Key to Umbria: Terni

Ancient Terni

See the page on Ancient History.

Early Christianity

See the page on Early Christianity in Terni.


In 542, Totila devastated Terni as he marched on Rome. 

The Byzantine General, Narses seems to have devastated Terni in 554, some two years after his defeat of Totila, presumably because the Goths still had a pocket of resistance there. 

Duchy of Spoleto (568 - 754)

Under the Lombards, Terni became part of the Duchy of Spoleto. 

A letter of Pope Gregory I in 598 reveals that the diocese did not have a bishop at that time, and he placed it in the care of the Bishop Constantine of Narni.  (There is no secure reference to any other bishop of Terni until 1218).

According to the “Liber Ponificalis”, Pope Zacharias met King Liutprand in 742:

  1. “... ad basilicam beati Valentini episcopi et martyris sitam in praedicta Teramnensium urbe ducatus Spolitini”

(near the basilica of the Blessed Valentine, bishop and martyr, in the fore-mentioned Terni, city of the Duchy of Spoleto).  This is the first mention of the existence of the basilica and the only source for the information that Terni was within the Duchy of Spoleto at this time.  King Liutprand agreed to return a number of cities (including Narni and Amelia) to the papacy and to a truce of 20 years.  The agreement was ratified

  1. “... in oratorio Salvatoris sito intro ecclesia beati Petri”

(in the Oratorio di San Salvatore, sited inside the church of San Pietro).  The oratory is traditionally said to have been on the site of the present church of San Salvatore, Terni, although the reference to San Pietro is problematic.

The chronicles say that the Lombards destroyed the city in 755.  This suggests that Terni rose up against King Aistulf as he marched on Narni and Rome after King Pepin's return to Francia, and suffered for its pains.

9th century

Hungarians and Saracens raided Terni in the 9th century.

The  relics of St Anastasius were found in “domum genetricis Ihesu Christi” (the house of the Mother of Christ, i.e. the Duomo - see below) in the reign of the Emperor Lothar I.  By this time, Terni formed part of the diocese of Spoleto at this time, so Bishop Liutardus of Spoleto (829-44) confirmed the miracle and arranged for the translation of the relics to a new altar in the Duomo.

12th century

Terni became increasingly oppressed by Spoleto, which probably explains why the city welcomed the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1155. 

In May 1159, he handed control of the city to to Ottone, Goffredo and Solimano, the brothers of Cardinal Ottaviano da Monticelli, who subsequently became theanti-pope Victor IV (1159-64).  

Terni rebelled against Frederick I in 1174.  The first mention of a commune at Terni is made at this time, when two consuls entered into an anti-Imperial alliance with the commune of Spoleto.  The rebellion failed and Archbishop Christian of Mainz  sacked the city.

The church of San Tommaso was used for political meetings from the earliest days of the Commune until ca. 1300. 

According to tradition, the parish priest, Don Pietro, habitually railed here against the taxes imposed by Conrad of Urslingen, Duke of Spoleto in the late 12th century.  As a result, a blacksmith called Liberotto Liberotti killed the tax collector and led a successful rebellion.  Although there is no documentary evidence for these events, Liberotto Liberotti remains the symbol of the independence of Terni.

13th century

Pope Innocent III

By the early 13th century, Terni constituted an important Commune between powerful neighbours: Narni; Spoleto; and Todi.  It built or reinforced castles and defensive towers along its borders at this time.  The city walls probably still coincided with the Roman circuit at this time, although it seems likely that they were reinforced at this time: in particular, the city gates and the canals outside the walls would have been central to the city’s defences. 

In 1209, the Emperor Otto IV granted a privilege to the canons of the Duomo that gave them imperial protection and allowed them to charge a toll on the bridges in order to raise money to rebuild them in stone.

The disappearance of Otto IV from Italy in 1212 did not mark the end of the problems of Pope Innocent III in Umbria.  For example, 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.  Narni attacked Otricoli (again) and Stroncone in 1216, and 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.

Pope Honorius III

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 and returned its episcopal status, consecrating Rainerio, the Prior of the Canons of Santa Maria, as bishop.  Palazzo Vescovile was built on the site of the Roman amphitheatre at this time. 

St Francis preached in Terni “in the piazza in front of the bishop’s residence”, probably soon after 1218.  He then  “came down from the place where he was preaching … entered the bishop’s church”.  A stone that is now outside San Cristoforo is claimed to be the one on which St Francis stood to preach.  He is said to have miraculously sweetened the sour wine of the priest at San Cristoforo and then returned to life a boy who had been crushed.

Nevertheless, the uproar in the area persisted.  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.

Pope Gregory IX

Pope Gregory IX built the so-called Palazzo del Papa on a site that was probably just outside it (near what became the site of San Francesco - see below) in ca. 1230.

