Key to Umbria: Bevagna

History of Bevagna

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Ancient History

Link to the page on:

  1. Pre-Roman Mevania

  2. Fonti del Clitunno

  3. Mevania after the Roman Conquest

  4. Sanctuary at Villa Fidelia before 41 BC

  5. Other Sanctuaries of Mevania

  6. Mevania after the Perusine War

  7. Valetudo and the Magistri Valetudinis

Early Christianity

According to a 6th century legend, St Vincent was the first Bishop of Bevagna.  He seems to have been a disciple of St Emilianus of Trevi.  He was martyred with his deacon, Benignus in 303.  Despite this early tradition, the first bishop of certain date is Innocentius, who attended a synod in Rome in 487 AD.

Relics of SS Vincent and Benignus

The relics of SS Vincent and Benignus were probably preserved on the site of the 12th century church in the town that was dedicated as San Vincenzo, but this is now deconsecrated and ruined.  The relics were moved to what is now the what is now the Abbazia di San Vincenzo at Furlo in the Marche at the time of the Lombard occupation.

  1. Some of them seem subsequently to have found their way to Lucca: this might have occurred in the 9th century, when Adalberto of Tuscany seized the relics of three saints from Narni and took them to the church of San Frediano there.  Bovara, outside Trevi, claimed to be the birth place of these saints.  Relics were returned from Lucca to Trevi in 1703, an event commemorated by the commission of this fresco outside Palazzo Comunale, Trevi that depicts the Madonna and Child with St Emilianus, the patron saint of Trevi, and SS Vincent and Benignus.

  2. In 970, Bertraus, a representative of of Bishop Theodoric (Dietrich) I of Metz, extracted the relics of another St Vincent from a priest at Petram Pertusam, (presumably the presumably the Abbazia di San Vincenzo at Furl) and sent them to Metz.  In his ‘Chronicon’, Sigebert identified this saint as St Vincent of Mevania.


Writing of the return to Rome of the (temporarily) victorious Emperor Honorius and his general Stilicho after they had defeated the Alaric the Goth at Verona in 403 AD, Claudianus wrote: “Twas thy good pleasure [Honorius] to visit Clitumnus' wave beloved of them that triumph, for thence do victors get them white-coated animals for sacrifice at Rome. Thou markest well also the stream's strange property, flowing gently on when one approaches with silent step, but swirling and eddying should one hasten with louder utterance; and while it is the common nature of water to mirror the exact image of the body, it alone boasts the strange power that it mimics not human form but human character”. 

Unfortunately, Alaric was not far behind, and Gibbon described how his soldiers, “animated by the hopes of spoil … descended into the rich plains of Umbria; and, as they lay encamped on the banks of the Clitumnus, might wantonly slaughter and devour the milk-white oxen which had been so long reserved for the use of Roman triumphs”.   Claudianus probably died in the subsequent sack of Rome (410 AD).


Bevagna formed part of the Lombard Duchy of Spoleto. 

In a letter to Bishop Chrysanthus of Spoleto in 597, Pope Gregory I lamented the fact that the diocese of Bevagna had been without a bishop since 571 and requested that he take over its administration.  It is clear from a second letter to Bishop Chrysanthus in 599 that the diocese was still in crisis.

Bishop Marciano of Bevagna attended a synod in Rome in 649, but the diocese then passed definitively to Spoleto.

10th - 12th Centuries

At some time in the 10th or 11th century, Bevagna became a feudal possession of the Counts of Antignano and Coccorone, a family of German origin that accumulated vast territory in the area.  In 1177, the Emperor Frederick I subjected the county to Foligno, an arrangement he confirmed in 1184.  Nevertheless, the counts remained influential in the city, and retained their power base in the surrounding countryside. 

The earliest documentary evidence of a communal government dates to 1187, when four Consuls (representing respectively the nobility, the merchants, the artisans and the citizens of the contado) were appointed for two-month periods to preside over a council of 60 representatives.

The Counts of Antignano and Coccorone remained influential in the region.  Rainaldo dei Conti Antignano founded the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte in 1198 on a site near his castle at Monte delle Civitelle and the church of Santa Maria Filiorum Comitis in Bevagna in ca. 1198.

