Key to Umbria

Umbria in the 9th Century

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Louis the Pious (813-40)

After Charlemagne's death in 814, his only surviving son, Louis the Pious succeeded him as Emperor.  Unlike Charlemagne, he had a clear concept of the Holy Roman Emperor as supreme secular head of a united Christian empire.   He therefore ignored the Carolingian tradition that the Empire should be divided among his heirs on his death: instead he designated his eldest son Lothar as his principal heir, to whom his younger brothers Pippin of Aquitaine and Louis the German, as well as his cousin, King Bernard of Italy, would be subordinated.

While Lothar’s brothers initially confined themselves to surly acceptance of the situation,  Bernard rose in rebellion in 817.  Louis the Pious used this as an excuse to establish his own men in Italy.  Bernard was captured and blinded.  He died from his injuries in 818 and Lothar replaced him as King Lothar I of Italy. 

In 817, in the so-called ‘Privilegium Ludovici’, Louis the Pious confirmed Narni, Otricoli, Perugia and Terni as possessions of Pope Pascal I, presumably because they were considered part of the Duchy of Rome.  Orvieto was similarly recognised.

Duke Winigis of Spoleto (789-822)

Duke Winigis, who had probably supported Bernard, managed to survive, doubtlessly because of his strong personal following in the Duchy.  

A dispute over property between Duke Winigis  and the Abbazia di Farfa culminated in a hearing at Norcia in 821 at which a representative of the Emperor Louis the Pious officiated.  Two Umbrian bishops attended: Bishop Sigualdus of Spoleto and Bishop Magione of Assisi.

Duke Winigis retired through ill health in 822.   The Duchy of Spoleto seems to have remained without a duke for the next 20 years.

King Lothar I of Italy (822-44)

Lothar I assumed the government of Italy in 822 and Pope Paschal I crowned him as co-emperor in 823.  In the following year, he promulgated a statute concerning the relations of pope and emperor which reserved the supreme power to the secular ruler.  He also issued various ordinances for the government of Italy.  He was forced to spend much of the 830s defending his position in Francia, and delegated the defence of Rome to Guy of Nantes, whom he subsequently appointed as Duke Guy I of Spoleto (842-60). 

The main threat at this time came from the Saracens, who had overrun Byzantine Sicily by 830 and established mainland bases opposite Messina and at Bari.  This threat intensified when Duke Sicard of Benevento, the ruler of the Lombard duchy to the south, was murdered in 839.  Saracens now began to raid the coast of the peninsula.   

The civil wars that had convulsed the Carolingian Empire during the reign of Louis the Pious intensified after his death in 840.  Lothar I  claimed the whole of the empire but was defeated in battle by his brother, Louis the German and his young half-brother, Charles the Bald.  The turmoil ended in 843, when the Treaty of Verdun split the Empire between the three of them.  Lothar I received a narrow strip of territory that extended from the North Sea coast through modern Burgundy and Switzerland.  He also kept the Kingdom of Italy and retained the title of Holy Roman Emperor, albeit that the reality of a Western Empire was no more.  He passed his title as King of Italy to his son, Louis in 844, although he remained involved in Italian affairs until 851.

King Louis II of Italy (844-75)

Pope Sergius II crowned Louis as King Louis II of Italy in 844.  He was to spend the rest of his life in Italy, and was indeed the only Carolingian ruler to do so.

In 846, Saracen raiders sailed to Ostia and attacked Rome, sacking St Peter’s and other churches and communities outside the walls until Guy I arrived with forces from Spoleto and repelled the attack.

Pope Leo IV (847-55)

Pope Leo IV (847-55) rebuilt the defences of Rome to include St Peter’s and fortified the coastal cities that defended Rome, a project undertaken with the financial assistance of Lothar I.  He also mobilised fleets from Gaeta, Naples and Amalfi to defeat a second Saracen raid on Rome in 849.  Nevertheless, the Saracen threat intensified and the independent rulers to the south of Rome were unable to unite in order to remove it. 

Leo IV  crowned Louis II as co-emperor in 850 in an effort to ensure his continued interest in meeting the Saracen threat. 

In 850, Lothar I convened the Council of Pavia.  Pope Leo IV sent Bishop Domenico of Foligno as his representative.

By 851, Louis II had assumed the independent government of Italy.