Pope Innocent IV

In 1241, Terni submitted to the Emperor Frederick II, and it became an important base for his operations against Pope Innocent IV in 1244.  In 1246, when Frederick II defeated the Guelf League at the Battle of Spello, he consolidated his political control at the Diet of Terni (1247).  He died in 1250 and Terni reverted to papal control in 1252.

Late 13th Century

The Franciscans built their new church and convent next to the Palazzo del Papa in 1255-88 and the Augustinians began the construction of their new complex in 1287.  It is interesting that the Dominicans never established a presence in Terni.

Palazzo Comunale (1292-1302) was built near Piazza Clai, and the Palazzo del Podestà (1295) was built in modern Piazza della Repubblica.

14th century

In 1300 the city was taken by the Orsini family and fought against Narni.

In 1307, when the government passed to a body of Priors, Terni refused to demolish a fortress it had constructed on papal territory.

In 1310, during the Ghibelline Revolt caused by the descent into Italy of the Emperor Henry of Luxembourg, Terni fought with Narni and Spoleto against Guelf Perugia.  In 1313, Terni aided the Ghibellines of Orvieto.

Terni, which suffered like the rest of Europe during the Black death of 1348, also faced a major earthquake in 1349.  In 1350, Terni came under the control of the Ghibelline Giovanni di Vico.

Cardinal Gil Albornoz took Terni for the papacy in 1354 and imposed Enrico da Sessa, Bishop of Ascoli, as his vicar in order to effect a reconciliation with Narni.  Terni rebelled against papal control in 1357, at the end of Albornoz’ first legation.  The new papal legate, Androin de la Roche requested help from the rectors of the Patrimony and the Marches and from Perugia in order to suppress the rebellion.   He then appointed Ugolino da Montemarte and the papal treasurer, Bartolo dei Ruini to reform the city statutes.  They established the Banderari, a group of 24 middle class men (four from each of the six rione) who led the city’s militia and administered its government alongside a group of 24 nobles known as the Cittadini. 

The rebuilding of the city walls and the construction of the “cassarum pontis Sancti Antonii” probably followed the rebellion:

  1. The cassero was documented for the first time in 1358 in connection with the stipend of its castellan. 

  2. In 1366, Cardinal Albornoz wrote to the papal rector, Francesco Orsini in relation to a request from the Commune for exemption from taxes in consideration of the cost that it was facing in relation to the new civil defences. 

  3. In 1372, the Commune responded to a request to send men to help with the construction of the Rocca di Narni by pointing out that this was impossible, partly because Narni was a traditional enemy but also because the available labour was still at work on the defences of Terni (although it seems that the work was by then largely complete). 

In 1375, the Ghibelline faction reasserted their control over the city, in alliance with Francesco di Vico.  Cardinal Tommaso Orsini, the legate appointed by Pope Urban VI, occupied Narni, Terni, Amelia and Viterbo after the murder of Francesco di Vico in 1387.  He reached an accord with the Ghibellines of Terni that left their ascendency over the political affairs of the city in tact.

The Bianchi procession, in which penitents dressed in white marched towards Rome for the Jubilee celebrations of 1400, seems to have reached Terni from Spoleto in September 1399.  An oratory that later became the church of Santa Maria del Monumento was probably built soon after.  Frescoes in the church depict miracles associated with this procession.

15th century

The relative independence of Terni under the Ghibellines came to an end in 1398, when Pope Boniface IX appointed his brother, Andrea Tomacelli as papal governor.  Andrea Tomacelli recalled the Guelfs from exile and restored the Cassero.   He abolished the magistracy of the Banderari, reduced the overall size of the city government and delegated the running of its affairs (along with those of Narni, to his associate, Ventura di Bevagna.

Andrea Castello of Terni acted as Podestà of Perugia for six months in 1403.

When Boniface IX died in 1404, Andrea Tomacelli refused to hand over the Cassero to Pope Innocent VII.  Papal forces under Ceccolino Michelotti of Perugia invaded Terni and, with the support of the people, tore the Cassero down.  The Ghibellines returned to power, albeit under the papacy, and expelled the Guelfs.

With the election of Pope Gregory XII in late 1406 and the uncertainty caused by the continuing papal schism, the Commune made contact with Paolo Orsini and King Ladislas of Naples as potential protectors.  The Guelfs were exiled once more in 1408 and the Commune sent ambassadors to make their submission to King Ladislas.   This accord broke down in 1410, when Braccio Fortebraccio and  an army made up of soldiers from Narni and Spoleto laid siege to Terni on behalf of King Ladislas.  At the height of this tension, the Ghibellines split when Galeotto di Andrea Castelli murdered Petruccio di Camporeali.  King Ladislas soon retook control of the city and held it until his death in 1415.

