Key to Umbria: Perugia


Communal government was probably established in Perugia in the late 11th or early 12th century (see below), and the Consuls had steadily taken over civic power from the bishops of Perugia.

The earliest historical document in the Perugian archives dates to 1139, when the citizens of Isola Polvese, the largest of the three islands of Lake Trasimeno, submitted to Perugia.  By that time, twelve Consuls already ran the city as leaders of an apparently independent commune. 

The Consuls and their advisory councils originally met in the Duomo or in the campanile, but at some time in the 12th century the Commune acquired a modest building of its own on the site of the present Palazzo Vescovile.

Emperor Frederick I

Perugia seems to have had imperial sympathies following the papal schism that followed the death of Pope Adrian IV in 1159.  According to a disputed document issued in ca. 1162, the commune acknowledged the suzerainty of the Emperor Frederick I and the imposition of an imperial vicar, a Swabian named Lodovico Baglioni.   He issued two decrees from Lodi in 1163 (during his third short visit to Italy), in which he took

  1. Bishop John IV and the canons of San Lorenzo; and

  2. (in the second document) the Abbazia di San Pietro;

under imperial protection and confirmed all of their possessions. 

Apart from this single mention of John IV in 1163, no bishop of Perugia is documented between 1160 and 1179.  It is likely that this was a period of schism within the episcopal authorities of Perugia:

  1. The canonically elected Pope Alexander III confirmed the possessions of the canons in 1169. 

  2. However, local tradition has it that the imperial anti-pope, Callistus III (1168-77) consecrated the high altar of the Duomo.

(Any un-canonical situation regarding the consecration of the Duomo was corrected when Pope Innocent III re-consecrated it during his stay in Perugia in 1198 - see the page on Perugia in the 13th century). 

As noted above, Isola Polvese, the largest of the three islands of Lake Trasimeno, submitted to Perugia in 1139.  The two other islands (Isola Maggiore and Isola Minore) submitted in 1174.

Ranieri, who is named as the Podestà representing Perugia at the negotiation of the Treaty of Venice in 1177 that ended the papal schism, was probably an imperial legate.  The city seems to have retained its Imperial sympathies despite the setbacks that Frederick I had suffered: when Perugia subsequently  resumed its territorial expansion, soon after, Frederick I recognised its control over Città di Castello (in 1180) and Gubbio (in 1183). 

Castiglione del Lago submitted in 1184, consolidating Perugian control of the fertile land to the west, towards Lake Trasimeno.

Emperor Henry VI

In 1186, the future Emperor Henry VI granted Perugia the right to elect its own consuls and confirmed its possession of its extensive contado.  Città delle Pieve submitted in 1188 followed by Fratta (now Umbertide) in 1189. 

The first appointment of a Podestà of Perugia (apart from that of 1177 mentioned above) seems to have occurred in 1191.  Perugians initially filled this position, but it soon became the practice to appoint men from other friendly cities, frequently from Rome.  Although the Podestà were initially only appointed from time to time, the practice took hold and spelled the end of consular government in the 1232 (as set out in the page on the 13th century).  

In 1195, Philip of Swabia, the brother of the Emperor, laid siege to Perugia, which he claimed as part of his Duchy of Tuscany, but the magistrates of the city were able to persuade him that its freedom was guaranteed by Imperial diplomas.

Perugian control of the land to the west was increased after its successful war with Arezzo in 1198.

Urban Development

The inner (Etruscan) walls defined the extent of the urban centre of Perugia into the Middle Ages.  The first of the suburbs, which developed outside Porta Marzia and Arco di Sant' Ercolano and extended towards the Abbazia di San Pietro, was documented in 1152, although the full extent of suburban development awaited the 13th century.

The ancient circuit of walla contained five main gates which came to define the rioni (administrative districts) of the city:

  1. Rione di Porta Sant’ Angelo, which was documented from 1036, probably took its name from the gate that is now known as Arco Etrusco.

  2. Rione di Porta Sole, which was documented from 1038, took its name from either the now-demolished gate that was known as Arco della Piaggia dei Calderari or the nearby gate that is now known as Arco dei Gigli.

  3. Rione di San Pietro, which was documented from 1070, probably took its name from the gate that is now known as Porta Marzia.

  4. Rione di Porta Santa Susanna which was documented from 1073, probably took its name from the gate that is now known as Porta Trasimena.

  5. Rione di Porta Eburnea which was documented from 1116, probably took its name from the gate that is now known as Arco della Mandorla or still, alternatively, as Porta Eburnea.

Proceed to 13th Century..  

Return to the History of Perugia.

Perugia in the 12th Century

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