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Umbria in the 13th Century

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Pope Innocent III (1198-1216)

Formation of the Papal States

The unexpected death of Emperor Henry VI in 1197 left central Italy in turmoil.  He had entrusted Italy to three trusted allies:

  1. his brother Philip of Swabia, Duke of Tuscany controlled of the lands that Matilda of Tuscany had bequeathed to the papacy;

  2. Markward of Anweiler controlled the Marches and the Abruzzi; and

  3. Conrad of Urslingen controlled a vast territory in central Italy 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

These three men now had to react to what had been a completely unexpected development:

  1. Philip of Swabia returned to Germany, where he hoped to secure election as his brother’s successor.  However, he faced a rival claimant for the Imperial crown, Otto of Brunswick:  

  2. Otto, with English support, was crowned in Aachen in July; and

  3. Philip, who seems to have commanded the loyalty of most of the German electors and had the backing of France, was crowned at Mainz in September.

  4. Markward of Anweiler left the Marche and marched south in an attempt to secure the southern kingdom, which Henry’s widow Constance held for her infant son, Frederick.  (Constance made Frederick a ward of Innocent III (see below) before her death in 1198.  The threat from Markwald of Anweiler evaporated when he died in 1202.) 

  5. Thus Conrad of Urslingen, Duke of Spoleto now constituted the only important Imperial representative in Italy, and he was completely isolated. 

The new Pope Innocent III, who was elected in January 1198, thus had a unique opportunity to enforce the ancient temporal claims of the papacy.  He summoned Conrad of Urslingen to Narni in 1198 and secured his complete submission, along with the surrender of the fortresses at Assisi, Gualdo Tadino and Cesi

In the summer of 1198, Innocent III was strong enough to make a formal progress.  His first stop was at Spoleto, where he re-consecrated the Duomo that the Emperor Frederick I had destroyed in the previous century.  At Spoleto, he received the submission of Terni and Norcia.  He then travelled to Perugia, where he reconsecrated the altar of the Duomo that the Imperial antipope Callistus III had consecrated in ca. 1175.  He returned to Rome via Todi (where he issued a privilege that took Perugia under his protection) and Amelia.  Most of the other Umbrian cities (including Foligno, Nocera Umbra, Gubbio, and Città di Castello) also made formal submissions at about this time. 

Despite these formalities, Innocent III faced opposition in the Romagna, in the March of Ancona and (albeit on a smaller scale) in the Duchy of Spoleto: 

  1. The first problem here arose at Assisi, which was in the grip of factional strife.  When Conrad of Urslingen left Assisi to make his submission at Narni, the popolani (merchants opposed to the ruling nobility) tore down the Imperial Rocca before Innocent III could take it over.  The noble faction was exiled, and many of these exiles found refuge in Perugia.  Innocent III bolstered the position of Bishop Guido I (died 1204) by reaffirming a number of alleged ancient privileges that placed vast lands in his possession, as well as all the churches and monasteries of Assisi and its contado.  He also supported Guido’s excommunication of those who opposed his new privileges.  Nevertheless, Guido I had to share power with a new Commune that seems to have been in place by December 1198, and he could do little to stop the destruction of the houses and castles of the nobility throughout the city and the contado.

  2. Opposition also came from Narni, which moved to deny Innocent III access to the fortress of Otricoli.   Narni defied an interdict, and Innocent III was forced to send troops from Rome to recover the fortress and to make Narni pay for its repair. 

  3. To the south, when Philip of Swabia had left for Germany, Orvieto took the strategic fortress of Acquapendente.  Innocent III placed this city under interdict and he recalled Bishop Riccardo of Orvieto (1178-1202) to Rome.  This absence lasted for a period of about 9 months, during which time the Cathars in the city not only preached in public, but also hosted a council of fellow believers presided over by the Cathar "bishop" of Viterbo and even planned the exile of the remaining orthodox Catholics in the city.  A deputation from the Catholic faction sought reconciliation with Innocent III and welcomed the Roman Pietro Parenzo as papal rector.  When heretics murdered Parenzo in 1199, miracles were reported at his tomb in the Duomo and he was venerated locally as a saint.  Bishop Riccardo encouraged this cult, and by this means succeeded in re-establishing orthodoxy in Orvieto.  Pietro’s brother Parenzo di Parenzo acted as Podestà in 1200-3, the first time that the post is documented.  In 1200, Innocent III allowed an Orvietan to be appointed rector of Acquapendente. 

Innocent III could not prevent a series of wars between neighbouring cities within his new domain.  For example:

  1. Foligno was at war with Spoleto and Spello in 1200-1, and it was Perugia rather than Innocent III that acted as intermediary, staging the reconciliation of Spoleto and Foligno in the piazza in front of the Duomo there. 

  2. The first Podestà of Spoleto, Girardo di Giliberto was elected at about this time, and he accepted the formal (and apparently voluntary) submission of Norcia in 1202.  He was then excommunicated, perhaps for this impertinence.

Perugia was by this time preparing for war with Assisi, because its demand for compensation on behalf of the exiled nobles of Assisi for their loss of property went unheeded.  Assisi secured the support of a number of the other Umbrian cities, including Nocera Umbra, Bevagna and Spello. Perugia emerged victorious in the Battle of Collestrada in 1202, and hostilities continued thereafter only in a desultory manner.  (The future St Francis was taken prisoner during this war.  He languished in jail in Perugia for a year before his father could ransom him and then returned to Assisi sick and chastened by his ordeal.  This probably marked the start of his conversion.)

Nocera Umbra switched its allegiance from Assisi to Perugia, and this defection brought Gubbio into the fray as an ally of Assisi.  By 1204, conditions were sufficiently grave in Assisi for the citizens to appoint a Podestà for the first time.  They chose Girardo di Giliberto, who (as we have seen) had been excommunicated in 1202 when he had held the same office in Spoleto.  Innocent III reacted by placing Assisi under interdict until Cardinal Leone Brancaleone managed to negotiate the resolution of the situation.  Girardo di Giliberto and Assisi were forgiven and a new Podestà was appointed.

When Orvieto tried to take control of Acquapendente in 1203, Innocent III threatened excommunication and Orvieto withdrew.  However, when the old count Aldobrandini died in 1208, Innocent III allowed Orvieto to arbitrate the claims of his four sons, as a result of which much of the disputed territory fell under the city’s control.  These acquisitions and others saw Orvietan territory treble during Innocent’s reign.

Emperor Otto IV

In 1201, Innocent III recognised Otto of Brunswick as Empire elect in return for Otto’s promise to recognise papal possession of all the territory that Innocent III had “recovered”. 

Philip of Swabia responded, inter alia, by issuing an Imperial privilege from Germany for Assisi that mirrored the papal privilege that Perugia enjoyed.  Since he seemed likely to win the civil war in Germany, many of the exiled nobles of Assisi deemed it prudent to make peace with their native city.  Assisi’s fortunes in its war with Perugia improved, and it retook Nocera Umbra in 1204.  Assisi also swore allegiance to Diepold (Liupold), Bishop of Worms, whom Philip had sent to Italy.  Diepold’s expedition into Italy failed, and he returned to Germany in early 1206. 

Innocent III then demonstrated his ascendancy over much of central Italy by summoning the lay and ecclesiastical representatives of the Marche, the Tuscan patrimony and the Duchy of Spoleto to a parliament in Viterbo in 1207.  This was the first time that a pope had been able to issue such a summons.  However, his power was still less than complete:

  1. although he intervened in Todi in 1207 to quell the strife there between the nobles and popolani, he did not intervene, at least initially, when war broke out in that year between Todi and Orvieto in response to the aggressive expansion of the contado the latter (see above);

  2. he did not intervene in 1208 when Gualdo Tadino submitted to Perugia and gave it the use of Rocca Flea, without any mention of the rights of the papacy; and

  3. he was apparently impotent when Amelia submitted to Todi in 1208.

Despite the support he had received from Innocent III and the financial backing of England, Otto of Bruswick proved unable to press his claim to the Imperial throne, and in 1206, as his support in Germany collapsed, he fled to England.  Innocent III was thus forced to open negotiations with Philip of Swabia.  However, these negotiations ended in 1208, when Philip was murdered. 

