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Umbria in the 12th Century

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Emperor Henry V (1106-25, crowned 1111)

Pope Paschal II (1099-1118) supported Henry’s successful rebellion against his father, the Emperor Henry IV, who died in 1106.  However, the two men were soon at loggerheads over the old question of lay investiture.  Henry set out for Rome in 1110, intent upon the resolution of these issues in order to make way for his imperial coronation.  He  agreed to a set of unrealistic terms from Paschal II, and the tumult that followed when these were read out during his coronation in St Peter’s (February 111) caused the abandonment of the ceremony. 

Henry now repudiated the agreement and imprisoned Paschal II and a number of Cardinals.  Two of them escaped and provoked uproar in Rome.  However, Henry fought his way out of the city, and took Paschal II and other hostages to Tivoli.  After a period of harsh imprisonment, Paschal II agreed to Henry’s terms in relation to investiture.  Henry then returned to Rome with Paschal II in his train, and the humiliated pope crowned him in St Peter’s as the Emperor Henry V (April 1111). 

On his return journey to Germany in 1111, Henry V spent three days as the guest of the Countess Matilda of Canossa in Tuscany, showed her every mark of respect, and made her Imperial vice-regent of Liguria.  In return, and notwithstanding her earlier will (confirmed in 1102) in favour of the Church, she seems to have bequeathed all of her estates to him. 

Meanwhile, Paschal II soldiered on in Rome.  In March, 1112, at a synod in Rome, he declared that he would honour the terms he had reached with Henry V, but that it was of doubtful validity because it had been framed under compulsion.  He also affirmed that he held by the decrees of the popes, especially Gregory and Urban.   This odd position found few supporters, but Henry V was too immersed with problems at home retaliate immediately.

When the Countess Matilda of Canossa died in 1115, Henry V returned to Italy to claim his inheritance.  As he marched on Rome 1117, Paschal II fled to Benevento.  Archbishop Maurice of Braga (the future anti-pope Gregory VIII), who was in the Imperial entourage, placed crowns on the heads of Henry V and his wife Matilda during the Easter celebrations in St Peter’s.  (Matilda (Maud) was the daughter of King Henry I of England, and was later to claim the English throne).  Henry V then withdrew to Lombardy, and by granting privileges to the cities there and offering inducements to the local nobility, he achieved acceptance of his possession of the hereditary lands of Countess Matilda. 

When Pascal II died in 1118, Henry V returned to Rome and the newly-elected Pope Gelasius II (1118-9) prudently fled to his native Gaeta.  Henry V named Maurice of Braga as “Pope” Gregory VIII and left him in charge of Rome under the protection of the noble Frangipani family, while he returned to Germany.  However, Henry V deserted Gregory VII when Archbishop Guido of Vienne became Pope Callistus II (1119-24).  The Investiture Crisis finally came to an end with the compromise known as the Concordat of Worms (1122).  Henry V died without issue three years later.

Abbazia di Farfa and the Investiture Crisis

The Abbazia di Farfa unde abbot, Berardus III supported the campaign of Henry V against Paschal II.  An anonymous monk from the abbey (perhaps Gregory of Catino) wrote the influential Orthodoxa defensio imperialis (Orthodox Defence of the Empire) in 1111, at the time of the (temporary) capitulation of Paschal II.

[Narni rebelled against the papacy in 1112 - this was probably as a result of the influence of Farfa in the city]

The Abbazia di San Faustino (near modern Massa Martana) was subordinated to the Abbazia di Farfa in 1104.  Henry V confirmed this in 1118, the year in which he also approved the transfer of the nearby monastery of Santa Maria in Pantano from Count Rapizzone to the Abbazia di Farfa.

Henry V imposed another abbot, Berardus IV, by force in 1121.  Berardus’ opponent, Guido fled, taking with him much of the treasury of Farfa, to Rome and the protection of Callistus II.   After the Concordat of Worms (1122), which settled the Investiture Crisis, Farfa became subject to the papacy.

