Key to Umbria: Nocera Umbra

History of Nocera Umbra

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Early Christianity

Little is known about the early history of Christianity in the area, apart from some shadowy legends of early saints. 

  1. Roman Martyrology, under 19th September: At Nocera, the birthday of the holy martyrs Felix and Constantia, who suffered under Nero. [Hieronymian Martyrology].  [There are two sets of relics, at Nocera in Campania and at Nocera Umbra]

  2. St Felicissimus, a confessor of Nocera at an unknown date, is equally difficult to pin down. 

Nocera seems to have become a diocese only in the 10th century (below). 


Nocera was one of the first Umbrian cities to suffer Barbarian attention when Alaric’s soldiers attacked it as they marched North after the sack of Rome in 410.

Totila destroyed Nocera in 552, after Belisarius had been called to Byzantium and before the arrival of his successor, Narses.


Lombard invaders occupied Nocera from 570, when it became part of the Duchy of Spoleto.  Its strategic position on Via Flaminia made it an important centre in the Duchy.  This is illustrated by the important Lombard necropolis, Portone Necropolis (ca. 570 –670), which was discovered in 1898 in the locality of the Villa of Pettinara-Casale Lozzi, Portone.  Finds from this necropolis are now in the Museo dell’ Alto Medioevo, Rome. 

The necropolis consisted of some 166 tombs that were arranged in line along an east – west axis and belonged to a number of family groups of various social standings, They were discovered in tact and excavated systematically, which allowed the examination of the way these families had adapted over time to their contacts with Roman culture.  The people in the oldest tombs were buried in traditional Lombard costume, but those buried towards the end of the period had adopted the dress of their Roman neighbours.  The men were all warriors, many of them cavalrymen, and they were buried with their weapons.  The women were buried with personal items that included sophisticated jewellery made from glass, amber, rock crystal, amethyst, pearls, silver and gold.  A number of the artefacts in the graves were made of cloisonné.  There was little evidence of their religious beliefs, except for a lovely bone casket (6th century) carved with a relief of the sacrifice of Isaac and Daniel in the lions’ den.


In ca. 850, the Emperor Lothar I created Nocera as a county and granted it to Monaldo, one of the sons of the Duke of Spoleto.  Tadinum was incorporated into the county soon after. 


According to the legend of St Raynald (below), the Emperor Otto I (962-73) reorganised the area around Nocera after the desolation that it had suffered.  Nocera was raised to diocesan status, absorbing the old dioceses of Tadinum and Plestia, which had been reduced to the status of small fortified settlements (“oppida facta sunt”). 

[In 1006, a papal order decreed that the three dioceses of Plestia, Gualdo Tadino and Rosella should come under single diocese of Nocera.  Gualdo Tadino became known as Gualdo di Nocera.]

The ruins of the Rocca di Postignano (10th century) survive outside Nocera.  It was used in the 15th century by the Trinci family.

12th Century

In 1160, at the time of the papal schism, the diocese of Nocera was merged with that of Foligno, and shared its bishop, Anselmo degli Atti.  He aided the newly-formed commune against the claims of its Imperialist count.  He seems to have spent the period 1161-7 in the monastery of San Pietro di Landolina outside Foligno, presumably because of the difficult situation in both cities.  He still styled himself Bishop of Foligno and Nocera in an inscription (1201) on the minor façade of the Duomo of Foligno, although Nocera definitely had its own bishop by 1196.

In 1191 the monastery of Santo Stefano in Gallano joined the more powerful Abbazia di Santa Croce in Sassovivo in the vicinity of Foligno; subsequently other Valtopina churches and benefices followed suit.

In 1193, troops from Assisi took over Nocera. 

13th century

When Perugia declared war on Assisi in 1202, Assisi secured the support of a number of the other Umbrian cities, including Nocera, Bevagna and Spello. However, Nocera switched its allegiance from Assisi to Perugia later in 1202: Bishop Ugo (1190-1213) was party to the document of submission.  When the fortunes of Assisi recovered somewhat in 1204, it retook Nocera.