Otto of Brunswick now returned to Germany, reconciled himself to the German princes by marrying Philip’s daughter, and confirmed his promises to Innocent III in the form agreed in 1201.  He finally travelled to Italy for his coronation in 1209: Innocent III met him at Viterbo and crowned him in Rome in October 1209 as the Emperor Otto IV

Otto IV broke his promises to Innocent III almost immediately, and attempted to recover all the Imperial property that Innocent III had annexed to the Church.  He occupied Acquapendente and other territory claimed by Orvieto, and then marched into Tuscany.  By December 1209, he had taken Foligno and Terni and had secured the support of a faction of Città di Castello and much of its contado.   Innocent III formally denounced him in January 1210.  In February, Otto of IV created a Diepold von Vohburg (Diepold von Schweinspeunt) Duke of Spoleto in succession (as he saw it) to Conrad of Urslingen.  Diepold confirmed an Imperial privilege for Foligno soon after, although its towns of Bevagna and Coccorone (later Montefalco) seem to have fallen under direct Imperial control at about this time. 

In response, Innocent III moved on at least two fronts:

  1. He signed a treaty with Perugia under which the Commune would defend Rome from any Imperial attack.  In return, Innocent III confirmed Perugia’s right to elect its own communal officials and agreed that the Commune would be included in any peace negotiations with Otto of IV.  The fact that Innocent III thereby treated Perugia as an equal rather than as a subject underlined his dire position. 

  2. He also moved to end the war between Todi and Orvieto (probably in order to detach Orvieto from its alliance with the rebellious Narni) and to cool a dispute between Amelia and Lugnano.  Todi, Orvieto and Amelia then joined the papal alliance in August 1210. 

Otto of IV sacked the Perugian contado in August and that of Todi in October, and he then made a triumphal entry into Assisi on 5th November.  A peace was agreed between the factions of Assisi five days later, in honour of Christ, the Virgin, Otto IV and Duke Diepold of Spoleto. 

Innocent III was able to divert Otto IV from Rome, and he marched instead on southern Italy.  While the young Frederick, who was the ward of Innocent III (see above) had a legitimate claim to this territory through his mother, Otto IV had no such justification, and Innocent III finally excommunicated him on 18th November 1210.

During 1211, Otto IV made substantial inroads in the south.  He also maintained his alliances in central Italy, as evidenced, for example, by an Imperial privilege granted to Gubbio from Montefiascone in that year.  However, the fact that he was by now married to a daughter of King John of England had earned him the enmity of  King Philip Augustus of France.  Philip Augustus ensured that the enemies of Otto IV in Germany proclaimed Frederick as Emperor-elect in 1212.

Otto IV was forced to return to Germany.  When Frederick evaded his forces and arrived in Germany ahead of him, Innocent III agreed that he should be crowned as King of the Germans.   In return, Frederick recognised the right of the Church to the disputed territory of central Italy in the so-called Promise of Eger (1213).   The coronation(See below for his subsequent career).

Otto IV and his followers did not immediately lose heart in Italy.  For example, Spoleto made an alliance with Duke Diepold of Spoleto against Trevi in 1213.  However, Diepold was a papal prisoner by 1214, and the claim of Otto IV to the German throne ended in that year when Philip Augustus defeated him at the Battle of Bouvines.  Innocent III declared him deposed in 1215 and declared his own cousin, James, Count of Andria rector of the Duchy of Spoleto.

The disappearance of Otto IV did not mark the end of the problems of Innocent III in Umbria.  For example:

  1. Narni seems to have been in a state of rebellion in 1214, and Innocent III excommunicated all of its citizens, exhorting the neighbouring cities to take them captive;

  2. Spoleto almost totally destroyed Trevi in July 1214; and

  3. Narni attacked Otricoli (again) and Stroncone in 1216, and when Innocent III sent troops from Terni, Amelia and Todi to defend the two small communities, Narni turned to Spoleto for support, at which point Terni turned to Foligno.  This led to outright war in the region, in which the two castles were destroyed and Amelia attacked.  Innocent III managed to end the war in 1216 and to force Narni to rebuild Stroncone, but the tension between the warring parties remained high.

  4. For unknown reasons, Frederick reserved his rights at Città di Castello when he reached agreement with Innocent III in 1213.  Città di Castello swore fealty to Innocent III only in 1216.

Nevertheless, Innocent III could now turn his attention to the organisation of a crusade to regain Jerusalem.  Venice had served him badly in the Third Crusade of 1204, so he set out in 1216 for the other great naval centres of Pisa and Genoa, intent upon effecting peace between them and pressing them to his cause.  En route, he visited Orvieto to preach the Fourth Crusade at Sant’ Andrea.  However, he refused to proceed with the canonisation of Pietro Parenzo.   (A plaque on the wall of Sant' Andrea claims that, "according to tradition", Pope Honorius III, the successor of Innocent III canonised him there in 1217.  In fact, he was never formally canonised, although he was venerated as a special protector of Orvieto).

When Innocent III arrived in Perugia he became ill and died.  Jacques de Vitry, who had  travelled to Perugia in 1216 to be consecrated as Bishop of Acre, described how he found the body of Innocent III there, laid out but unguarded so that robbers had stolen his clothes.  Innocent III was buried in the Duomo of Perugia, and Jacques de Vitry stayed on in Perugia until he could be consecrated by Innocent's successor, Honorius III.

In the late 19th century, Pope Leo XIII arranged for the remains of Innocent III to be re-interred in San Giovanni Laterano, Rome, in a tomb (1891) by Giuseppe Lucchetti that still survives.

Pope Honorius III (1216-27)

Pope Honorius III was elected at the conclave held in Perugia in 1216.  Hostility between Narni and Terni resumed almost immediately, this time over the control of a bridge across the Nera.  Todi and Foligno supported Terni, while Spoleto and Coccorone (later Montefalco) supported Narni.  In 1217, Terni submitted to Todi, and Honorius III detached the diocese of Terni from that of Spoleto.  Nevertheless, the uproar in the area persisted.

A dispute between Perugia and Gubbio over possession of a number of fortresses, including the old Rocca Flea at Gualdo Tadino led to outright war further north in 1216-7.  Gubbio was allied with Cagli and Città di Castello.  Perugia, with its allies from Spello, Todi, Spoleto, Gualdo Tadino, Nocera Umbra and Bettona, inflicted a crushing defeat on Gubbio.  The Roman Pandolfo di Figuera, Podestà of Perugia was called in to arbitrate in 1217, when Gubbio was forced to renounce all the castles along its border with Perugia.  The Perugians also took Nocera Umbra at about this time, but Assisi was able to retake the city later that year when the dispute between the nobles and the popoli of Perugia erupted. In 1218, Honorius issued a brief that demanded an end to these hostilities, but this was largely ignored.  In 1219, Cagli submitted to Perugia, and this treaty was explicitly designed to oppose the designs of Gubbio and Città di Castello.

As these problems mounted, Pandolfo of Anagni (Pandolfo Savelli), the papal rector of the Duchy summoned representatives of the warring cities to Bevagna in 1220 so that he could mediate their differences.  This was the preliminary to a parliament over which Honorius III presided at Orvieto in the summer of that year.  Perugia, Spoleto, Foligno, Assisi, Todi, Nocera, Terni, Narni, and Coccorone were among the cities represented at these deliberations, which achieved the recognition of papal rights over the Duchy of Spoleto, the temporary cessation of hostilities between the cities, and the return to the papacy of a number of castles and other lands that had been lost since 1198. 

A dispute between the factions of Perugia broke out again in 1222.  Honorius III banned outside interference in these events on pain of excommunication.  Nevertheless, Assisi, Città di Castello and Gubbio supported the Perugian exiles in the war, which continued throughout the period 1223-8.  Treaties of 1223 between the exiled nobles and (respectively) Città di Castello (in May) and Gubbio (in June) are the earliest surviving documents that refer to these factions:

  1. the Popularibus or members of the Popular Party, later known as the Raspanti (literally graspers of embezzlers) against whom the treaties were directed; 

  2. the Parte Militum seu Magnatum, the military party, (i.e. the exiled nobles); and

  3. the Peditum de Parte Militum, literally the foot soldiers of the nobles (later called the Beccarini, meaning butchers), who sympathised with the exiles. 