Papal Schism (1130-8)

With the extinction of the Salian line, the German electors chose Count Lothair of Supplinburg, Duke of Saxony to become the Emperor-elect Lothair III (1125-37).   Civil war erupted with the Hohenstaufen family, but Lothair emerged victorious in 1127.  When Pope Honorius II (1124-30) died, two “popes” were elected, Innocent II and Anacletus II

Lothair III decided to give his support to Innocent II, who also enjoyed the support of the redoubtable Bernard of Clairvaux.  This proved decisive in winning over the other monarchs of Europe.  The Council (1130) of Étampes, convoked by King Louis VI of France to decide the legitimacy of the papal succession, duly chose Innocent II.  Anacletus II had a power base in Rome and in the country to the south, where the faction headed by his Pierleoni family was in the ascendant.  He also won the support of Roger of Sicily by investing him as King Roger II of Sicily in 1130.  However, within Umbria, the support of Bishop Ubaldus of Gubbio (1129-60) seems to have fostered obedience to Innocent II.

In 1132 Lothair III led a German army into Italy, accompanied by Innocent II and by Bernard of Clairvaux.   Although Anacletus II held most of Rome, Innocent II managed to crown Lothair III in St John Lateran in 1133.  He also conferred the whole of the Matildine lands on him as papal fiefs.  Lothair III took a feudal oath, agreed to pay the pope at a yearly rent, and promised that, after his death, the lands would be restored wholly to the Church.  Lothair III then returned to Germany to deal with a new threat from the Hohenstaufens, and Innocent II fled to Pisa where he held a council in 1134 that excommunicated Anacletus II.  (Bishops of Perugia, Gubbio, Todi and Città di Castello attending the Council were designated as coming from papal territory, while those of Spoleto, Foligno and Assisi are designated as part of the Duchy of Spoleto, which had probably passed to Lothair III as part of the Matildine lands).

Bernard of Clairvaux was asked to reform a number of monasteries during his stay to Italy in 1134-5, including the Benedictine monastery of Fossanova in Lazio.  He soon founded four more Cistercian houses, mostly in Lombardy, and these constituted the base from which the Cistercians expanded in Italy.

Once Lothair III had satisfactorily settled matters in Germany, he formed an alliance with the Byzantine Emperor John Comnenus against their common enemy, Roger II of Sicily.  He then launched a second Italian expedition in 1136–37, driving the army of Roger II from the Italian peninsula.  He died on his way back to Germany in 1138, and Anacletus II soon followed him to the grave.

Rise of the Italian Communes

The long regency during at the start of the reign of the Emperor Henry IV and his subsequent dispute with the papacy provided the breathing space that allowed the communes to emerge in the cities of northern and central Italy.  The bishops. who had previously exercised secular power in many of these cities, had long had bodies of advisers drawn from the so-called boni homines or prominent citizens.  Now these men grew in power, moving from their roles as advisers, first to participants in municipal government and then to overall control.  The earliest references to the communes in the archives of most important cities of the region date to the period 1080-1150, but this is only the formal recognition of developments that probably began in about 1070. 

These early communes were essentially associations of prominent citizens dedicated to the protection of their particular interests.  However, as papal schism undermined the prestige of the bishops, the communes increasingly took over the more general functions of civic government.  The members of the commune formed general assemblies that elected leaders who were known as Consuls, following the Roman precedent.  There were usually between four and twelve Consuls who were elected by the general assemblies and who each generally held office for a year.  In most cases, the communes did not trouble to obtain Imperial sanction for their usurpation of power, although there were cases (e.g. Lucca and Pisa) where Henry IV found it expedient to extend recognition and confer privileges while retaining, at least in theory, his regalian rights.

After the death in 1115 of Matilda of Tuscany, the cities of Tuscany gradually affirmed their independence, and the area lost its traditional unity.

Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1152-90)

Frederick I, who was elected as King of the Germans in 1152, saw himself as the new Charlemagne and was determined to assert his regalian rights throughout his empire.  These imperial prerogatives had been asserted by his predecessors, Henry V and Conrad III, but had never been enforced in Italy.   Frederick I made six expeditions into Italy in order to change this situation, which together accounted for sixteen of his thirty eight year reign.