The city then submitted to Pope John XXIII and was ruled on his behalf by Tartaglia di Lavello.  He passed control of the city to Braccio Fortebraccio in 1417.  Braccio’s government ensured that power was concentrated in the hands of a few noble families from Terni.  Andrea Castelli was not among them: Braccio seems to have arranged for his murder and that of his sons in the Castello di Colleluna in 1417.

In 1419, Braccio named Corrado Trinci of Foligno as governor of Terni.  However, under the terms of the made peace that he made with Pope Martin V in 1420, Terni and Narni passed to direct papal control, albeit that Braccio was named as papal vicar of Cesi and San Gemini for three years.

A major restoration of the city walls was undertaken in 1422-9.  This work seems to have involved principally the stretch between Porta San Giovanni and Porta Spoletina.

Francesco Sforza occupied Terni for a short period in 1434.

In 1436, Cardinal Giovanni Vitelleschi, the legate of Pope Eugenius IV, ordered the rebuilding of the Cassero.  However, in 1442, Pope Eugenius IV agreed to allow the fortress to be demolished.

St James of the Marches preached in Terni in November, 1444.

Pope Nicholas V visited Terni in 1449.  The reliefs that were inserted into Porta Romana to commemorate this visit are now in the Pinacoteca Comunale.

Terni passed definitively to the Papal States in 1483 and the old Palazzo del Podestà became the residence of the papal governor.

Plague afflicted Terni in 1496.

16th century

A new palace, Palazzo Apostolico, was built next to the Palazzo del Podestà in 1516 as a residence for the papal governor. Imperial troops sacked nearby Narni and Stroncone in 1527 as they marched on Rome, Terni bribed these forces to leave it in peace and took the opportunity for a further attack on Narni.  However, papal forces under Pier Maria Rossi and Alessandro Vitelli engaged the imperial army outside Terni (on the site used for the construction of the Fabbrica d’ Armi (arms factory) in 1875) and suffered a serious defeat.

Terni was allied with the Colonna family in their continuing war with Pope Clement VII.

Pope Paul III sent Antonio da Sangallo, il Giovane to work on the Cascata delle Marmore, and he died there in 1546. 

In 1547, Paul III initiated a campaign for the adaptation of these two buildings to form a new Palazzo Apostolico, as part of his strategy of imposing papal control over the region.  Work proceeded slowly, because of the opposition of the Banderari (the faction in favour of civic autonomy).

On the night of 25 August 1564, political tension turned to violence when the Banderari killed Gabriele Ranieri, the papal representative, and his entire family, along with members of the pro-papal Gigli, Manassei and Mazzancoli families.  Pope Pius IV sent Monsignor Monte de’ Valenti da Trevi to suppress the uprising, a task that he achieved with great brutality.  The heads of a number of the rebels were displayed on the palace for over a year.  The arms of Pius IV, which were inserted into the façade in 1564 to symbolise the reimposition of papal control of the city, are now in the Pinacoteca Comunale. 

Alessandro Fontana was sent to reinforce Ponte di Sant’ Antonio in 1598 in preparation for a visit by Pope Clement VIII, who was about to seize the Duchy of Ferrara after the death of Duke Alfonso II D’ Este.  

Pope Clement VIII sent Carlo Maderno to work on the Cascata delle Marmore in 1598. 

Domenico Fontana was appointed to build a new bridge to replace Ponte Romano in 1605 and Pope Paul V inaugurated it in 1608.

17th century

The population of Terni declined drastically in the 17th Century due to epidemics and famine.  This sent the city into a state of decline, notwithstanding the patronage of important Roman families such as the Barberini and the Aldobrandini.

Monastero di Santa Teresa

A noble lady called Artemisia Benaducci founded a nunnery here in 1618, and affiliated it to the new order of reformed of discalced Carmelites.  Don Angelo Tramazzoli , the priest of San Giovannino (see below), gave her his support, and his nieces Caterina and Lucia Tramazzoli joined the nunnery in 1626.  Caterina Tramazzoli became Sister Maria Eletta di Gesù (see below).  The nuns built the church of San Giuseppe next to their nunnery in 1642.

San Giovannino

Don Angelo Tramazzoli rebuilt San Giovannino in 1642.

San Valentino

In 1605, Pope Paul V allowed Bishop Giovanni Antonio Onorati to search for the relics of St Valentine on the site of the ruined church of San Valentino.  A decapitated skeleton was duly found and temporarily placed in the Duomo, but the papal authorities insisted that San Valentino should be restored so that the relics could be returned there.  They also proposed that the basilica should be placed in the care of a community of Discalced Carmelites.  Pope Paul V ratified these arrangements in 1606, the new church was consecrated in 1609 and the relics were translated from the Duomo in 1618.