This conflict had repercussions:

  1. Assisi took advantage of this distraction to take Bettona in 1222.  In the following year, the Commune of Bettona agreed that its Podestà and Consuls would be chosen from among the citizens of Assisi. 

  2. Città di Castello had supported the exiles because it had been offended when the Castello di Montone had submitted to Perugia in 1216 to escape from its designs.  It persuaded its allies sacked Castello di Montone in 1227.

These and other successes enabled the exiles to return to Perugia in that year. 

In January, 1227, just before he died, Honorius III issued a bull that defined the Patrimony of St Peter in Tuscany to include land west of the Tiber from Città di Castello to Viterbo and Rome, thereby including both Orvieto and Perugia, and also Todi, Narni and Amelia to the east.  Thereafter, however, the last three cities were usually included in the Duchy of Spoleto.  The Patrimony contained large tracts of territory that was still controlled by feudal magnates, including the Lords of Vico (near Viterbo), the Counts of Anguillara (also near Viterbo), the Lords of Bisenzio (on Lake Bolsena) and the Aldobrandeschi Counts (whose lands between Orvieto and Siena fell partly in the Tuscan patrimony).

Emperor Frederick II (1215-50)

Frederick was crowned King of Sicily on 17 May 1198 when he was only four, and as King of the Germans in 1215, when he was still only 21.  As noted above, he had renounced any claim to the lands of central Italy in 1213.  In addition, at the time of his German coronation, he took an oath to embark on a crusade to the Holy Land. 

However, Frederick was not able to leave Germany until 1220, at which point Honorius III was briefly exiled from Rome.  Frederick helped him to return, and Honorius III then crowned him as the Emperor Frederick II, at which point he renewed his crusader oath.  However, the plan was again deferred until Frederick II had put his affairs in order in the southern Italy.  Thus when the Fifth Crusade (1217-22), which proceeded without him, failed, he bore much of the responsibility in the eyes of the papacy.

Another cause of tension was papal distrust of Frederick’s territorial ambitions in Italy.  Even before his return from Germany, his partisans had begun to assert his rights in the Duchy of Spoleto.  Thus, for example, in 1219, Count Napoleone III of Antignano and Coccorone took Marcellano near Todi in his name.  Honorius III had confirmed Count Napoleone III in his possession of Coccorone two years earlier.  Yet in 1219, it was Frederick II who confirmed him in his ownership of the fortress of Santa Maria de Laurentio, near Bevagna.  His kinsman Rodolfo became Podestà of Foligno in that year.

Rainald of Urslingen, who continued to use his dead father’s title of Duke of Spoleto, returned to Italy with Frederick II in 1220.  Two years later, Frederick II formally asked Honorius III for the return of the Duchy, perhaps as a fief for the Rainald.  Not surprisingly, Honorius III refused.  At about this time, Foligno, Gubbio and Nocera Umbra went over to Rainald’s brother, Berthold, and Honorius III was forced to excommunicate him and to send troops to force him to withdraw. 

Frederick II met Honorius III at San Germano in 1225, and promised, on pain of excommunication, that he would embark for Jerusalem in 1227.  Nevertheless, relations between them continued to deteriorate.  In 1226, in an edict issued from San Gemini, Frederick II confirmed Tancredi, Count of Campello’s long-standing Imperial title to Campello itself and other lands outside Spoleto.  In an outspoken condemnation, the usually placid Honorius III condemned the Counts of Campello as children of the devil.  He died soon after.

Pope Gregory IX (1227-41)

Frederick II finally sailed for Jerusalem in 1228, but he soon returned because of illness among his crew.  Pope Gregory IX excommunicated him, and in retaliation, Frederick’s partisans in Rome expelled Gregory IX.  He travelled to Spoleto before taking refuge in Perugia, where he was forced to pay what was in effect a huge bribe.  In return, the Perugians allowed the exiled nobles to return to the city, and accepted John of Brienne, the papal rector of the Duchy of Spoleto, as Podestà of Perugia.  In 1228, Pope Gregory IX left Perugia briefly for Assisi, where he canonised St Francis and commissioned the building of San Francesco.  John of Brienne, the titular King of Jerusalem and father-in-law of Frederick II, attended the canonisation and left valuable gifts at the tomb.

Frederick II further inflamed his relations with Gregory IX by finally setting out for Jerusalem without having troubled to seek the lifting of his excommunication.  His ally, Rainald of Urslingen invaded the border areas of the Duchy of Spoleto, taking Norcia, Cascia, Terni and Foligno, which he established as his base of operations.  Bettona submitted to Foligno at this time in order to shake off the control of Assisi and Perugia.  Città della Pieve also freed itself from Perugian domination, declaring itself a free commune under Frederick’s protection.  Rainald’s brother Berthold also participated in the campaign, for example destroying Monteleone di Spoleto in 1228.  However, the brothers were forced to return to souther Italy when Gregory IX sent John of Brienne to mount a counter-invasion.

Frederick II returned to Italy in 1229, having won Jerusalem by negotiation, and drove the papal troops out of southern Italy.  Gregory IX was able to return to Rome early in the following year, when a terrible flood there prompted the citizens to call for his aid.  Both parties now wanted peace: under the Treaty of San Germano (1230), Gregory IX absolved Frederick II from excommunication, while Frederick II restored the Duchy of Spoleto to papal control.  (These negotiations prevented the principles from attending the ceremony of the translation of the relic of St Francis to San Francesco at this time, but both of them contributed to the completion of the church).

The Romans revolted once more in 1231-3, and Gregory IX was forced to flee.  Frederick II came to his aid in this period, sending a garrison to protect Viterbo in 1231, and putting the Romans under an imperial ban in 1232.  (During this period of exile, Gregory IX canonised St Antony of Padua at Spoleto). 

Gregory’s subsequent return to Rome was short-lived, and he went once more into exile in 1234, when his enemy Luca Savelli became Senator of Rome.  Under Savelli, the Commune of Rome pursued a policy of expansion at the expense of the Church, securing for example the submission of both Amelia and Narni by the spring of 1235.  Frederick II sent soldiers to secure a truce in May 1235, but Gregory IX still felt safer outside the turbulent city.  He therefore spent much of 1234-8 at Spoleto and Perugia, and it was during this period of exile that published his famous collection of papal decretals.  He canonised St Dominic at Spoleto, in 1234; canonised St Elizabeth of Hungary at Perugia, in 1235; and reconsecrated the church of San Paolo inter Vineas, Spoleto, in 1237. 

Gregory’s troubles were by no means confined to Rome.  For example, he was initially powerless to prevent the eruption of a war between Florence and Siena in 1232, in which Siena’s erstwhile ally, Orvieto had switched its allegiance to Florence.  He placed both Florence and Orvieto under interdict in that year, but they held out until 1234 before accepting his mediation.  He then lifted the ban, and peace was concluded without any significant gains on either side in 1235.

Gregory IX had more immediate success in quelling a conflict that arose in 1234 when Gubbio built a fortified settlement called Pergola on a strategic site that threatened the nearby town of Cagli.  Cagli had enlisted the support of Perugia and a number of other cities, while Gubbio had sought assistance from Assisi and Città di Castello.  Gregory IX intervened on behalf of Gubbio in 1235, and so secured the adherence of this usually Ghibelline city.  He also secured the allegiance of Assisi in that year by granting it the privilege of electing its municipal officials, albeit that papal approval was needed before the names of the elected officials could be made public.  He further secured his position in the Duchy by purchasing the fortresses of Gualdo Tadino, Otricoli and (in 1234) Miranda, a castle above Terni that was owned by Narni.

Frederick's son Henry, to whom he had entrusted his affairs in Germany, revolted in 1233, and formed an alliance with Milan and a league of other Lombard cities.  The revolt incensed not only Frederick II but also Gregory IX, because Henry's allies in Germany murdered the papal inquisitor, Conrad of Marburg.  Thus, Frederick II was able to march into Germany in 1235 and suppress the rebellion.  He then returned to fight the rebellious Lombard communes in July to November 1236. Gregory’s role was ostensibly that of peacemaker.  However, as the war in Lombardy dragged on, Gregory IX began to press for peace but Frederick II ignored him.  It is a mark of the rapid deterioration in their relationship that, when Frederick II had a stunning victory against Milan and its allies at Cortenuova in 1237, he sent the captured Milanese carroccio as a gift to Gregory’s enemies, the “people of Rome”.  Gregory IX sent Brother Elias, Minister General of the Franciscans to Frederick’s camp at Cremona in early 1238, but this mediation came to nothing.  Indeed, Frederick II further infuriated Gregory IX when he arranged for Enzo, his illegitimate son, to marry the widowed Adelasia, Princess regnant of Sardinia and invested him with the Imperial title of King of Sardinia. 