The aspirations of Frederick I brought him into immediate conflict with both the communes and the Church:

  1. He accepted the de facto existence of the communes, but he demanded formal acts of submission.  He was also determined to install imperial agents in each of them to enforce his regalian rights, which included: certain property rights; rights of jurisdiction; rights to impose taxes and tolls; and the sole right to mint money and to provide charters for markets and fairs.  

  2. He was also determined to share in the administration of the Church.  More particularly, his regalian rights entitled him to the income of vacant dioceses and to make appointments during periods of vacancy to all benefices except those involving the care of souls. 

The potential conflict with the Church did not immediately arise because Pope Eugene III needed a strong emperor: he was exiled from Rome because he refused to acknowledge the commune there under  Arnold of Brescia.  Frederick I and Eugene III therefore agreed the Treaty of Constance (1153), in which each guaranteed the sovereign rights of the other.  In particular, Frederick I agreed to deliver Rome to Eugene III in return for his imperial coronation. 

First Expedition to Italy (1154-5)

By the time that Frederick I entered Italy for the first time in 1154, Eugene III was dead, but the newly-elected (English) Pope Adrian IV renewed the treaty.  Frederick I had brought with him only a token army and was unable to impose his will on Milan, the most important of the recalcitrant Lombard communes.  However, he subdued most of Lombardy and was crowned at Pavia with the iron crown of the Lombards.  By that time, Adrian IV had managed to return to Rome, although he still had not tamed the Romans.  Thus, when Frederick I captured Arnold of Brescia and handed him over for execution in 1155, Adrian IV duly reciprocated by crowning him at St Peter’s.  The furtive coronation provoked a riot, and both Adrian IV and Frederick I were forced to flee. 

Frederick I visited the Abbazia di Farfa after his coronation, before heading north.  He and his army camped on the banks of the Nera for several days to recuperate, and Frederick I demanded the “fodrum”,  a special tax for the upkeep of the imperial army, from a number of the nearby communes.  The people of Spoleto angered him by paying less than he demanded.   More importantly, they refused to release his supporter, Guido Guerra II , whom they had recently imprisoned. The Spoletan army attacked the imperial camp but were driven back into Spoleto and the imperial army swept through the city gates behind them.  The city was subjected to a terrible ordeal “by fire and sword”.

(A local tradition has it that Frederick also razed Bevagna in 1155, although this is probably untrue).

After leaving Spoleto, Frederick camped between Gualdo Tadino and Nocera Umbra, from where he demanded further taxes from Gubbio.  However, the city’s aged Bishop, the future St Ubaldus, managed to persuade him to accept a smaller sum and to take the city under his wing.

Second Expedition to Italy (1158-62)

After Frederick I left Italy in 1155, Adrian IV negotiated a treaty with William I, the de facto king of the Two Sicilies, for assistance in returning to Rome. 

In 1157, he bolstered his position by recognising a number of communes as self-governing entities within the papal patrimony.  These included: Amelia; Cascia; Città di Castello; Gualdo Tadino; Gubbio; Narni; Norcia; Orvieto; Perugia; Spello; Spoleto; Terni; and Todi.  

This clearly impinged on imperial sovereignty, and Frederick I returned to Italy with a considerable army in 1158 in order to take his revenge on Adrian IV.  He first directed his hostility against Milan, which had refused to accept an imperial podestà.  The initial theatre of war was Lombardy, where Adrian IV supported the Milanese. 

When Adrian IV died in 1159, the majority of cardinals at the subsequent conclave elected the equally hostile Pope Alexander III..  However, an imperial faction elected Cardinal Ottaviano de' Monticelli, as anti-pope Victor IV.  (Frederick I had granted the city of Terni to Otto, Goffred, and Soliman, the cardinal’s brothers, in May 1159).   The influential Abbazia di Farfa was among the supporters of Victor IV, and some sources claim that he was crowned there.

Three examples show how the resulting papal schism (which continued until 1177 - see below) affected the cities of Umbria: 

  1. At Orvieto, an anti-bishop threatened the position of its Bishop Rustico, and the resulting chaos allowed the Cathar heresy to became rooted in the city. 