In 853, Leo IV held a synod in Rome, which dealt with matters of discipline and achieved the condemnation of Anastasius, Cardinal of St Marcellus (later Antipope Anastasius Bibliothecarius) for disobedience.  According to the ‘Liber Pontificalis’, it was attended by 67 bishops, four of whom had been sent by Lothar I and Louis II: the four included Bishop Peter II of Spoleto.   The Umbrian bishops attending were:

  1. Albano of Amelia;

  2. Ivo [or Ibone] of Assisi;

  3. Roderico of Citta di Castello;

  4. Domenico of Foligno;

  5. Erfo of Gubbio;

  6. Stefano I of Narni;

  7. Pietro I of Orvieto;

  8. a representative of Benedetto II of Perugia;

  9. Peter II of Spoleto (mentioned above); and

  10. Agatone II of Todi.

After the synod, Leo IV sent Peter II of Spoleto as his legate to the Council of Soissons (854).

The Saracen threat seems to have been particularly strong in Umbria in the 850s:

  1. Saracen raiders destroyed Tadino in ca. 850 and what remained of the city was incorporated into the county of Nocera, which Lothar I had recently created and granted to Monaldo, one of the sons of Duke Guy I of Spoleto;

  2. Gubbio repelled a Saracen attack in 853; and

  3. Saracens raiders sacked Città di Castello in 857.

Louis II, Sole Emperor (855-75)

On the death of Lothar I in 855, Louis II became sole emperor, but he obtained no territory outside Italy.  This aroused his discontent and led to his involvement in the tumultuous politics north of the Alps.  This led to some small territorial gains there, the most important of which was his acquisition of the Kingdom of Provence  in 863.

In 866, Louis II assembled the largest army ever seen in Italy and marched South against the Saracens, reinforced by a naval fleet from Venice.  When he conquered the Emirate of Bari in 871 he was at the height of his power.  However, he was immediately undermined when his erstwhile allies turned against him.  Duke Adelchis of Benevento imprisoned him, and he was forced to acknowledge the effective independence of Benevento.  Duke Lambert I of Spoleto joined the revolt.

The prestige of Louis II never recovered from the humiliation at the hands of his allies, who forced him to swear that he would take no revenge.  When he returned to Rome, Pope Hadrian II released him from his oath and crowned him a second time as emperor (872).  He duly expelled Lambert I from the duchy.

Louis II died prematurely and without heirs in 875 and was buried in Milan.

End of the Carolingians

Charles the Bald (875-7)

With the death of Louis II, Pope John VIII (872-82) moved to the forefront of the defence against the Saracens.  In return for a series of territorial concessions, he crowned Louis’ uncle, Charles the Bald as Holy Roman Emperor in 875. 

Charles duly reinstated Lambert I as Duke of Spoleto.  In 876, he sent Lambert I and his brother (later Guy III - see below) to accompany John VIII to Naples to break up the alliances that many of the southern Lombard states had made with the Saracens.

Charles the Bald died in while crossing the Alps in 877 to attend to political problems in his northern territories.

Carloman (877-9)

Carloman, the son of Charles’ brother, Louis the German, now marched into Italy to assert his claim to the crown.  Anti-papal forces marched on Rome in 878, led by:

  1. Duke Lambert I of Spoleto;

  2. Duke Adalbert I of Tuscany (who had married Rotilde, the daughter of Lambert I, in 859); and

  3. representatives of Bishop Formosus (an enemy of John VIII who was excommunicated in 876 and who became  Pope Formosus in 891).

They duly captured John VIII, but he escaped and fled to Troyes, from whence he excommunicated Lambert I and Adalbert I.  During this conflict, Adalbert I sacked Narni and seized the relics of SS Juvenal and Cassius and took them to the church of San Frediano, Lucca.  [Relics of SS Vincent and Benignus of Bevagna subsequently turned up at San Frediano, and they may also have been seized at this time].

Carloman suffered a stroke in 879 and surrendered the Kingdom of Italy to his brother, Charles the Fat.

Charles the Fat (879-86)

Charles the Fat was crowned as King of Italy in November 879.  John VIII met him in Ravenna in  January 880, and recognised his claim to Italy.   However, Charles the Fat refused the pleas of John VIII that he should continue immediately to Rome: he returned across the Alps after delegating his power in Italy to Duke Guy II of Spoleto.   John VIII absolved Adalbert I of Tuscany on condition (inter alia) that he return the relics of St Juvenal to Narni.

On 18 July 880, John VIII sent a conciliatory letter to Duke Guy II of Spoleto, but the recipient responded by invading the Papal States.  John VIII appealed to Charles the Fat, who consequently returned to Rome (in February 881) for his imperial coronation.   This apparently did little to calm the situation: John VIII referred to Guy II as “rabbia” (rage) in a letter to Charles the Fat dated to 11 November 881, and this apparently became his nickname.

In February 882, Charles the Fat convoked a diet in Ravenna, at which he negotiated peace between John VIII his opponents, Guy II and his uncle, Duke Guy of Camerino (later Duke Guy III of Spoleto - see below), who vowed to restore stolen papal lands.  However, John VIII wrote to Charles the Fat in the following March, complaining that this promise remained unfulfilled.  Charles the Fat left Italy again in May 882, leaving John VIII at the mercy of his enemies, who murdered him in December 882.