However, Frederick II now failed to press home his advantage in Lombardy and indeed was forced to abandon the siege of Brescia later in 1238.  On the other hand, Gregory’s fortunes revived when he was finally able to return to Rome in October1238.  He excommunicated Frederick II for the second time at Easter 1239, citing as the prime reason his infringements of the rights of the Church in southern Italy.  This prompted Frederick II to renounce the Promise of Eger (1213), to annexe Città di Castello and to invade the Duchy of Spoleto and the Marche of Ancona.

Imperial troops soon occupied much of the contado of Orvieto, and Acquapendente placed itself under Imperial protection.  Orvieto itself avoided Imperial attack, but factional fighting within the city meant that it could do little to aid the papal cause.  Perugia however had anticipated the change in the theatre of war, and had formed a defensive alliance with Spoleto, Todi, Gubbio and Foligno in 1237.  Frederick II therefore chose to avoid Perugia as he marched south.  Instead, his route passed Città di Castello, which declared for him, and Gubbio, which probably followed suit.  He then reached Gualdo Tadino, which was being rebuilt on a new site after a fire had destroyed the earlier settlement in 1237.  Frederick II gave the town the status of a Commune, built its walls and restored and extended Rocca Flea.  He met with opposition at Nocera Umbra, and his troops used the cathedral there as a military base before destroying it. Imperial soldiers attacked Spello (setting fire to San Lorenzo) and Amelia (damaging the walls and desecrating the Duomo) before these cities submitted. 

Finally, Frederick II arrived in Foligno in late January 1240.  Foligno had by this time repudiated its alliance with Perugia at the behest of Count Napoleone of Antignano, and had sent emissaries out in advance to welcome the Emperor.  Bevagna, Coccorone (soon to be named Montefalco) and Bettona also declared for him, and they were among the towns and cities that sent representatives to the Parliament that Frederick II summoned in the cathedral of San Feliciano, Foligno.  Frederick II appointed Giacomo di Morra as Captain General of the Duchy of Spoleto, and he put in hand the building of a circuit of walls around Foligno and an imperial palace, so that the city would be equipped to act as a permanent centre of Ghibelline power in the Duchy.  He then spent a few days at Coccorone before moving on to Viterbo, from where he threatened Rome. 

Gregory’s response was unusual but effective: in February 1240 he organised a solemn procession of the relics of SS Peter and Paul in order to rouse the Romans in his support.  For reasons that are unclear, Frederick II decided against an assault on Rome, and returned to southern Italy to begin negotiations.  However, hostilities continued.  For example, a band of Saracens in the Imperial army apparently attacked St Clare’s convent of San Damiano on the outskirts of Assisi in September 1240, but withdrew when she appeared before them carrying the Eucharist.  

Gregory IX now summoned a Church Council in Rome for in order to depose Frederick II.  A number of delegates from Northern Europe and Lombardy duly embarked from Genoa for Rome, but forces of Frederick II intercepted them and took them prisoner.  Gregory IX named Matteo Rosso Orsini as Senator of Rome, a move that was no doubt meant to balance the defection of Cardinal Giovanni Colonna to the Imperial cause.  

Orsini held Rome against Frederick II, who then embarked on a diplomatic offensive in the surrounding area.  Gubbio, Spoleto, Todi and Terni all defected in 1241 in return for the grant of Imperial privileges. 

When Gregory IX died in August 1241, Frederick II retired to Sicily to await events.  However, hostilities continued in the following papal interregnum, which lasted for almost two years.

Vitalis d’ Aversa laid siege to Assisi on behalf of Frederick II until a great storm dispersed the attackers at the behest of the prayers of St Clare and her nuns.  Imperial troops also seem to have raided the Abbazia di Sassovivo outside Foligno.  Narni withstood a siege, and in 1242 joined Perugia in an alliance with Matteo Rosso Orsini, by which time Assisi and Orvieto were the only other Umbrian cities that had not submitted to Frederick II. 

However, the anti-imperial cause was boosted in early 1243 when Cardinal Ranier Capocci, a native of Viterbo, organised a rebellion in that city that led to the expulsion of its imperial garrison.

Pope Innocent IV (1243-54)

Soon after his election in December 1243, Pope Innocent IV punished Foligno for its rebellion by transferring its bishop to Nocera Umbra

Nevertheless, Innocent IV seems initially to have been prepared to negotiate with Frederick II.  An interim agreement was reached in March 1244, and it was decided that they should meet at Narni.   Frederick II duly travelled through Spoleto (in May) and Terni.  However, Innocent IV angered Frederick II by appointing a number of new cardinals who were hostile to him.  Innocent IV, for his part suspected that Frederick II intended to capture him.  He therefore fled to Genoa (in June) and then to Lyons (in December): although Lyon was subject to the Empire, Innocent IV could depend upon King Louis IX of France to protect him.  He entrusted the papal treasury to the Sacro Convento at Assisi and left Ranier Capocci as Papal Rector and Riccardo Annibaldi as his Vicar in Rome. 

Frederick II then began to ensure the fortification of a number of his Umbrian cities in the anticipation of renewed hostilities: the walls of Coccorone (soon to be Montefalco) and those that encompass the Borgo Nuovo of Todi date to this period. 

Innocent IV immediately called for a General Council, which met in Lyon in the summer of 1245.  150 prelates came from France, Italy, and Spain attended, as wells as the Latin emperor of Constantinople.  In his opening sermon Innocent IV announced an agenda:

  1. the conflict with Frederick II;

  2. the vices of the clergy;

  3. the "insolence of the Moslems" and the dangerous situation in the eastern Mediterranean;

  4. the ferocity of the Tatars in Eastern Europe (In April 1245 the pope sent Giovanni Da Pian Del Carpini on a mission to the Mongol empire, in order to seek out the great Khan) ; and

  5. the schism with the Greek church in the east and the successes of the Greek schismatics who were intent on regaining control of Constantinople.

In spite of Innocent's announced agenda for reform, the Council of Lyon enacted no major legislation that dealt with the pastoral life of the church or the reform of the clergy.  For the first time in the conciliar history of the medieval Christian church, political affairs completely overwhelmed spiritual concerns.

Innocent IV summoned Frederick II to attend the Council, but excommunicated him once again just before it opened.  Frederick II sent his legate Thaddeus of Suessa.  The Council charged Frederick II with a variety of crimes. Thaddeus put up an effective defence but could not prevent the Council from deposing Frederick II.  Innocent IV called upon the German princes to elect a new emperor and some of them responded by electing Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia.

In 1246, papal spies at the imperial court managed to incite a conspiracy to murder Frederick II, but the conspirators were betrayed.  One of them, Giacomo da Morra, who had previously been Frederick’s rector in the Duchy, fled to Rome, and he persuaded Ranier Capocci that Spoleto itself was ripe for defection.  Ranier assembled an army from Perugia and Assisi to march on Spoleto, in the hope that this would provoke a Guelf uprising there.  However, the new imperial rector, Marino d’ Eboli marshalled the local Ghibelline forces in the plain of Foligno outside Spello, and they devastated the invaders while the jubilant inhabitants of Spello hurled insults on the Guelfs from the safety of their walls.  It was probably to this defeat that the chronicler Salimbene referred when he related how, "a single old woman from Foligno was able to drive ten Perugians off to prison with a simple cane".  

Henry Raspe died in 1247, and the German princes selected William, the Count of Holland in his place.

In early 1247, imperial forces retook Viterbo, and Orvieto defected to the imperial cause.  

The spectacular failure of Frederick’s siege of Parma in the summer of 1247 brought hope to the Guelfs, and Ranier Capocci was able to persuade Spoleto to renounce the imperial cause. 

In 1247, Innocent IV convened a General Chapter of the Franciscans at Lyon.  He deposed Crescentius of Jesi as Minister General, replacing him by John of Parma.