  2. At Gubbio, Bishop Teobaldo, the successor to the redoubtable St Ubaldus, would not offer allegiance to Victor IV, so Gubbio had an anti-bishop until Teobaldo’s death in 1163. The Commune then renewed its submission to Frederick I in return for important privileges.

  3. The diocese of Foligno temporarily absorbed that of Nocera Umbra in ca. 1160.  Bishop Anselmo degli Atti, who now had responsibility for both dioceses, supported the newly-formed commune against the imperial count.  He spent the period 1161-7 in the monastery of San Pietro di Landolina outside Foligno, presumably because of the difficult situation in both cities.  (Anselmo degli Atti still styled himself Bishop of Foligno and Nocera in an inscription (1201) on the minor façade of the Duomo of Foligno, although Nocera had regained its own bishop by 1190.)

The oldest formal document in the archives of Assisi, which dates to November 1160, records that Frederick I declared the city was subject to no authority other than that of the Emperor or his trusted representatives, “as it was from the time of Henry IV”.  It gave Assisi rights over an extensive contado and defined its boundaries (which included the Tiber as the boundary between Assisi and Perugia).

In 1162, Frederick I destroyed Milan with an army that included troops from Gubbio.  Alexander III fled to France, and Frederick I returned to Germany, leaving Victor IV pre-eminent in Italy. 

Frederick I made a short third expedition to Italy in 1163-4.  In 1163, he conferred imperial protection of Bishop John IV of Perugia and the canons of San Lorenzo, and (in a second decree) on the Abbazia di San Pietro, Perugia.

[Frederick I sacked Milan in 1164 and took the relics of the Three Kings at San Eustorgio there to Cologne].

Fourth Expedition to Italy (1166-8)

When Victor IV died in 1164, Frederick I appointed another anti-pope, Paschal III.  However, he lacked the political support that Victor IV had enjoyed, particularly in Rome.  There were even problems in Germany, despite the efforts of Paschal III to arouse support by his canonisation of Charlemagne.  Frederick I move to demand from the German bishops an oath of support for Paschal III in 1165.  This prompted a number of resignations, including that of Archbishop Conrad of Mainz.  His replacement, the war-like Christian of Mainz,  was to earn infamy in Italy.  Frederick I appointed him as his legate to Umbria in 1165.

As the fortunes of Alexander III rose, his supporters in Rome were able to orchestrate his return to the city in November 1165.  He enjoyed the protection there of forces sent by King William I of Sicily.   However, when William I died in early 1166, his position became precarious.  This prompted Frederick I to make his fourth expedition into Italy (1166-8), intent upon the capture of Alexander III.

A small force under Christian of Mainz marched on Rome ahead of the main Imperial army.   He took reprisals at Narni, which opposed his passage.  The Romans sent an army against him, but it was soundly defeated at the Battle of Monte Porzio, near Tusculum, on 29th May 1167.  Frederick I arrived in July 1167 and managed to force entry into St Peter’s.  Alexander III, who had taken refuge elsewhere in Rome, escaped to Benevento.  Paschal III was duly consecrated in St Peter’s following which, he laid a crown on the head of Frederick I (in a second coronation) and his wife Beatrice.  Frederick I then ensured the election of a sympathetic senate in Rome.  However, his army was decimated by an outbreak of malaria, and he was forced to retreat.  As he travelled north, he found the Lombard cities in revolt, and had he no alternative but to return to Germany.

Fifth Expedition to Italy (1174-8)

In 1171, Frederick I sent Christian of Mainz back to Italy to prepare for yet another assault of Alexander III, who was still in Italy, albeit that he was denied access to Rome.  He held a parliament of Imperial supporters at Siena in 1172.  He laid siege to Ancona in 1173, but was forced to withdraw after a few months.

When Terni and Spoleto entered into an anti-imperial alliance in 1174, Gubbio sent reinforcements to Christian of Mainz, who brutally subdued the rebellion.  Shortly thereafter, he intervened on behalf of the nobles of Assisi in their battle with the popolo and took possession of Assisi.   He seems to have been based in Narni from 1174 until 1176, when Frederick I called him to Lombardy.  [It is possible that he sacked Narni in 1174, to punish the city for the rebellion of 1167 - see above].