When Bishop Ugo was too busy in Rome in 1209 to look after his diocese, he secured the services of the future St Raynald, who then became became bishop in his own right when Ugo died in 1213.  St Raynald died on February 9, 1217 and was immediately embalmed; a few months later his successor, Bishop Pelagius (1217-1224) proclaimed him a saint.

Perugia retook Nocera in ca. 1217.

In 1226, St Francis spent the last summer of his life in the hills above Nocera before being taken back to Assisi to die.

Two bishops of Foligno acted as Apostolic administrators of Nocera Umbra in the middle of the 13th centuyr:

  1. Egidio degle Atti (1243-8) and

  2. Berardo Merganti (1248-54)

The Emperor Frederick II destroyed Nocera in 1248, and Bishop Berganti moved the episcopal seat to San Facondino, Gualdo Tadino.  Nocera formally resubmitted to Perugia in 1251, and was forced to renounce its jurisdiction over Gualdo Tadino.

Bishop Filippo (1254-84) and his successor, Bishop Giovanni (1288-1327) were important in the subsequent recovery of the city.

14th century

There is evidence of a Ghibelline faction at Nocera from 1303, when a brief rebellion against Perugia took place.  There seems to have been further trouble in 1305, but the Perugian forces halted their approaach to Nocera at Foligno, where they ousted the Ghibellines and installed Nallo Trinci, thereby cutting of Nocera from an important source of support.  A further dispute arose later in 1305, revolving around a fortress that the Perugians were building at Gaifana, outside Nocera: this culminated in a humiliating submission, which rendered the city liable to Perugian taxation. 

Dissent continued, and Perugia sent “reformers” (backed by armed forces) to Nocera in October 1308 to rewrite the city statutes.  The main effect was to open up the politics of Nocera to the contadini, who were presumably expected to be more pro-Perugian than the city-dwellers.  The podestà, Lambertus Iannis seems to have calmed down the potentially inflammatory situation.  The effect seems to have been to polarise the Ghibelline opposition, which looked for support to Fabriano, as well as to the Ghibelline centres of Umbria.

In 1318, Ghibelline forces under Federico da Montefeltro drove the Perugian-appointed podestà, Bernardino da Marsciano from Nocera Umbra.  The Perugians sent Nuccio da Varano to retake the city, and then installed him as its podestà.

Muzio di Francesco and Federico da Montefeltro incited the Ghibellines of Nocera to rebel against Perugia in July 1320; their Perugian podestà, Cucco di Gualfreduccio, was imprisoned at Assisi.  However, Perugia retook the city in November 1321, as a prelude to its victories over the Ghibellines of Assisi (in 1322) and Spoleto (in 1324).

Pope John XXII chose the Franciscan Alessandro Vincioli as his confessor and named him bishop of NoceraUmbra (1327-1363).

When Perugia was defeated in 1367, Nocera was among the cities that readily submitted to Cardinal Gil Albornoz in 1367.

15th century

The Trinci of Foligno ruled the city in the period 1392-1439.  They used the ancient Rocca near the Duomo (of which only one tower survives) to dominate the city. 

In 1421, the castellan of Nocera, Pietro di Rasiglia suspected his wife of adultery with Nicolò Trinci, Lord of Foligno.  He held a party at which he arranged the murder of  his wife and his Trinci guests.  Nicolò and his brother Bartolomeo were murdered, although their younger brother  Corrado escaped the massacre. 

When the papacy took Foligno in 1439, Nocera Umbra also submitted to papal control.

Later History


In 1744, during the War of Austrian Succession, a joint Spanish and Neapolitan army defeated the Austrians at Velletri.  The Austrians then retreated across central Italy, leaving a squadron billeted at Nocera.  A Spanish force under Jean Bonaventure Thierry du Mont, Comte de Gages attacked the city with heavy artillery, forcing the Austrians to surrender.  The city escaped relatively unscathed, for which it gave thanks to the Blessed Tomasuccio, on whose feast day (19th November) the attack had ended.  The damage to the tower of Porta San Francesco can still be seen.

History:  Main page       Ancient History

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