Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Spoleto in the 13th Century

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Pope Innocent III

The young Pope Innocent III was elected in 1198, shortly after the death of the Emperor Henry VI, intent upon exploiting the vacuum left by the disputed imperial succession.  He immediately summoned Duke Conrad of Spoleto to Narni and secured his submission.  He then began a formal progress through the Duchy.  His first stop was at Spoleto itself, where he received the submission of Terni and Norcia.

Innocent III consecrated an altar in the Duomo in 1198, while the church was still in construction. His successor, Pope Honorius III consecrated the church in ca. 1216, by which time it was probably complete. 

Pope Gregory IX and Emperor Frederick II

Frederick II, the young son of Henry VI, was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor in 1220.  Despite his promise to respect papal rights in central Italy, his companion, Rainald of Urslingen continued to use his dead father’s title of Duke of Spoleto.  In 1222, Frederick II formally asked Pope Honorius III for the return of the Duchy, perhaps as a fief for the Rainald.  Not surprisingly, Honorius III refused.  At about this time, Foligno, Gubbio and Nocera went over to Rainald’s brother, Bertold, and Honorius was forced to excommunicate him and to send troops to force him to withdraw. 

In a further excalation of tension in 1226, Frederick II confirmed Tancredi, Count of Campello’s long-standing Imperial title to Campello itself and other lands outside Spoleto.  In an outspoken condemnation, the usually placid Honorius III condemned the Counts of Campello as children of the devil.  He died soon after.

A Ghibelline (pro-imperial) rebellion drove his successor, Pope Gregory IX from Rome in 1228-32.  When he was on his way to Assisi in 1228 for the canonisation of St Francis, he stayed with the Franciscan nuns at San Paolo inter Vineas, whose voluntary poverty moved him to tears.  He is recorded in Spoleto on two other occasions:

  1. He canonised St Antony of Padua in the Duomo in 1232.

  2. He issued the Bull of canonisation of St Dominic from Spoleto in 1234, and consecrated San Paolo inter Vineas during this visit.

Mendicant Orders in Spoleto

[The Augustinians arrived in Spoleto in 1251.

The Servites in 1273.

The Dominicans Paperone and Nicolò Albetini became bishop in, respectively, 1285 and 1299.]

Bishop Bartolomeo Accorombani

After the death of Frederick II in 1250, the Ghibelline cause faded in Spoleto and Bishop Bartolomeo Accorombani (1236-71) became the civic as well as the religious leader of the city.  He was well-respected by the papacy:

  1. In 1252, he was one of the three prelates mandated by Pope Innocent IV to conduct a canonisation process the Blessed Simon of Collazzone, who had died at Sant' Elia in 1250.

  2. In 1255, he presided over the collection of evidence to support the canonisation of St Clare of Assisi.


Although Pope Innocent III assumed rights over the Duchy of Spoleto in 1198, he could not prevent a series of wars between neighbouring cities within his new domain.  These included awar between Foligno and Spoleto in 1200-1.  Perugia, which used the power vacuum in order to extend its power in the region, negotiated between the warring parties and their reconciliation took place in the piazza in front of the Duomo of Perugia

The first mention of a Podestà of Spoleto dates to 1201, when Norcia accepted Spoletan "protection". 

After his election in 1261, Pope Urban IV was intent upon regaining control of the Duchy of Spoleto, and this involved a dispute with with Spoleto itself for control of the crucial fortress at Cesi.  In 1262, he established an enquiry into papal rights in the Terre Arnulforum, and when Spoleto was unable to produce the documentation of the privileges that it had received in 1247, Urban declared in his own favour.  Spoleto refused to give way and was placed under interdict.  The first mention of a Capitano del Popolo of Spoleto occurs when he and the Podestà were threatened with sanctions if they persisted.

Urban managed to detach a number of the neighbouring towns from the hegemony of Spoleto, and even tried to involve Terni in a coalition that would take the disputed territory by force.  [How did this dispute end ??] 

The new city walls were built in 1296.

Return to the page on the History of Spoleto.