Cardinal Peter Capocci, who replaced Cardinal Ranier Capocci in 1248, failed in his attempted invasion of southern Italy, but he made significant strides in retaking the March of Ancona.  Gubbio however remained loyal to Frederick II, and sent troops to assist him in Lombardy after the fall of Parma.  In return, Frederick II confirmed Gubbio’s ownership of Pergola.  In retaliation, Cagli submitted to Peter Capocci, who granted it much of the contado of Gubbio, and transferred the diocese of Gubbio to Cagli. 

In 1249, Bevagna and Coccorone (Montefalco) rebelled against Foligno.  Bevagna destroyed a number of castles of Count Napoleone of Antignano, and in return Innocent IV granted the town the right to elect its own Podestà.  However, the imperial general Tommaso d’ Aquino, Conte di Acerra retook both cities and sacked them. 

Louis IX of France tried to mediate a settlement of what had become a scandalous spectacle. Innocent IV responded by renewing the excommunication of Frederick II in April 1248.  This unseemly and disastrous situation was resolved on Dec. 13, 1250 when Frederick II died.

End of the Hohenstaufen Emperors (1250-68)

Conrad IV

Conrad IV, Frederick’s only surviving legitimate son, had been elected as King of the Germans in 1237, but his hold on the crown was tenuous.  Innocent IV had supported the competing claims of Henry of Raspe and then (from 1247) William of Holland, and power had inevitably passed to the princes and bishops, few of whom chose to attend the parliament that Conrad summoned in 1251.  He therefore planned to build a new power base in southern Italy.  He had already assumed his father’s title as King of Sicily without papal approval.  Innocent IV sent the Archbishop of Bari to preach a crusade against Conrad IV and his supporters.  Both Conrad IV and Innocent IV then prepared to travel to Italy to resume the fray.  

Innocent IV arrived Italy in April 1251, intent upon re-establishing papal authority particularly in Lombardy.  To this end, he reinvigorated the Inquisition, appointing Peter of Verona (the future St Peter Martyr), the Dominican “hammer of the heretics”, as Inquisitor General.  He then turned his attention to Umbria, arriving at Perugia in November 1251.  He appointed his nephew, Boniface of Fogliano as Papal Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto in 1252, supported by Count Pandolfo II of Anguillara. 

He chose to adopt a lenient policy towards the recent rebels.  Città di Castello had sought and received absolution from Peter Capocci immediately after the death of Frederick II.  Todi seems to have been forgiven by 1251, although the city was soon wracked by internal conflict.  The Ghibelline exiles from Spoleto were reconciled in November 1251 and allowed to return to their homes.  Terni was fined in 1251 for its recent disloyalty, but was pardoned in 1252 even though only half the original fine had been paid.  However, neither Gubbio nor Foligno was to escape lightly, mainly because of the enmity of Perugia.

  1. In February 1251, Perugia, Orvieto, Spoleto, Narni and Assisi formed a Guelf alliance with Florence in which it was laid out that they were prepared to admit Gubbio if it should be reconciled with the papacy.  Gubbio was clearly slow to submit: in February, Innocent IV ordered Peter Capocci to destroy the Gubbian’s castle of Castiglione, and in April he confirmed Cagli in its possession of territory claimed by Gubbio. 

  2. Despite the submission of the Counts of Antignano, Innocent IV refused to absolve Foligno until Perugia agreed, and until it had paid damages to Spello and Trevi for damage that it had inflicted.  The city also experienced a period of internal conflict.  The first mention of a Capitano del Popolo of Foligno dates to this period, and it is likely that this constitutional development marked an attempt to control factional warfare in the city.

Perugia reaped other rewards for her fidelity to the papacy.  Innocent IV prevailed upon William of Holland (whom he recognised as Emperor) to confirm Perugia’s rights over Città della Pieve and Montone in April 1251.  Gualdo Tadino and Nocera Umbra submitted to Perugia soon after, and Dante was to lament the “heavy yoke” that Perugia then inflicted on them. 

Innocent IV was reluctant to move from Perugia to Rome because of his debts to the bankers there, and his reluctance intensified in August 1252, when the Romans appointed the Ghibelline Brancaleone degli Andalò as Capitano del Popolo.  He therefore took up residence in Perugia, and he granted the city important privileges in October 1252. 

Meanwhile, Conrad IV had landed in southern Italy in early 1252, and was in the process of consolidating his position there. 

The Inquisitor General, Peter of Verona was murdered in April 1252, and the consequent outrage paradoxically increased the effectiveness of the Inquisition.  The authorities of Milan immediately proclaimed him to be a saint, and Innocent IV quickly ordered the Archbishop of Milan to begin the formal process of canonisation, asking for the acts to be sent to him immediately on completion in order to ensure a quick canonisation.  He also issued the bull Ad extirpanda (in May), authorising the seizure of the goods of suspected heretics, their imprisonment, torture, and, on conviction, death, all on minimal evidence. 

Innocent IV initiated two other canonisation processes at this time, both in respect of people who had recently died, although neither of these was immediately successful.

  1. Simon of Collazzone (died 1250) belonged to a noble family, but he had renounced his possessions to join the Franciscans.  St Francis had sent him on the mission to Germany in 1221.  He rose to become Provincial Minister of the March, and then of Umbria, before his death at the Franciscan convent of Spoleto.  He was buried in the Franciscans’ church of Sant’ Elia, and miracles were immediately reported at his tomb.  The people of Spoleto soon revered him as a saint, and the Podestà and the commune requested his formal canonisation.  Innocent IV asked Bishop Bartolomeo of Spoleto, Bishop Giacomo of Gubbio and the Abbot of Ferentillo to conduct the enquiry.  The process failed, probably because the cult was extremely local, but the relics of the Blessed Simone were translated with due ceremony to the new church of SS Simone e Giuda in 1260.

  2. Rose of Viterbo (died 1251) had been expelled from Ghibelline Viterbo a few weeks before the death of Frederick II.  Indeed, she had prophesied this event, and her subsequent return and the emotion that surrounded her subsequent death must have helped the revival of the Guelf cause in the city.

Orvieto had retaken Acquapendente and the other parts of its contado immediately after the death of Frederick II.  Innocent IV insisted that much of this was papal territory, but his excommunication of the city in 1251 achieved nothing.  In 1252, he issued a bull that referred to Orvieto ’s habitual fidelity, despite this recent disloyalty and its dalliance with the Ghibelline cause in 1247.  Orvieto renewed its alliance with Florence in 1251 and the allies fought another inconclusive war with Siena (1251-5), despite Innocent’s letter to Orvieto in March 1252 prohibiting this aggression.

Spoleto spent the years after Frederick’s death consolidating the territorial gains that it had made, at least on paper, when it had returned to the papal fold in 1247.  Bishop Bartolomeo Accorombani (1236-71) became the civic as well as the religious leader of Spoleto.  Spoleto inevitably clashed periodically with Norcia, which had emerged by this time from its subjection to Spoleto and taken control of much of the surrounding territory, from Visso in the north to Cascia in the south.

Assisi had remained loyal to the papacy throughout the war with Frederick II, and had been rewarded by enthusiastic papal support for the burgeoning cult of St Francis.  Innocent IV granted the city a number of papal privileges in 1251, and he moved from Perugia to the Sacro Convento there in May 1253.  He consecrated San Francesco soon after, and authorised the use of alms from the faithful for the next 25 years for its completion and decoration.  He visited the dying Clare of Assisi in August, and granted her last wish by approving the Rule that she had written for her followers.  He then officiated at her funeral at San Damiano, and had to be restrained by the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia (the future Pope Alexander IV) from canonising her at the same time.  Instead, he appointed Bishop Bartolomeo of Spoleto to put in hand a rapid process of canonisation.  In September, Innocent IV canonised the 11th century Polish martyr, St Stanislas in the lower church of San Francesco.

Brancaleone summoned Innocent IV to Rome in late 1253, but he found it expedient to return to Assisi in April.  Conrad IV unexpectedly died in May 1254, and this prompted Innocent IV to leave Assisi for southern Italy.  Perugia and Assisi immediately took advantage of his departure to take Spello and then Foligno, in order to avenge their defeat of 1246.  They destroyed the walls of Foligno and subjected the citizens to a series of profoundly humiliating punishments. 