Father Domenico di Gesù e Maria, the general of the discalced Carmelites, was close to the Emperor Ferdinand II and played an important part in the programme to establish reformed religious orders Austria after the defeat of Calvinism. 

  1. The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, the brother of the emperor, visited Terni in 1625.  He paid for the construction of an enlarged tribune in San Valentino in order to create a more fitting location for the relics.  This was part of a major modification of the church, after which Bishop Cardinal Francesco Angelo Rapaccioli re-consecrated it in 1649

  2. In 1629, Father Domenico di Gesù e Maria, arranged for the young Sister Maria Eletta di Gesù (see above) to leave for Vienna to found a new nunnery there.  She became its prioress in 1638, and subsequently founded related nunneries at Graz and Prague.  She died there on 11th January 1663.  (The process for her canonisation opened in 1925 but is presently suspended).


Bishop Cardinal Francesco Angelo Rapaccioli rebuilt the Duomo and also built the Bishop’s palace and the seminary (in 1653) in the Piazza del Duomo. 

18th century

Terni was the epicentre of the earthquake of 1703.

In 1739, Monsignor Martino Innico Caracciolo undertook a major reform of the provision of social services in Terni .  This involved the closure of most of the confraternities of Terni and the transfer of their goods and their charitable activities to Confraternita di San Nicandro.

Pope Pius VI visited Terni and Otricoli in 1782.

In 1787, Pope Pius VI sent Andrea Vici to work on the Cascata delle Marmore.  This project gave the waterfall its current appearance.

Terni was the scene of victory of the forces of Napoleon against the Bourbons of Naples on the 27th November, 1798.  Terni became part of the Dipartimento di Clitunno.

Early 19th Century

Terni formed part of the Dipartimento di Trasimeno  in the period 1809-14.

The region's vast water resources were harnessed for industrial use from the middle of the 19th century for textile factories and in the the papal ironworks (ferriera pontifica). 

The railway line between Terni and Rome opened in 1846.

Terni within the Kingdom of Italy

Colonel Brignone entered Terni on 20th September 1860.  In 1861, following the plebiscite, Terni was incorporated in the Kingdom of Italy.

The railway line from Rome to Ancona was inaugurated in 1866.  From 1870, Corso Tacito was laid out in order to provide direct access from the station to the city centre.

The massive industrialisation of the town began with the building of the Nerino canal in 1879, the foundation of the munitions factory in 1881 and the building of the Acciaierie di Terni, the first steelworks in Italy, in 1884-7.  

Terni was designated as the second provincial capital of Umbria (after Perugia) in 1927.

In 1929, the Cascata delle Marmore were adapted to form a hydroelectric complex to provide electricity for Terni's industrial complex, which led to the development of the electro-chemical industry.

From 1901, the architect Cesare Bazzani (1873-1939) lived in Terni.  He built Palazzina Alterocca (1901-3 - now the headquarters of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena); Palazzo Pontecorvi (1902-16);  Palazzo delle Poste(1918-36); Palazzina Manni  (1919-23); the church of Sant’ Antonio (1919-23); his own home, Villa Bazzani (1928-36) in in Via Battisti; and the neo-Classical Palazzo del Governo (1930-6), now the headquarters of the Prefettura and Provincia di Terni.

[He rebuilt the facade of Santa Maria degli Angeli, outside Assisi in 1924-30.]

The young Mario Ridolfi laid out Piazza Tacito in 1933, placing the fountain at its centre in place of the war memorial.

Post War Reconstruction

As a consequence of its industrial importance, Terni was bombed more than 108 times during the Second World War.  In 1945, Mario Ridolfi was commissioned to design the programme of reconstruction of the shattered city.  he worked on its implementation with Wolfgang Frankl in the period 1955-60.

Mario Ridolfi died in 1984 and Wolfang Frankl in 1994.

Plans of Terni

The oldest representations of Terni are

  1. the plan (1565) by Cipriano Piccolpasso, the author of  “Le piante ed i Ritratti delle Città e Terre dell' Umbria Sottoposte al Governo di Perugia” (1579);

  2. the plan and manuscript "Barb. Lat. 9901", number 96 (17th century) in the Biblioteca Vaticana;

  3. the plan (1640) by Domizio Gubernari used in the “Storia di Terni” by Francesco Angeloni;

  4. the fresco (1655) in Palazzo vescovile;

  5. the plan in “Historia e Pianta di Terni” (1637) by Giacomo Lauro;

  6. the plan (1633) by Jean Bleu; and

  7. the plan (1704) Pierre Mortier.

History:  Main page     Ancient History
Return to the home page on Terni.

History of Terni

Umbria:  Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact 


Terni:  Home    History    Art    Saints    Walks    Drives    Monuments    Museums  

HistoryMain page     Ancient History