Frederick I arrived in Lombardy in 1174, where he faced a coalition of rebellious cities known as the Lombard League, to which Alexander III gave his support.  Frederick I called Christian of Mainz to his support there, but they were defeated at the Battle of Legnano (1176).  However, under the Treaty of Venice (1177), Alexander III effectively deserted his Lombard allies in return for imperial recognition and an end to the papal schism.  The Lombard cities sullenly fell into line, although they agreed only to a six year truce.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Venice, Alexander III recognised the rights of Frederick I over the Duchy of Spoleto.  Frederick I spent Christmas of 1177 at Assisi, and it was probably on this occasion that he appointed Conrad of Urslingen as Count of Assisi and Duke of Spoleto (1177-98).  He also dealt with the position of Count Monaldo VI of Antignano, whose family (which was of German origin) had its main residence at the Castello d’ Antignano near Bevagna and controlled a vast tract of territory in the area that included Coccorone (later Montefalco), Bevagna, Cannara, Gualdo Cattaneo and Foligno.  He confirmed the title of Monaldo IV but subjected the county to Foligno.

Perugia and Foligno were by this time the most important cities in the region.  Spoleto, which was slowly recovering from the imperial onslaughts of 1155 and 1174, was still in disgrace.  Orvieto remained papal territory, although nearby Acquapendente and the territory to the south were under imperial control.  Città di Castello, which had slipped out of papal control during the schism, re-entered papal suzerainty under the terms of the Treaty of Venice.  Narni, Amelia and Todi, which were important for the defence of Rome, seem to have had uncertain status at this time.

Alexander III re-entered Rome in 1178 as the undisputed pope, albeit that he needed the protection of Christian of Mainz, and Frederick I returned to Germany.

Sixth Expedition to Italy (1184-6)

The arrangements that Frederick I put in place in the Duchy of Spoleto in 1177 did not work as well as he expected after his return to Germany. 

  1. Perugia continued its policy of territorial aggression, securing imperial assent to its acquisition of Città di Castello in 1180 and Gubbio in 1183, although these cities were at this stage too strong to be held for long. 

  2. Spoleto similarly accepted the submission of Coccorone in 1180, while acknowledging its imperial status.

Frederick I was not immediately able to respond to what he regarded to this insubordination.  When the truce with the Lombard League expired, he was similarly reluctant to resume hostilities and agreed to the Peace of Constance (1183).  Under the terms of this treaty, the Lombard cities acknowledged imperial suzerainty but retained effective independence.  Despite its tactful drafting, the treaty represented a historic victory for the northern communes, which now had a solid basis in law. 

Frederick I enjoyed good relations with Pope Lucius III (1181-5).  For example, he sent Christian of Mainz to help Lucius III liberate Tusculum from the rebellious Romans in 1183.  Disease ravaged the papal forces, and Christian of Mainz was among those who succumbed. The Romans now attacked the other papal towns south of Rome.  Lucius III fled to Verona, where he met Frederick I soon after the latter had signed the Peace of Constance.  However, their negotiations were inconclusive, and Lucius died in Verona in 1185.

Frederick I, having conceded so much to the Lombard communes, was determined not to concede similar liberties to the communes of central Italy, and particularly not to Spoleto.  He therefore confirmed Foligno’s control over Bevagna and Coccorone in 1984, contrasting that city’s fidelity in stark contrast to the perfidy (as he saw it) of Spoleto.  This clearly terrified the Spoletans, and they prevailed upon Duke Conrad of Urslingen to intercede on their behalf.  Frederick I formally “received into grace” the Spoletans in 1185, during a stay with Count Rainaldo I at Coccorone. 

Frederick I then travelled to Assisi to await the arrival of the princess Constance of Naples.  She was to travel with him to Milan where she would marry his son, Henry (the future Emperor Henry VI - see below), who had been crowned as King of the Germans in 1169, and was thus his father’s recognised successor as emperor.  This was a hugely important dynastic marriage that offered the chance of bringing southern Italy into the Empire.  Henry duly arrived from Germany, and after his marriage he was crowned in Milan, as his father had been, with the iron crown of the Lombards. 

