Key to Umbria

Umbria in the Early 10th Century

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact


King Berengar I (898-924)
When Alberic murdered Duke Guy IV in 897, the field was open for King Berengar I (see Umbria in the 9th century).  However, his moment of glory ended in 899, when the first Hungarian raiders appeared in Italy and destroyed his army and his prestige.  As a result, Pope Benedict IV (900-3) crowned the grandson of Louis II as Emperor Louis III on 901. Berengar I captured him in 905, blinded him and sent him back to Provence, but this was a further blow to his standing.   
[Hungarians sacked Foligno in 915, Città di Castello in 917, Foligno again and Gubbio in 924, and Terni and Trevi at unknown dates in the early 10th century]   
Berengar I was too busy fighting Hungarians in the north to participate in the defeat of the Saracens in the south in 915 (see below).  Nevertheless, Pope John X (see below) invited him to Rome later in 915 and crowned him as Holy Roman Emperor. 
When the nobles of the north revolted in 924 and tried to install Rudolf of Burgundy as Holy Roman Emperor, Berengar I turned to Hungarian mercenaries for support.   These mercenaries sacked Pavia but did little to further Berengar’s cause.  He was murdered in Verona soon after, probably in an act of revenge for the fate of Pavia.
Many scholars regard Berengar I as having been an incompetent and impotent ruler, who never won a pitched battle in over 40 years of campaigning, and who continually gave away cities and castles to (respectively) bishops and local magnates in order to secure his own position.   Whatever the truth of this, it has to be said that his influence was largely confined to the north of Italy.  Power in central italy was largely in the hands of the papacy and of the Roman nobility. 
Alberic I and Marozia
Berengar I recognised Alberic as Duke Alberic I of Spoleto, and secured his military support against the Hungarians in 900.  With Berengar I tied down by events in Lombardy, the way open for Alberic I to establish a power base Rome.  His chance came when Pope Leo V (903-4) faced a palace revolution after only 30 days in office.  Alberic I supported the exiled priest Sergius, who marched on Rome and was acclaimed as Pope Sergius III (904-11).  Leo V was imprisoned, and Sergius III soon arranged for him to be murdered. 
Theophylact, Count of Tusculum, the effective power in Rome in the absence of any semblance of national government, gave his support to Sergius III.  It was said that he had an affair with Theophylact’s young daughter, the infamous Marozia, and that he was the father of her illegitimate son (see below).  In 909, Alberic I married the pregnant Marozia, thus consolidating his position in Rome.   
Theophylact, Alberic I and Pope John X (914-28) assembled a powerful army that defeated the Saracens in 915 at Trebula Mutuesca near modern Monteleone Sabina (some 20 km east of the Abbazia di Farfa.  The Saracens fell back and John X and his allies defeated them decisively on the River Garigliano later that year.  
When Theophylact died in 924, Alberic I seems also to have turned to Hungarian mercenaries in an attempt to seize power in Rome.   Like Berengar I, he was murdered for his pains, in his case by a lynch mob.
King Hugh of Italy (924-45) 
The magnates of the north elected Hugh of Provence as King Hugh of Italy in 924 and drove Rudolf of Burgundy from the peninsular in 926.  Hugh's reign started successfully enough, as he improved the central administration of the kingdom and achieved some success against the Hungarians.
John X tried to reach an accord with him, and this alarmed the widowed Marozia, who had aspirations to rule Rome.  In 927, she married Marquis Guy of Tuscany, Hugh’s half-brother, and together they seized power in Rome.   They imprisoned John X  and he died (almost certainly murdered) in prison a year later.  Marozia now appointed a series of nonentities as popes, including her son (apparently legitimised by her marriage to Alberic I), who became Pope John XI (931-6).   She also appointed her second son, Alberic as Duke Alberic II of Spoleto.  
When Guy of Tuscany died in 932, John XI presided over her third marriage to King Hugh.  This marriage proved to be disastrous for both Marozia and Hugh: Alberic II incited a rebellion in Rome;  Hugh deserted Marozia; and she was thrown into prison.   
Berengar of Ivrea
Hugh's power in Italy was damaged but not destroyed by these events.  In 941, he expelled Berengar of Ivrea (the grandson of Berengar I) from Italy.  Berengar fled to the court of King Otto I of Germany and swore fealty to him.  He returned from exile in 945, defeated Hugh in battle and deposed him at a diet held in Milan.  Hugh returned to Provence, leaving his son Lothar as nominal king.  
When Lothar died (perhaps murdered) in 950, Berengar repudiated his oath to Otto I and declared himself to be King Berengar II of Italy.  Otto I used Berengar’s bad faith as an excuse to cross the Alps and to have himself crowned as King of Italy at Pavia in 950.  When Alberic II (below) refused him entry into Rome, he returned to East Francia, but his prestige was greatly enhanced.  Berengar paid homage to Otto at a diet in Augsburg in 952 and returned to Italy as its ruler, although no longer (at least formally) its king.
Alberic II
When his mother, Marozia died in prison in 936, Alberic II emerged as the effective ruler of Rome.  He married a daughter of King Hugh in that year, and Rome settled down to a period of relative tranquility.
Monastic reform was high on the agenda of Alberic II.  He enlisted the help of Odo, Abbot of Cluny, who made a number of trips to Italy in 936-42, where he reformed the most important monasteries, including those at Subiaco and Monte Cassino.  Alberic II died in 954.
John Crescentius, from another powerful Roman family, had married Theodora, the younger sister of Marozia and hence the aunt of Alberic II, some time before her death in ca. 940, and had five children with her.   He became Bishop John of Narni (940-60) after her death, and one of their sons was to become Pope John XIII (see Umbria under the Ottonians).
Pope John XII
On his deathbed, Alberic II appointed his illegitimate son, Ottaviano as his temporal successor, and he also made the leading Romans promise to elect him to the papacy on the death of the incumbent, Pope Agapitus II.  Ottaviano thus became Pope John XII (955-64). 
In 959, Berengar of Ivrea invaded and conquered the Duchy of Spoleto and threatened Rome.  John XII and the Margrave Hubert of Tuscany (who had also held the title of Duke of Spoleto in the period 943-6) therefore turned to Otto I, who crossed the Alps for a second time in 960.  When he and his huge army arrived at Pavia in 961, Berengar fled.  
John XII duly crowned Otto I as Holy Roman Emperor in Rome in 962.   Berengar was captured and died as a prisoner in Germany in 963.