among other things, St. Peter's basilica was being built
and its colossal expenses were paid by the "indulgences",
that is to say the payable reduction of purgatorial torments not only
for the living but also for the dead.
The request for moralization was great. In Florence, Savonarola was
accused of heresy and burnt alive for this same reason. In central
Europe the Church's problems multiplied because of the religious straggles
stirred up by Luther, Calvin and Zwingli who were the authors of the
Reform and established the foundation of the Protestantism. Sanguinary
religious wars flared in France and through the Empire.
All this occurred during the course of a great change in the political
dimension of some states which began in Europe and spread world-wide.
After Christopher Columbus discovered America and following the brave
sea ventures of Magellan, Vasco da Gama, Vasco Nunez. The Portuguese,
Spaniards, English, Dutch launched their well armed ships to conquer
America, Africa and Asia. Spain gained great wealth from its colonies
and thanks to them wielded enormous power. It furthermore headed the
struggle against the "Moors". In 1571 the Christian fleet
destroyed the Muslim one at Lepanto thus putting an end to the Arab
domination in the Mediterranean.
Not having an oceanic fleet, France and Germany continued their endless
struggle for the possession of Italy. In 1527 the Emperor of Germany,
Charles V occupied Rome and imprisoned the Pope, but had to release
him because of the pressing requests of the Catholic states.
PAUL III FARNESE
In 1534, after the death of Clement VII, Cardinal Alexander Farnese
was elected Pope at the age of 67 years, taking the name of Paul III.
This Pope was a great Renaissance patron also. He embellished Rome,
completed St. Peter's basilica, built the Paolina chapel, the Farnese
Palace and the Capitol. In the Tuscia, together with his nephew Alexander,
he built and restored palaces at Gradoli, Capranica, Capodimonte and
others of minor importance.
With the aim of limiting the Reformation and wishing to recover the
countries which had chosen Protestantism, Paul III promoted the Catholic
counter reformation summoning the Trento Council in 1545, during which
important decisions were made in the regards to morality, discipline,
culture and politics. He approved the creation of the Gesuit Order
founded by Ignatius of Loyola, which later became the Church's most
efficacious and zealous instrument. The inquisition was strengthened,
especially in Spain.
Paul III was a determined, appreciated Pope, but was affected by shameless
nepotism. While a cardinal he had four children of which two died
young. Peter-Louis and Constance survived and he had them recognized
as legitimate and did his utmost to ensure them a grandiose future.
Constance married an Orsini from Pitigliano. So as to give his son
a dukedom, Paul III purposely create the dukedom of Castro, consisting
of over thirty towns situated in the strip of territory between Lake
Bolsena and the Tyrrhenian Sea, along the present boundary with Tuscany.
Many of these towns still carry the name of the said dukedom (Montalto
di Castro, Ischia di Castro, Grotte di Castro, etc.) . Latera and
Farnese were excluded because they were assigned to another relative,
Galeazzo Farnese, who was also raised to the dignity of a Duke. Montefiascone
refused to adhere to the dukedom as it wished to remain in the Pope's
Castro was the chosen capital. For the ancient medieval village to
be transformed into a capital which could underline the greatness
and power of the Farnese family he assigned the project to Anthony
from Sangallo the Younger.
Frenzied work ceased when in 1545, Paul III succeeded in nominating
Peter-Lois duke of Parma and Piacenza, Castro thus became a dependence
of the said more prestigious dukedom.
Peter-Louis was a depraved man whose libidinous actions and unbridles
luxury were forgiven by the Pope who considered them youthful thoughtlessness.
This justification did non convince the Parma nobles who had him murdered
by stabbing him to death in 1547.
Peter Louis left four children who differed from him completely: Octavian
whom Paul III immediately nominated successor to the dukedom of Parma
and Piacenza, Alexander, who became a famous cardinal. Horace, who
was nominated duke of Castro and the young Ranuccio whom the good
Pope, forgetting the Church Reforms he himself proposed, nominated
had no scruples electing him Cardinal and Bishop of Naples when he
was only 15 years old. Paul died in 1549.
