Key to Umbria: Gubbio

Gubbio in the 12th century

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St John of Lodi was a monk from Fonte Avellana and the biographer of his mentor, St Peter Damian.  During his period as bishop of Gubbio (1105-6), he reformed the canonical community at the Duomo of SS Mariano e Giacomo and  persuaded the future St Ubaldus (below) to join him there.

Gubbio extended its territory in the period 1090-1150, and thus came into conflict with Perugia.

St Ubaldus (1129-60)

The most important of Gubbio’s bishops of this period was Ubaldus, who was born into the noble Baldassini family in ca. 1075.  As noted above, he joined the canonical community at San Mariano in 1105.  He was ordained in 1115 and was elected Prior in 1118.  He was sympathetic to the cause of Church reform and imposed an ascetic rule on his community.

St Ubaldus became bishop in 1129, just a year before the start of the papal schism.  His support for Pope Innocent II (perhaps because this was the candidate pressed by St Bernard of Clairvaux) seems to have been influential in deciding the obedience of the cities of Umbria.  One of his first acts as bishop was to begin the rebuilding of the city.  He also calmed the civil unrest in the period 1135-40. 

In 1151, exiled nobles from Gubbio seem to have mobilised support from some eleven neighbouring cities, including Perugia, Città di Castello, Nocera, Foligno, Spoleto and Assisi, and a force under Perugian leadership attacked Gubbio.  However, St Ubaldus had rebuilt the walls of the city, and the invaders were forced to mount a siege.  Fortunately, St Ubaldus was able to dispatch soldiers to the surrounding mountains under cover of darkness.  The following day the besieging army at Montelovesco di Gubbio found itself surrounded and was forced to withdraw.

His help was needed again in 1155, when the Emperor Frederick I, who was camped with a large army at Gualdo Tadino after the sack of Spoleto, demanded a huge payment from Gubbio.  St Ubaldus pleaded with Frederick I, who was so impressed that he left the city in peace and granted it a number of territorial privileges. 

When St Ubaldus died in 1160, he was buried in the Duomo.  Pope Celestine III canonised him in 1192.  His body, which was found to be incorrupt, was moved to an oratory on the top of Mount Ingino, the site that later housed the church of Sant' Ubaldo.  His successor, Theobald II, who had been a monk at Fonte Avellana, wrote his biography (BHL 8355-7) in 1163 and dedicated it to Frederick I .  An almost contemporary work was written by Giordano di Città di Castello (BHL 8354).

Consular Government

There is little doubt that St Ubaldus, as bishop of Gubbio, exercised civic as well as episcopal authority over Gubbio.  However, lay involvement in the administration of the city was growing at this time.  In 1160, when St Ubaldus felt unable to celebrate Mass at Pentecost, the people implored his great friend Bambo, “vir magnificus ... illius civitatis consul et rector” (an important man ... consul and rector of the city) to persuade him.

Episcopal authority was probably undermined in 1162, when St Ubaldo’s successor, Theobald II refused to offer allegiance to the imperial anti-pope Victor IV.  Frederick I appointed Bonatto, Abbot of San Donato as the alternative Bishop of Gubbio.   It seems that a sizeable faction in the city backed Bonatto, and he was able to send troops from Gubbio to reinforce Frederick I in the sack of Milan.  Gubbio renewed its submission to Frederick I in return for important privileges that included the right to elect its own consuls.  Bonatto seems to have remained the undisputed Bishop of Gubbio until his death in 1164. 

It is clear that, at this stage, lay magistrates still played a subordinate role in the government of the city: in the charter of 1163, the names of Bonatto and of two other (presumably imperial) religious officials, Benedetto, the Prior of the Duomo and Offredo, the Abbot of San Pietro preceded those of the three consuls.  

A decree of Frederick I in 1166 ordered the transfer of Santa Maria dei Francolini, Perugia to the canons of the Duomo of Gubbio.

Gubbio supported Archbishop Christian of Mainz, the Imperial legate, when he subdued Terni, Narni, Spoleto and Assisi in 1174.  In 1177, it became formally part of the Duchy of Spoleto, although it enjoyed a considerable measure of self-rule in the city itself and across the surrounding area that formed its contado.  Fossato di Vico submitted to Gubbio in 1179.

Unfortunately for Gubbio, Perugia also showed loyalty to Frederick I.  He did not intervene therefore when Perugia subdued Città di Castello in 1180 and Gubbio in 1183, although both cities proved too powerful to hold.  There seems to have been a shift in the balance of power in the civil administration of Gubbio by this time: the city’s act of submission was made by its consuls, “with the consent of the bishop, the clergy and all of the people”.

The future Emperor Henry VI visited Gubbio in 1186, and it was from here that he issued a charter for Perugia that granted that city important privileges.  He did not (at least on this occasion) extend similar privileges to his hosts. 

Benedetto Bentivoglio, a canon of the Duomo of Perugia, had become bishop of Gubbio in 1184, perhaps as a consequence of Gubbio’s submission to Perugia in the previous year.  He seems to have been the prime mover in the development of a new ecclesiastical complex on the lower slopes of Monte Ingino: 

  1. In 1188, Pope Clement III gave him permission to translate the relics of the saints of Gubbio (presumably those of  SS Marianus and James as well as the body of the future St Ubaldus) from the  “antiqua civitate” to the site on the mountain, where the “civitas de novo” had been constructed. 

  2. Shortly thereafter, Bishop Bentivoglio conceded to the canons a new site for their palace “in quo constructum est”  (on which was constructed) the new Duomo of SS Mariano e Ubaldo and the episcopal palace.

When Frederick I died in 1190, the pro-papal party of Gubbio exiled his supporters and destroyed the Rocca lest it should fall into imperial hands.  In 1191, Henry VI forgave Gubbio for its rebellion and explicitly recognised the right of the consuls to administer justice.  The diploma also confirmed a list of the city’s possessions in a wide area of the surrounding territory, in response from the requests of:

  1. Conrad of Urslingen, Duke of Spoleto (which suggests that Gubbio was considered at this point to be within the Duchy of Spoleto);

  2. Walfreduccio Marthioli, “console eugubino”; and

  3. Adelardo, “giudice imperiale”.

The diploma of 1191 made no mention of the bishop.  However, Bishop Bentivoglio must have consolidated his position when he prevailed upon Pope Celestine III to canonise St Ubaldus in 1192.

The diploma of 1191 also included retrospective permission for the construction of the “novam civitatem” on Monte Ingino.  The development must have been largely complete by 1203, when a document was agreed “ante ecclesiam ... in platea ubi fit contio” (in front of the cathedral ... in the square in which meetings are held).  It is clear that, at least by that time, the new city housed to civic as well as the eclesiastical authorities: another document of 1203 was notarised “sub tracandam palatii communis Eugubini” ( under the covered loggia of Palazzo Comunale of Gubbio) and traces of this palace survive under what is now Palazzo Ducale.  

Read more:

S. Brufani and E. Menestò (Eds), “Nel Segno del Santo Protettore: Ubaldo Vescovo, Taumaturgo, Santo” (1992) Spoleto, and, in particular:

  1. G. Casagrande, “Il Comune di Gubbio nel Secolo XII” pp 23-50; and

  2. P. Monacchia, “I Vescovi di Gubbio nei Secoli XI-XII”, pp 93-116

Return to History of Gubbio.