Throughout this unhappy period, the Saracen threat went unchecked.  Saracens raiders sacked Narni in 876, Foligno in 881, Narni again in 882 and Terni and Trevi at unknown dates in the late 9th century.  The abbeys of Monte Cassino and San Vincenzo al Volturno fell in 883. 

When Guy II died in 882, his uncle, the erstwhile Duke of Camerino, succeeded as Duke Guy III of Spoleto (below).  He was accused of treason at an imperial synod held at Nonantula in May 883.  He duly returned to the Spoleto and made an alliance with the Saracens.  Charles the Fat sent an army under Duke Berengar of Friuli against him, but an epidemic caused it to retreat.  Charles the Fat was forced to make peace with him in 884, when he formally recovered his titles

The death of Charles the Fat in 888 marked the end of the Carolingian dominance of Italy.

Duke Guy III of Spoleto (883-95)

Duke Guy III of Spoleto spent the period 887-8 in West Francia, where he had hopes of taking the imperial crown, but returned to Italy when these came to nothing.  He then fought Duke Berengar of Friuli for the Iron Crown of Lombardy and defeated him at the Battle of Trebbia.  He forced Pope Stephen VI to crown him as King Guy I of Italy in 889 and as Holy Roman Emperor in 891, at which point his son, Lambert II (see below) was crowned as King of Italy.  He thus became the first non-Carolingian Holy Roman Emperor.  In reality, his imperial title meant nothing outside Italy, although he was, in effect, the master of the papacy and of Rome.  Duke Berengar of Friuli did not give up his aspirations, but for the moment he was boxed into his lands in the northeast around Verona.  

After his accession, Pope Formosus (891-4), the Spoletans’ erstwhile ally, now feared Spoletan dominance in Rome.  He was nevertheless forced to re-crown Guy III at Ravenna in 892 and to crown Guy’s son, Lambert II (see below) as co-emperor.   Guy III and Lambert ruled much of northern and central Italy from Pavia, although Duke Berengar of Friuli had created an effectively independent kingdom in the north east. 

In 893 Formosus appealed to Arnulf of Carinthia, King of East Francia to rescue Rome from what he saw as the tyranny of Guy III.  However, by the time of Arnulf’s invasion of Italy in 896, Guy III was dead.

Duke Lambert II of Spoleto (895-8)

Ageltrude of Benevento, the wife of Guy III, still held Rome on behalf of their son, the putative Duke Lambert II, and Formosus languished in imprisonment in the Castel Sant‘ Angelo.  After a vigorous defence, she and her supporters had to withdraw to Spoleto in 896.  The liberated Formosus crowned Arnulf as Holy Roman Emperor, but before he could invade the Duchy of Spoleto, he was paralysed by a stroke.  He returned to East Francia to die, and Formosus soon followed him to the grave. 

Lambert II was once more the master of Rome.  He  reached an agreement with Duke Berengar of Friuli that gave him control of the rest of central Italy.  He was able to select the next pope, Pope Stephen VII, who confirmed his imperial title.  The new pope submitted the rotting corpse of Formosus to a trial before condemning it and throwing it into the Tiber.  Formosan supporters in turn murdered Stephen VII some six months later. 

At the Abbazia di Farfa, Abbot Peter (890-919) held out against Saracen raids in the period 890-7 before abandoning the abbey.  The Saracens established a fortress in the abbey, and it was subsequently destroyed when robbers set fire to it, probably by mistake.  The legend of St John of Spoleto, which was written in the 10th century, refers to the destruction of Spoleto itself by saracens: if this is correct, it probably happened at this time.

Guy IV, who was probably Lambert’s younger brother (and who seems to have acted as Duke Guy IV of Spoleto from 889, the date at which their father had become King of Italy) was murdered in Rome in 897 by agents of Alberic, a former courtier of Guy III.

On his election in 898, Pope John IX rehabilitated Formosus.  When Lambert convened a diet at Ravenna to oppose this move, the bishops acted wisely to diffuse the situation: they confirmed the election of John IX and his rehabilitation of Formosa, but they also confirmed the validity of Lambert's imperial title.  It seemed for a moment that they would now be able to restore the dignity of Rome and rescue the surrounding countryside (including the contadi of Narni and Orte) from Saracen occupation. 

However, these hopes were dashed when Duke Berengar of Friuli mounted a revolt in 898 and Lambert II died (perhaps assassinated).   Berengar took Pavia and was crowned as King Berengar I of Italy.  Chaos ensued, and events were to prove that the reign of Lambert II was the last with any pretensions to the Carolingian succession.

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