THE DUKEDOM OF
PARMA AND PIACENZA
Horace was short-lived so the dukedom of Castro returned to the service
of the Dukedom of Parma and Piacenza. Over the century the two dukedoms
fell under the guide of father and son as follows: Horace, Alexander,
Ranuccio I, Odoardo and Ranuccio II.
To maintain their image of power and wealth, they had strongly indebted
themselves with the Apostolic Chamber, guaranteeing the debt with
the Castro dukedom. The Church was more than happy to grant the loan
which could not be met, thus being able to make use of it by annexing
the dukedom. And in fact the terms of payment were not met.
In 1641 Pope Urban VIII Barberini, following Odoardo's refusal to
hand over Castro, recruited 10.000 men who marched to cease the Castro
possessions. After having occupied the dukedom the papal troops, reinforced
by an additional 10.000 men, proceeded towards Parma.
Venice, Modena and Tuscany, intervened to help the Farnese family,
constituting a numerous army. With a dash of luck Odoardo, at the
head of only 3000 mounted troops scattered the 20.000 papal ones,
even if only temporarily.
The war consequently took on vaster proportion, sucking up the revenues
of all the contendants. In I644 the king of France intervened as mediator
and forced the Church to return Castro to the Farnese Family. In the
same year Urban VIII died, succeeded by Innocent X Panphili..
In 1646 Odoardo died too, leaving his sixteen year old son Ranuccio
II, an inheritance made of debts more than patrimonial belongings.
It appeared that the young duke was willing to hand over Castro to
close his debts with the Apostolic Chamber but disagreement arose
as to the nomination of the Bishop of the same town. The one proposed
by the Church was killed in an ambush in 1649 while he was travelling
towards the Bishop's See, of which he was to take possession.
Consequently Innocent X sent an army to conquer Castro and another
towards Parma to halt the reinforcements sent by Ranuccio, which were
defeated near Bologna.
France, Spain and the Italian princes thought twice about helping
the duke Farnese as they had done a few years previously. As a result,
Castro had no hopes of receiving help and exhausted by the siege surrendered
to Pope Panphili in 1649.
In 1618, Europe was devastated by the extremely violent war of religion
termed the "thirty year war" which clamed millions of victims.
It ended in 1648 with the Pact of Westphalia, which caused the Church
to lose the majority of its power in Europe.
Perhaps the particular obstinacy against Castro was influenced by
the quite negative period the Church was going through at the time,
but according to historians, it was a private matter between the Farnese
and Pamphili families more than anything else. Innocent X was influenced
by his relatives and his sister in law, Lady Olympia Maidalchini,
a greedy, intriguing woman who strongly opposed the Farnese family.
It was she that demanded that Castro be wiped off the face of the
Her mad, merciless desire was fulfilled with extreme consequences.
Innocent X ordered the demolition of Castro, even though that at that
point it belonged to the Church. More than a thousand men attacked
roads and houses with pick-axes, shovels and wheel-barrows to reduce
it to rubble of the smallest dimensions, so any type of re-utilisation
was impossible. A marble slab was placed above the rubble with the
inscription "Here lay Castro".
The Farnese family died out in 1731 and the Parma dukedom went to
Charles of Bourbon, who then become king of the Two Sicilies. Many
of the works of art which had belonged to the Farnese family are now
kept in the royal palace at Naples.
With the destruction of the Dukedom of Castro our brief history of
the Tuscia comes to end.
Napoleon put an end to the Hapsburg Imperial power and the Temporal
power of the Popes in 1809. These were restored in 1815 by the Congress
of Vienna. In 1870 the Savoy army entered Rome and put an end to the
temporal powers of the Popes. Rome became the capital of Italy.