Key to Umbria: Amelia

History of Amelia

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According to Roman sources, the Umbrian city that they called Ameria was established in 1132 BC, some four hundred years before the foundation of Rome itself.  

A walled city was certainly established here by the 5th century BC, with its fortified acropolis on the site of the present Duomo. 

For more details, see the page on Ancient Amelia.


For more details, see the page on Ancient Amelia.

Early Latin Inscription (2nd century BC) 

This inscription (CIL XI 4348) recorded that Titus Pettius, son of Titus, grandson of Titus had made a gift to “Iove Optumo Maxsumo” (Jove Optimus Maximus, the supreme god of the Roman pantheon).  The archaic language suggests that the inscription dates to the middle of the 2nd century BC, which is early for the use of Latin in Umbria and for the veneration of Jove Optimus Maximus there.  The inscription, which has unfortunately been lost, was documented in the church of San Secondo, Amelia in a sketch (1564) by the sculptor and antiquarian Giovanni Antonio Dosio that survives in the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin.  

Murder of Sextus Roscius (80 BC)

In the aftermath of the civil war of 83 BC, the Roman Chrysogonus, who was a favourite of the victorious Sulla, orchestrated a vicious programme of property confiscation in the area.   Cicero successfully defended one Sextius Roscius of Ameria against the charge that he had murdered his father, Sextus Roscius seniore in 80 BC by demonstrating that it was the work of his accusers, men acting for Chrysogonus, who benefitted financially from the crime.  Cicero’s “Pro Roscio Amerino” records his speech for the defence, which provides a fascinating insight into the political terror of the time. 

In an important passage, Cicero described the victim as having been:

  1. “ ... of great influence, from the affection and the ties of hospitality by which he was connected with the most noble men of Rome.  For he had not only connections of hospitium (hospitality) with the Metelli, the Servilii, and the Scipios ...” (6: 15).

William Harris (referenced below, at p. 100) pointed out that:

  1. “... if [we assume that Cicero] was using the word hospitium, as he regularly did, in its strict legal sense, to refer to a relationship between a Roman and a peregrinus, ... [then this] contributes to the view that Ameria had a foedus [treaty] with Rome, for it eliminates the only other real possibility - that the Amerini were Roman citizens [before the Social Wars].”

In other words, Ameria had been an independent entity, with its relations with Rome governed by treaty, until its citizens achieved Roman citizenship after the Social Wards (90 BC).  It then became a municipium and was inscribed in the Clustumina tribe (to which the descendants of the veterans settled here in the 3rd century BC (above) already belonged.

Early Christianity

Given its proximity to Rome and its position on Via Amerina, Amelia was probably a target of the early Christian evangelists.  The city’s patron saints:

  1. St Firmina and her erstwhile persecutor, St Olympiades; and

  2. St Secundus;

were all said to have been martyred in the persecutions of the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in 303 AD.

Although some sources mention Bishop Ondulfo, in 344 AD, others regard the first documented bishop of Amelia to be Ilario, who attended a synod in Rome in 465 AD.  The first bishop of Amelia to be regarded as a saint was St Himerius (died ca. 570). 



Amelia became a diocese at an early stage.  The following bishops attended Roman synods:

  1. Hilarius, in 465;

  2. Martinianus, in 487; and

  3. Sallustius, in 499.


In 592, shortly after he succeeded his father as Duke of Spoleto, the Lombard Ariulf seized Perugia, while Duke Arichis of Benevento threatened Naples.  In the face of this duel threat to Rome itself, Pope Gregory I hastily agreed a truce with the Ariulf, without the permission of the Emperor Maurice (who accused him of having fallen for deception).  The Exarch Romanus (the representative of Byzantium) refused to recognise this truce, and withdrew forces from Narni and Rome in order to retake Perugia.  Gregory I bitterly described Romanus’ action as “abandoning Rome so that Perugia might be held”.  In fact, Romanus managed to take a number of cities from the Lombards (including, according to Paul the Deacon, Todi and Amelia as well as Perugia).

According to the Liber Pontificalis, Amelia was one of eight border fortresses that defended the Patrimony of St Peter  from the Lombards at the time of Pope Stephen II (752-7).


The Holy Roman Emperor, Louis the Pious acknowledged Amelia as papal territory in 817. 

[Bishop Albanus attended a the synod in Rome convened by Leo IV in 853].

According to a 14th century document, Bishop Pasquale (documented in 868-79) began the construction of a church that stood on the site of the present Duomo.  He translated the relics of SS Firmina, Olympias and Himerius to this new church from Castellum Luchianum (which was probably near modern Lugnano in Teverino, some 10km west of Amelia) in the reign of Pope Adrian II (867-72).

The relics of St Himerius were translated to Cremona in ca. 965.

12th Century

[In 1131, troops of the Emperor Lothair III sacked Amelia.  Note: he was crowned in Rome in 1133, during the papal schism.  This seems a more likely date for the attack.]

Amelia was among the cities that Pope Adrian IV recognised as a self-governing entity within the Papal State in 1157, in defiance of the Emperor Frederick I.

[In 1186, Frederick I took Amelia, Orte, Narni and Orvieto.]

Frederick I claimed imperial suzerainty over the city until 1189 when he granted it to Pope Clement III in return for a promise to crown his son as Emperor Henry IV

13th century

The Emperor Frederick II seems to have sacked the city in 1240.

Amelia belonged to Todi for most of the 13th century and looked to the Ghibelline rebels thereafter to secure its independence. 

14th century

The Ghibelline cause was boosted in 1327, when Louis of Bavaria, the unconfirmed emperor-elect entered Italy in 1327, intent upon coronation in Rome.  Amelia, like Narni and Todi, openly openly declared their support for him.  The Romans invited him into the city and Sciarra Colonna duly crowned him as the Emperor Louis IV, after which he created a Franciscan, Peter of Corbara as the anti-Pope Nicholas V.  

Nicholas V named Nicolò d' Alviano as bishop of Amelia, in place of  the legitimate Bishop Giovanni Tocco (1326-8).

Nicholas V failed to establish a solid base in Italy, and returned to Germany in 1330, leaving only increased confusion in his wake.  (An inscription (1332) in the courtyard of Palazzo Comunale celebrates his reign).

In 1340, papal forces from Montefiascone liberated Amelia from occupying forces from Todi.

Amelia submitted to Cardinal Gil Albornoz and the papacy in July 1354.

15th century

The fortunes of the most important families of Amelia in the 15th and 16th centuries were based on their links with the papal court in Rome.  Prime among these were the Geraldini family, who played host to  Pope Sixtus IV when he left Rome to escape an outbreak of plague in 1476.  This provided an opportunity for Pier Matteo d' Amelia, the most famous artist from Amelia, to secure important commissions in Rome.

See also the page on the Geraldini family.

16th century


Baldo Farrattini was Bishop of Amelia in 1558-62, followed by Bartolomeo Farrattini in 1562-1571.  The latter became a cardinal in 1606. (See the page on the Farrattini family).

Later History

Bishop Fortunato Maria Pinchetti (1806-27) was exiled to France in the Napoleonic period.

Bishop Francesco Maria Berti (1907-38) hosted St Maximilian Kolbe at Amelia in the period 16th July - 29th October 1918.

Following the death of Bishop Vincenzo Lojali in 1965, Amelia became part of the diocese of Terni.


Read more:

S. Sisani,  “Fenomenologia della Conquista: La Romanizzazione dell' Umbria tra il IV sec. a. C. e la Guerra Sociale”, (2007) Rome

W.  Harris, “Rome in Etruria and Umbria”, (1971) Oxford

Return to the home page on Amelia.