These events earned Frederick I the enmity of Pope Urban III (1185-7).  Thus, although Lucius III had been Archbishop of Milan before his elevation to the papacy, Frederick I was obliged to press the Patriarch of Aquileia to perform the coronation. 

In 1186, Frederick I left Italy for what turned out to be the last time.  His son, the future Henry VI was now the most powerful man in peninsular Italy.

Emperor Henry VI

With Urban III effectively confined to Verona, Henry invaded the Papal States, aided by the rebellious Romans.   He took Orvieto after a siege and then Narni and Amelia.   With Rome implicitly threatened, the cities of Umbria again began to take sides.  Gubbio welcomed Henry to the city in the hope that he would emancipate it from the power of Perugia.  However, the Perugians sent an embassy to Gubbio, and in return for their submission he renewed the city’s privileges and granted it a new charter.  It seems likely that he remained neutral in the trial of strength between these two important cities.

Urban III tried to excommunicate Henry in 1187, prompting the Veronese to expel him.  He died at Ferrara, en route for Venice, apparently through grief at the news of the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin.  He had not been able to set foot in Rome at any point during his pontificate. 

Pope Clement III (1187-91) moved quickly to make peace with the Romans, as a precursor to launching a crusade that he hoped would liberate Jerusalem.  He was duly welcomed to Rome in 1188.  Frederick I took the crusader’s cross in 1189, at which point Clement III promised to crown Henry as co-Emperor.  Under the terms of this agreement, a large area of territory was returned to papal control, including Orvieto, Narni and Amelia.  However, Clement III now changed sides: he crowned Tancred of Lecce, the illegitimate nephew, as King of the Two Sicilies in January 1190, thereby repudiating Henry’s rights through his marriage.  Events then moved quickly: Frederick I died en route for the Holy Land in July 1190; Clement III died in March 1191; and Henry’s imperial coronation remained unsecured.

Easter found Rome in a state of tension between the Romans and the new pope, the aged Pope Celestine III (1191-8).  Henry, now King of the Romans, was able to exploit this in order to secure his coronation as Emperor as a precursor to an invasion of southern Italy.   The Romans barred Henry’s entry into Rome itself, but Celestine III reluctantly crowned him as the Emperor Henry VI in St Peter’s in April 1191.  He then marched on Naples, where he was defeated, and he subsequently had to return to Germany in order to secure his power base there. He left his baby son, the future Emperor Frederick II at Assisi, in the care of Conrad of Urslingen (see below).

[As noted above, Gubbio had at first welcomed Henry, but were poorly rewarded when he sided with their traditional rival, Perugia.  Thus, when the news of the death of Frederick I had reached Italy in 1190, the Gubbians had renounced their Imperial allegiance.  However, the improvement in Henry’s situation after his coronation terrified them, and they hastily sent an embassy to Naples, where he was laying siege.  Henry VI forgave them their rebellion, renewed their Imperial privileges and recognised their independence from Perugia.] 

In 1194, Tancred of Lecce died and Henry VI returned from Germany to take possession of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  He now needed papal recognition of this title, which was quite distinct from his Imperial crown.  He therefore returned to the policy of tightening his hold on central Italy in order to force the papacy to his will: 

  1. he named his brother Philip of Swabia as Duke of Tuscany and thus the ruler of the lands that Matilda of Tuscany had bequeathed to the papacy;

  2. he invested another supporter, Markward of Anweiler with lands in the Marches and the Abruzzi; and

  3. he reaffirmed Conrad of Urslingen as Duke of Spoleto, ennobling him further as Count of Assisi and Nocera. 

Henry VI in Italy now exercised more power in Italy than any other ruler in history.  He controlled most of the communes of the north, albeit that they retained the considerable measure of independence that they had wrested from his father.  Much of central Italy was under his direct control.  Finally, unlike either Charlemagne or his own father, he controlled the lands of the south.