Innocent IV initially met with some success in southern Italy, despite the fact that Conrad’s illegitimate half-brother, Manfred had a claim to the throne there under the terms of their father’s will.  Instead of pressing this claim, Manfred initially came to terms with Innocent IV in return for recognition as Prince of Taranto.  However, he soon rebelled, and he defeated the papal army under Cardinal Octavian degli Ubaldini at the Battle of Foggia in November 1254.  Innocent IV, who was already ill, retired to Naples, where the strain of recent events possibly hastened his death. 

Manfred’s victory at Foggia gave new heart to the Ghibellines at Todi, where the Chiaravallesi drove the Atti out of the city.  However, Pandolfo of Anguillara assembled an army from Spoleto and Perugia that took Todi and restored the Atti.  Pandolfo also installed the Guelf Trincia di Berardo Trinci at Foligno and expelled the Roman Ghibellines from Amelia.

Pope Alexander IV (1254-61)

The reign of Pope Alexander IV was characterised by political chaos: 

  1. Manfred had regained total control of the Kingdom of Sicily by 1258;

  2. the Romans frequently rebelled (even electing Manfred as Senator of Rome in 1261), and Alexander IV had to spend much of his reign in exile;

  3. many cities in the Papal States rallied to Manfred’s cause; and

  4. he could not choose between Richard of Cornwall and Alfonso of Castile, each of whom had managed to be elected as Holy Roman Emperor, so he could not look in that direction for support.

Pope Urban IV (1261-4)

There were only eight cardinals by the time that Alexander IV died at Viterbo, and none could secure the necessary votes to win the papacy.  The choice thus fell by default on a Frenchman, Jacques Pantaléon, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who happened to be at the papal court at the right moment, and who thus became Pope Urban IV.  

His entire reign was devoted to the expensive war against Manfred, which involved persuading Charles d’ Anjou to depose him by force and to assume the  crown of the Two Sicilies.   Urban was never able to reside in Rome.  

Urban IV resided in Orvieto from October 1262 until September 1264.  He is documented as staying in Palazzo Vescovile in 1262 and seems to have begun the adjoining Palazzo dei Papi at this time. 

By September 1264, he was no longer safe in his refuge at Orvieto, and he set out for Assisi.  However, he became ill when he reached Todi and only managed to continue as far as Perugia, where he died.  He was buried in the Duomo, Perugia.

Pope Clement IV ( 1265-8)

The papal conclave at Perugia that eventually elected Pope Clement IV extended over a number of months in at Perugia in 1264-5 .  Clement IV was serving as papal legate to England at this time, and had to return hurriedly to Perugia for his consecration.  He then remained in the city for more than a year. 

Clement IV had to devote most of this time to the raising of finance since papal credit in Italy was almost exhausted.  He nevertheless presided over the eventual defeat of the Hohenstaufen:

  1. Charles d’ Anjou finally arrived in Italy and was crowned in Rome as King of the Two Sicilies in January 1266. 

  2. He defeated Manfred and took possession of his new domain in 1266, and took possession of the kingdom.

  3. Conradin, the grandson of Frederick II and the last of his line crossed the Alps in 1267 and announced his intention to take the kingdom.  Clement IV excommunicated him and placed a number of Ghibelline cities (including Città di Castello) under interdict.

  4. Charles d’ Anjou became the undisputed King of the Two Sicilies after the Battle of Tagliacozzo (1268) and the subsequent execution of Conradin.

Clement IV died at Viterbo in November, 1268. 


The Guelf cities of Orvieto and Perugia now grew in importance.

Clement IV stayed in Orvieto for most of April 1266, and consecrated San Francesco, Orvieto . 

Charles d' Anjou arrived in Orvieto in 1268: even many of the Guelfs resented his presence, although the leading Monaldeschi family strongly identified itself with the Angevin cause.

Pope Gregory X (1271-6)

The conclave held at Viterbo to elect the successor of Clement IV lasted two years, nine months and two days, the longest in papal history. 

The conclave was marred, in April 1271, by the murder of Henry of Cornwall (see below) by Guy de Montfort in Viterbo.   The background to this sad event was the Battle of Evesham (1265), at which the forces of King Henry III of England led by Prince Edward (Guy’s cousin and the future King Edward I) defeated and killed and mutilated the bodies of Guy’s father, the rebel Simon de Montfort, and his elder brother. 

  1. Guy managed to escape from his subsequent imprisonment and to reach Italy.  Charles d’ Anjou recognised his military prowess by making him Count of Nola and appointed him as his vicar in Tuscany.  He married the immensely rich Margherita Aldobrandesca in 1270, and thus became the owner of a tract of land between Viterbo and Orvieto that owed nominal allegiance to the latter.  

  2. Edward I and another of his cousins, Henry of Cornwall left England in 1270 to join the crusade planned by King Louis IX of France and Charles d’ Anjou.  When they reached Sicily, Edward I sent Henry of Cornwall back to gascony, and he broke his journey at Viterbo in order to see the events surrounding the papal conclave.  This gave Guy de Montfort the opportunity for revenge.   Edward continued to join the crusaders in Tunis, and arrived in time to learn that Louis IX had died.  He then continued with the forces of Charles d’ Anjou for Acre.

Tedaldo Visconti, archdeacon of Liège, was on crusade with Prince Edward when he received the news of his election in absentia as Pope Gregory X.    He reached Viterbo in February 1272 and was consecrated in Rome a month later.  

Gregory X arrived in Orvieto in June 1272.  He stayed in the city for a year while he prepared for his departure for France and for the Council of Lyon.  In a Bull dated 1st March 1273, Gregory X referred to a meeting of the Curia "in palatio nostro Urbevetano" (in our palace in Orvieto).  Two cardinals died in the city during this stay:

  1. Annibaldo Annibaldi della Molara in 1272; and

  2. Odo di Chateauroux in 1273. 

Both were buried at San Domenico, Orvieto.

Edward I learned of the death of his father, Henry III in November 1272, while he was still in Acre, and immediately left for England.   He reached Orvieto in 1273,  and attended the funeral in San Francesco of Henry of Cornwall.  Gregory X officiated at this service, which was also attended by Charles d’ Anjou.

Gregory X died at Arezzo in January, 1276.   Three more popes were to succeed him in the following 22 months, before the election of Pope Nicholas III in November 1277.

Pope Nicholas III (1277-80)

As, Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, the future Pope Nicolas III had been appointed as Cardinal Protector of the Franciscan Order in 1263.  He probably began the extensive programme of frescoes that were to cover the walls of the upper church of San Francesco, Assisi.

He wrested control of Rome from Charles d’ Anjou, and was proclaimed sole senator of Rome, for life in 1278.

Pope Martin IV (1281-5)

Pope Martin IV was extremely unpopular with the Romans, who considered him to be merely a client of Charles d' Anjou. 

He was crowned at Sant’ Andrea, Orvieto in the presence of Charles d’ Anjou and stayed in the city from March 1281 until June 1284.  He filled the city with Frenchmen who were hugely unpopular.  One of these men was Cardinal Guglielmo di Braye, who died there in 1282.  Arnolfo di Cambio had just finished a fountain in Perugia at this point, and he was commissioned to sculpt the monument to Cardinal Guglielmo di Braye (ca. 1282).  The works seems to have been done in Rome, although Arnolfo must have been in Orvieto for the erection of the monument in San Domenico.

The Guelf cause in Italy suffered a decisive blow when a revolt in Sicily (the so-called Sicilian Vespers) drove Charles d’ Anjou from the island in 1282, thereby cutting what had been the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into two:

  1. King Peter III of Aragon, who was married to the daughter of Manfred of Hohenstaufen, was welcomed by the Sicilians as their legitimate king albeit that this entailed his excommunication.