13th century

Pope Innocent III (1198-1216)

Bevagna probably remained subject to Foligno after the latter city submitted to Pope Innocent III.

Diepold von Vohburg (whom the Emperor Otto IV had appointed Duke of Spoleto in defiance of Innocent III) seems to have taken the town under direct Imperial control in 1210.  However, Diepold was a papal prisoner by 1214 and Otto’s ambitions were extinguished in that year.

Emperor Frederick II (1215-50)

There are indications that the Ghibelline Conti di Antignano e Coccorone were becoming restive in 1219, probably at the instigation of the Emperor Frederick II.  In 1219, it was Frederick II rather than Pope Honorius III who confirmed Count Napoleone III in his ownership of the fortress of Santa Maria de Laurentio, near Bevagna.

Given its subordination to Foligno, it was inevitable that Bevagna would declare for Frederick II in 1240, the year in which Foligno became his centre of operations, and that it was among the towns and cities that sent representatives to the parliament that Frederick II summoned in the cathedral of San Feliciano there.

In 1249, Bevagna and Coccorone rebelled against Foligno.  Bevagna destroyed a number of castles of Napoleone dei Conti di Antignano e Coccorone, including Antignano itself, Santa Maria in Laurenzia and Ciriggiano.  (The Castello di Torre del Colle, which also belonged to the Counts, still survives).  In return Pope Innocent IV granted Bevagna the right to elect its own podestà.  However, the imperial general Tommaso d’ Aquino, Conte di Acerra retook both cities and sacked them.

Papal Control (1250-1305)

When Frederick II died suddenly in December 1250, the Conti di Antignano e Coccorone immediately submitted to the papacy. 

In 1256, Pope Alexander IV confirmed the privileges that Innocent IV had conferred on Bevagna, and awarded it neighbouring territory that had belonged to the Counts.

The rebuilding of the town culminated in the completion of the new Palazzo dei Consoli in 1270.

In 1282, Bevagna fought for Perugia in its war with Foligno, and shared the excommunication of the aggressors.

14th century

Ghibelline Revolt (1308-53)

In 1315, Bevagna joined the short-lived Umbrian League, and in 1322 the city joined the Guelf coalition against rebellious Spoleto.

In 1328, Louis of Bavaria ravaged the contado of Bevagna from his base in Todi.

The Trinci ruled Bevagna from 1371, when Pope Gregory IX installed Trincia Trinci as the papal vicar.  In 1377, Trincia Trinci was murdered in Foligno during a Ghibelline uprising.  [Two Franciscans, Beati Filippo and Giacomo, were among those that Trinci’s Breton mercenaries murdered, and their relics are still preserved in San Francesco, Foligno.]  Bevagna also rebelled at this time and was devastated.  Corrado II Trinci subsequently rebuilt Bevagna, fortifying it with walls and towers. 

15th century

King Ladislas of Naples sacked Bevagna in 1414.

The Trinci returned as papal vicars in the period 1420-37.

Bevagna was ruled by the Baglioni family as papal fiefs from some time after 1437, and passed into the hands of the Church in 1439 during the campaign of Cardinal Giovanni Vitaleschi.

In 1456, work began on draining the marshes between Trevi, Montefalco and Bevagna, and the Topino was re-channelled away from the city.

16th century

In 1503, Bevagna was subordinated to the papal governor of Perugia.

It had its own governors from 1519, including: Agostino Trivulzi; Ferdinand Ponzetti; Malatesta Baglioni.

In 1527, troops of the Emperor Charles V sacked Bevagna on their way to Rome.

In 1530, when Pope Clement VII gave the city to Malatesta Baglioni in thanks for his betrayal of Florence.

In 1562-6, Bevagna was subordinated to the papal governor of Spoleto [Carlo Borromeo].

In 1567, Pope Pius V returned Bevagna to direct papal rule with Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici as governor.  He retained this post until his elevation as grand Duke of Tuscany in 1587.

Later History

Pope Leo XII named Bevagna as a city in 1825.

There was a serious earthquake in 1831.

In 1860, Bevagna became part of the Province of Perugia in the united Italy.

Return to the home page on Bevagna.