These arrangements obviously affected Umbria:

  1. Philip of Swabia now controlled Città di Castello, which Perugia had previously controlled. The city seems to have passed from the frying pan to the fire, and complained to Henry VI against Philip’s exactions.  He besieged Perugia, which he claimed as part of his Duchy of Tuscany, in 1195, but the magistrates of the city were able to persuade him that its freedom was guaranteed by Imperial diplomas.

  2. Conrad of Urslingen controlled this vast territory from fortresses at Assisi, Nocera Umbra, Gualdo Tadino and Cesi, albeit that the stronger communes such as Perugia, Spoleto, Gubbio and Foligno had considerable independence and control of their respective contadi.   

The power of the papacy was reduced to a tenuous hold over Rome and its surrounding territory.

However, before he could press his advantage, Henry VI contracted a fever in 1197 and died.


As noted above, Adrian IV recognised a number of communes as self-governing entities within the papal patrimony in 1157.  These included: Amelia; Cascia; Città di Castello; Gualdo Tadino; Gubbio; Narni; Norcia; Orvieto; Perugia; Spello; Spoleto; Terni; and Todi

The earliest documentation of the existence of consuls in the cities of Umbria is as follows:  Perugia by 1139, Narni by 1143, Orvieto by 1157, Amelia and Nocera Umbra by 1160, Città di Castello by 1163, Todi by 1171, Spoleto and Terni by 1174, Foligno by 1177, Coccorone (later called Montefalco) by 1180, and Bevagna by 1187.  Gubbio formed a commune in ca. 1150 and gained the right to elect its own consuls in 1163. 

Assisi only managed to institute a communal government in 1198, after the death of the Henry VI, and there is no record of communal government at Norcia before 1201 or at Gualdo Tadino before 1208.  [Trevi ??]

By this time, the practice of the communes sharing power in the cities with the bishops had largely disappeared, and they were now turning to the subjugation of the great lords in the surrounding regions.  Increasingly, the latter were forced to reside in the cities and to pay taxes, notwithstanding their ancient Imperial privileges.  For most of the 12th century, this was a relatively harmonious process, as the nobles integrated into the society of their municipal equals and took their part in the government of the cities to which they now belonged.  However, another threat to the independence of the communes emerged with the coronation of the Emperor Frederick I.

Towards the end of the century, discord between the noble families that dominated the communes of most Italian cities, which was accompanied by the building of fortified towers to protect their city homes, led to the experimental appointment of Podestà.  These were executives who were required to stand above the internal city factions.  They were initially chosen from within the cities themselves, but the practice soon developed of employing men from other friendly cities who had the required administrative and diplomatic skills.  This new arrangement was initially used to overcome particularly savage bouts of discord or other emergencies, but increasingly it came to replace government by Consuls.  The Podestà was by no means a dictator; political decisions were still taken by elaborate structures of advisory councils recruited from the prominent citizens.  In addition, he was subject to detailed scrutiny of his actions at the end of his term of office.  Nevertheless, in times of war he was required to command the communal army, and at such times his power could be considerable.

  1. Perugia had a Podestà in 1183 and more regularly after 1195; consular government seems to have disappeared after 1232. 

  2. Orvieto usually had a Podestà in 1171.  After 1200, he was often a papal appointment and thus effectively a papal legate. 

  3. Città di Castello had a Podestà by 1192 and Foligno by 1198. 

The post was documented in most of the other Umbrian cities from early in the following century.

The great artistic flourishing of the region began in the 12th century under the influence of the Roman and Lombard models.  Among the most important buildings of the period are the Duomo of Assisi (San Rufino) and the churches of San Pietro and San Gregorio Maggiore in Spoleto.

Byzantine influence is evident in the Umbrian painting of the period, as may be seen in the frescoes in San Pietro in Valle near Ferentillo, in San Paolo inter Vineas in Spoleto and in the abbey of SS Severo e Martirio in Orvieto.  Also of Byzantine derivation is the painted cross (by Albero Sotio) in the Duomo of Spoleto, a model that inspired numerous similar works in the 13th century.

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