  2. Charles d’ Anjou ruled over the rest of southern Italy from his capital at Naples.  

In the aftermath of the Sicilian Vespers, the Guelf cause in Italy was undermined.   One example of this occurred at Foligno, which was torn by factional strife.  According to the “Chronicle”of Brother Salimbene, "the Perugians prepared to go out against Foligno and destroy it.  But [Martin IV] sent a message saying that, in no wise, under threat of excommunication were they to attack Foligno for [it] was papal territory.  Yet the Perugians did not desist; they made the expedition and laid waste to the entire district up to the very moats of the city.  They were, therefore excommunicated.  But they were indignant at this, and so they made straw images of the Pope and the Cardinals and dragged them shamefully throughout the whole city and up to the top of the mountain.  They burned the image of the Pope dressed in red, together with the Cardinals, saying, ‘This is Cardinal so-and-so and this is Cardinal such-and-such’ ".   

Martin IV duly subjected Perugia and its ally Bettona to an interdict in 1283.  The Perugians nevertheless persisted, but when they suffered militarily they agreed to a truce.  Martin IV granted them absolution in 1283, when the Curia moved to their city.  Bettona was duly absolved in 1285.   Foligno protected its position, despite the “Ghibelline” sympathies of its leader, Anastasio di Filippo degli Anastasi, by naming Martin IV as Podestà throughout the period 1284-6.

The Aragonese defeated the Angevins in a naval battle off Sicily in 1284 and captured Charles, the son of Charles d’ Anjou . The following year was notable for the deaths of:

  1. Charles d’ Anjou (in March);

  2. Martin IV, who died in Perugia and was buried in the Duomo there (in October);

  3. King Philip II of France (also in October); and

  4. Peter III of Aragon (in November).

Pope Honorius IV (1285-7)

At the time of the election of Pope Honorius IV in Perugia:

  1. Alfonso III had succeeded Peter III as King of Aragon;

  2. his younger brother was now King James of Sicily; and

  3. King Charles II of Naples was still a prisoner in Barcelona.

Honorius IV thus found himself as the de facto rule of the Kingdom of Naples.   Charles II was ready to concede the loss of Sicily in return for his freedom, but Honorius IV refused to countenance such a move.   An attempted papal/Angevin invasion of Sicily in 1287 failed and 40 galleys and 5,000 men were taken by the Aragonese. 

Among the prisoners was Guy de Montfort, the murderer of Henry of Cornwall, who had lost his title but continued in Angevin service.  He died in an Aragonese prison in the following year.

Honorius IV was the first pope for some decades who was welcome in Rome, where he died in 1287.

Pope Nicholas IV (1288-92)

After a protracted conclave in Rome, Brother Jerome of Ascoli became the first Franciscan elected to the papacy, as Pope Nicholas IV

Edward I of England finally negotiated the release of Charles II of Naples in 1288, although he was forced to leave his sons Louis and Robert (see below) as hostages.   They spent the next seven years in a remote fortress in Catalonia.  Nicholas IV crowned Charles II in 1289 but refused to allow him to meet the other terms on which he had been released, Instead, he excommunicated Alfonso III, and the dispute over Sicily continued.

War between Perugia and Foligno re-erupted in 1288 when Perugia formed an alliance with Todi and ravaged the contado of Foligno.  Nicholas IV sent Cardinals Benedict Caetani and Matteo Rosso II Orsini (see below) to arbitrate between the parties.  Perugia remained defiant and the legates placed the city under interdict.  Perugia responded by invading the contado of Foligno with its allies from Spello and Todi and taking the castles of Antignano and Torricella, near Bevagna.  The people of Foligno underlined their desire for peace by appointing the Guelf Corrado Trinci as Podestà in 1288, followed by his brother, Trincia Trinci in 1289.  Corrado acted as Foligno’s delegate to Perugia in 1289, and managed to reach a settlement.  Nicholas IV facilitated peace negotiations and attended the ceremony at which Foligno effectively submitted to Perugia in 1289.

Nicholas IV resided in Orvieto from June 1290 until October 1292.  He became the first pope to accept the posts of Podestà and Capitano del Popolo of Orvieto, posts that he exercised through the papal vicar. 

Nicholas IV cleared the way for the construction of the new Duomo of Orvieto by settling the dispute between Bishop Francesco Monaldeschi and the cathedral canons that had until then prevented the demolition of property that cluttered the site.   In the bull that recorded the terms of the agreement, he proclaimed: “Quod ipsa Ecclesia … nobilis et solemnis ad instar Sancta Marie Maiores de Urbe construatur”  (This church will be built nobly and solemnly, like Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome).  He then laid the foundation stone  and granted indulgences to those helping to meet the cost of construction.  It seems that he extended the Palazzo dei Papi towards the new Duomo, and it is likely that he viewed the latter as an integral part of the extended papal complex.

Nicholas IV probably commissioned the frescoes in the nave of the upper church of San Francesco, Assisi, including famous cycle of 28 scenes from the life of St Francis.

Conclave (1292-4)

The cardinals who met in Rome after the death of Nicholas IV in April 1292 to elect a new pope included:

  1. Benedetto Caetani, the future Pope Boniface VIII;

  2. Matthew of Acquasparta;

  3. Giacomo Colonna;

  4. Pietro Colonna;

  5. Latino Malabranca Orsini;

  6. Matteo Rosso Orsini; and

  7. Napoleone Orsini.

The Colonna and Orsini cardinals were split along family lines, which lead to deadlock.  Disorder grew in Rome as the conclave failed to reach a conclusion, and the cardinals retired to Perugia in October 1293. 

Cardinal Caetani remained neutral between the Orsini and Colonna families, probably hoping for his own election.  Nicholas IV had made him the guardian of the Countess Margherita Aldobrandino on the death of Guy de Montfort in 1288, and he probably hoped to arrange a marriage between the widow and one of his relatives.  However, these hopes suffered a setback when the cardinals transferred the guardianship to Cardinal Napoleone, who promptly arranged her marriage to his brother, Orsello Orsini, in 1293.

Orvieto attacked Orsini in 1293 when he refused to acknowledge its suzerainty, but they were soon reconciled and in 1294 he led an opportunistic attack by Orvieto on Bolsena and other territory claimed by the papacy.  The cardinals placed Orvieto under interdict and sent what forces they could command, but were unable to restrain Orvieto.

Pope Celestine V (1294)

Napoleone Orsini was shocked by the unexpected death of his young brother in 1294, and shortly after Latino Malabranca Orsini announced that he had received a letter from a renowned hermit, Pietro del Morrone, in which prophesied divine retribution if the cardinals did not soon elect a pope.  Such was the atmosphere that the cardinals took the extraordinary decision to elect the 85 year old Pietro del Morrone as Pope Celestine V.

King Charles II of Naples immediately took charge of Celestine V, whom he installed in the Castel Nouvo.  Celestine V badly missed his hermitage and sought resignation.  Cardinal Benedetto Caetani advised him that this was canonically possible, and he duly resigned.  The relieved the cardinals subsequently elected Benedetto Caetani as Pope Boniface VIII.  He immediately revoked all the privileges the Celestine V had granted "in the fullness of his simplicity", and imprisoned him (probably in reasonably humane conditions) until his death in 1296.

Pope Boniface VIII (1294 - 1303)

Boniface VIII sent Cardinal Napoleone Orsini to Orvieto in 1295 in order to negotiate terms for the removal of the interdict.  However, these negotiations failed and Boniface VIII insisted that Bishop Francesco Monaldeschi (who was sympathetic to the Commune) should transfer to Florence.  The situation changed when Orsello Orsini died in 1295, so that the Countess Margherita Aldobrandino was once more available for marriage.   Cardinal Matteo Rosso Orsini now acted as mediator and terms were finally agreed in 1296.   Boniface VIII was named Capitano del Popolo of Orvieto.  In what was almost certainly a side-deal, the Countess Margherita was married to Roffredo Caetani very shortly afterwards.

Boniface VIII was welcomed into Orvieto, where he stayed in June - october 1267.  He made a substantial donation towards the cost of the Duomo, and the Commune began the construction of a new palace for him.  This palace, later called Palazzo Soliano, was still in construction when Boniface VIII left the city.  [Statues]

Boniface VIII excommunicated Uguccione della Faggiola , the Ghibelline commander of Cesena, Forlì, Faenza and Imola, in 1296.

In 1296, Boniface VIII absolved the Ghibelline Duke Guido da Montefeltro from excommunication and used his forces in his attack on the Colonna family.  Guido subsequently became a Franciscan and died at the Sacro Convento in 1298.

Boniface VIII came into open conflict with the Colonna family when Stefano Colonna seized a consignment of papal gold that was being taken from Anagni to Rome in 1297.  Cardinals Giacomo and Pietro Colonna arranged for the gold to be returned but refused his demand that they surrender some of their strongholds, including Palestrina.

  1. Boniface VIII duly excommunicated them.

  2. They in turn issued a manifesto that declared that the resignation of Celestine V had been uncanonical  and that the election of Boniface VIII had been invalid (despite the fact that they had voted for it). 

  3. Boniface VIII then excommunicated other members of the Colonna family, declared their property to be forfeit, withdrew from Rome to Orvieto and proclaimed a crusade against them. 

The Colonna rebels were defeated and fled into exile; most of their property was distributed among papal allies and Palestrina was raised to the ground.

Relations between Boniface VIII and King Philip IV of France had been strained since 1296 over the right of the latter to tax the clergy in France.  Boniface VIII managed to reduce the tension by a series of moves that included the canonisation of St Louis IX of France (at San Francesco, Orvieto) in 1297.  Thus his position seemed secure when he inaugurated the Jubilee of 1300, an event that attracted some 200,000 pilgrims to Rome.

Boniface VIII appointed Cardinal Napoleone Orsini as legate to the Marches and rector of the Sabina (including Terni, Stroncone and Otricoli) in 1297.

In 1300, the Ghibelline Duke Federico I da Montefeltro and Uguccione della Faggiola (who was then Podestà of Ghibelline Arezzo) seized the city of Gubbio and expelled the Guelfs.  Boniface VIII sent Napoleone Orsini, who acted as papal legate for Umbria, Spoleto, and the March of Ancona in the period 1300-1, to quell the revolt.  He joined up with the exiled Cante dei Gabrielli, and they were quickly successful. 

[The Treaty of Caltabellotta (1301) finally heralded peace between the Aragonese rulers of Sicily and the Angevins of Naples]

The dispute Boniface VIII and Philip IV reignited in 1301, fanned by Colonna exiles at the French court.  In 1302, Boniface VIII asserted his supremacy in the bull “Unam Sanctam”, in which he stated: “We declare, affirm and define as a truth necessary for salvation that every human being is subject to the Roman pontiff”.  Guillaume de Nogaret, the chief minister of Philip IV, denounced Boniface VIII as a heretical criminal and called for a general Council to depose him.  Boniface VIII in turn excommunicated Guillaume de Nogaret, the chief minister of Philip IV and Philip IV in 1303.

Guillaume de Nogaret and Giacomo Colonna travelled to Italy at the head of a small army of mercenaries and surprised Boniface VIII at Anagni.  He was badly beaten before local people forced his release after three days.  Cardinal Matteo Rossi Orsini escorted him back to Rome, but he died shortly after.

Spiritual Franciscans in the 13th Century

Disparate groups of Franciscan friars who were dissatisfied with the way in which their Rule was observed within the Order began to emerge in the last decades of the 13th century.  These “zelanti” (zealous ones), later called Spirituals, wanted the Rule to be observed according to the Testament of St Francis: “simply and without gloss” (i.e. without the benefit of learned and legalistic exposition). 

Peter John Olivi

The earliest of the groups that were to have historical importance emerged in Provence around Brother Peter John Olivi.  He joined the Order at Béziers in 1260, when he was only 12 years old, and later studied at Paris.  He was among those who advised Nicholas III on the controversy surrounding Franciscan poverty as he prepared his bull "Exiit Qui Seminat" (1279).  His Joachimite views brought him into conflict with the leading Franciscans in his home province of Provence, and he emerged as the spokesman for the zelanti.  He was accused of heresy at the General Chapter of 1282, censured and suffered the confiscation of his writings in 1283.  However, he was absolved at the General Chapter of 1287.

Matthew of Acquasparta, the Minister General decided that Peter John Olivi would be safer outside Provence, so he appointed him as lector in theology to the convent of Santa Croce, Florence, one of the most important Franciscan studia.  It was at this time that he became the hero of the young Ubertino da Casale (see below).  The next Minister General, Raymond de Gaufredi  appointed Peter John Olivi as lector at Montpellier in 1289.  He officiated at a General Chapter in Paris in 1292 at which Peter John Olivi was able to justify his views on the Franciscan Rule to the satisfaction of his Order. 

Peter John Olivi spent his last years in the convent of Narbonne, where he died in 1298.  His tomb there became a pilgrimage site.  Olivi’s followers treasured his books and used them to support their extreme Joachimite views.  These writings were therefore condemned in 1299, and those who refused to surrender them were punished.

Angelo Clareno

Angelo Clareno joined the Order in the Marches in 1270 and became associated there with the zelanti that congregated around the Blessed Conrad of Offida. and were led by Brother Liberato.  Brothers Liberato and Angelo and some of their associates were imprisoned in ca. 1279, because of their rebellion against the established practices of their Order.  They languished in jail for bout eleven years, until the new Minister General, Raymond de Gaufredi freed them in 1289 and sent them as missionaries to Armenia. 

The exiled zelanti returned to Italy  from Armenia in 1294 and, when they received a frosty welcome in the Marches, Raymond de Gaufredi suggested that Brothers Liberato and Angelo should seek protection for their brothers from the newly-elected Celestine V at Aquila. This advice was endorsed by Conrad of Offida and by Jacopone da Todi (see below).  Celestine V readily took under papal protection all those friars who wanted to observe the Rule and Testament of St. Francis, without the papal interpretations and absolved them from their vows of obedience to their erstwhile superiors.  He declared that they were to be known as the Poor Hermits of Pope Celestine, and instructed the monks of his own congregation to put some of their own places in southern Italy at the the disposal of what was, in effect, a new order.  He formally designated Brother Liberato as their leader and appointed Cardinal Napoleone Orsini as their Cardinal Protector.  

Not surprisingly, the zelanti recognised in Celestine V the “angelic pope” who would reform the Church, replacing corruption and internal strife with goodness and justice.  His election seemed to herald the Age of the Holy Spirit that had been promised in the Joachimite prophecies.  Their hopes were of course in ruins when he subsequently resigned.

Boniface VIII was initially inclined to tolerate the zelanti but he reacted against them when it was pointed out to him that many of them denied his right to the papacy.  He deposed Raymond de Gaufredi in  1295, and Brothers Liberato and Angelo and some of their associates wisely fled to an island in what is now Greece.  When Boniface VIII asked the Patriarch of Constantinople to arrest them, they moved to Thessaly.  

Ubertino da Casale

Ubertino da Casale, who joined the Order in 1273, studied in Paris and then returned to Italy in 1285.   His spiritual life was changed soon after when he met the deposed Brother John of Parma at Greccio and also the Blessed Angela of Foligno.  He then lectured in Tuscany for about four years, perhaps at Santa Croce, Florence and he certainly met and became devoted to Peter John Olivi there.  They both left Tuscany in ca. 1289, and this seems to have removed the effective opposition to the rebuilding of Santa Croce,Florence: work began on the present church in 1295.  Ubertino da Casale now became an itinerant preacher in Umbria, and seems to have been essentially unmolested during the reign of Boniface VIII, despite the fact (as his later writing made clear) that Ubertino believed that the election of Boniface VIII had been uncanonical.

Blessed Jacopone da Todi

Jacopone da Todi was among the Spirituals who received permission from Celestine V to  join the Celestine Order.  He signed the manifesto of Cardinals Giacomo and Pietro Colonna against Boniface VIII in 1297, and he also wrote scurrilous verse that criticised him.  He was therefore imprisoned at Palestrina, and released only after Boniface's death.


The post of Podestà began to emerge in Umbria at the end of the 12th century:

  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. 

Assisi, which had only established a Commune in 1198, had a Podestà in 1204, and consular government seems to have disappeared after 1212.

The office of Podestà appeared at: Spoleto and Todi, by 1201, Gubbio by 1203, Narni by 1215, Terni by 1218, Montefalco before 1239, Gualdo Tadino by 1246, Norcia by 1250, Nocera Umbra by 1251, and Amelia by 1253. 

The office of Capitano del Popolo appeared at: Orvieto in 1251; Città di Castello in 1254, Perugia and Todi in 1255; Terni in 1258; Gubbio before 1261; Narni in 1260 and Gualdo Tadino before 1282.

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