Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Spoleto in the 14th Century

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Ghibelline Revolt (1305-24)

The departure from Italy of the papacy in 1305 had an immediate effect in Spoleto.  After some 50 years of internal peace, civil war erupted and the Ghibellines under Abrunamonte da Chiavano expelled the Guelfs.  They regrouped in Trevi and, having received assistance from Perugia and other Guelf cities, managed to return to Spoleto in 1306.

In ca. 1318, a faction from Spoleto joined the Ghibelline rebellion led by Muzio di Francesco and Federico da Montefeltro and the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines tore the city apart.  Some 400 Guelfs were imprisoned in the space under the Roman theatre prior to their execution in December 1320. 

In November 1319, Abrunamonte da Chiavano expelled the Guelfs of Spoleto, aided by Muzio di Francesco of Assisi and Federico I da Montefeltro.  Many of the Guelfs who took refuge in the Duomo were slaughtered.   Some 400 Guelfs were imprisoned in the space under the Roman theatre, prior to their execution.  The houses of the defeated faction were looted, and many were torn down.

In the summer of 1321, Federico da Montefeltro was named as captain of the forces of Spoleto.  He left Urbino in the hands of his son, Francesco and his cousin Speranzo, and moved to Spoleto.  Pope John XXII excommunicated him (again) in August, and in December he ordered the Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto to preach a crusade against (inter alia) Spoleto, Urbino and Federico da Montefeltro. 

When Pandolfo and Ferrandino Malatesta threatened Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro was forced to return there.  He faced a rebellion in April 1322, and presented himself to the crowd with a noose around his neck, begging for mercy.  Bishop Francesco Silvestri of Rimini incited the crowd to murder him, and he was buried as a heretic in the carcass of a horse.  (John XXII sent Francesco Silvestri a congratulatory letter in October).    

Spoleto, now without its major allies, withstood a siege by Perugian forces under Poncello Orsini and Ugolino I Trinci for more than two years, before surrendering in April 1324.  The city became thereafter effectively a possession of Perugia, notwithstanding the protests of the papacy: Perugia imposed the right to appoint the podestà of Spoleto, and demanded an annual financial tribute.  John XXII found it expedient to formally approve these arrangements in 1325.  He was similarly unable to protect smaller cities in the Duchy of Spoleto (including Montefalco, Bevagna and Trevi) from exactions made by Perugia.

[The Perugians built a fortress in what is now Piazza Moretti.]

Jean d’ Amiel

Jean d’ Amiel (Giovanni d’ Amelio) was the treasurer of the Duchy of Spoleto in 1317-23 and rector in 1323-32.  The papal curia obviously needed a residence outside Spoleto from ca. 1320.  He acquired Santa Maria Turrita, outside Montefalco from the Bishop of Spoleto in order to build a new fortress (1322-4) designed by Lorenzo Maitani (who was at work on the Duomo, Orvieto).  

The curia was probably based at Foligno while the fortress at Montefalco was in construction; Jean d’ Amiel held a parliament there in 1324.

In 1327, Pope John XXII advised Jean d’ Amiel to move his base to Gualdo Tadino in order to secure communications between the duchy and the March of Ancona.  He subsequently approved the confiscation of the Abbazia di Sant’ Eutizio, which was heavily fortified and thus provided him with a useful base for this purpose.  Abbot Margarito travelled to Avignon and apparently persuaded John XXII to reverse the decision, but the abbey nevertheless remained in the control of the secular authorities.

Jean d’ Amiel restored part of the walls of Montefalco, near Porta di Sant’ Agostino in 1328.  He commissioned the frescoes (1330-3) of the life of St Clare of Montefalco in Santa Chiara, Montefalco.

Pope Benedict XII sent Jean d’ Amiel back to the duchy in 1339-40 with special powers to deal with abuse by other papal officials in the duchy. 

Jean d’ Amiel was bishop of Spoleto from 1349 until his death in 1371.  (He seems to have had his residence at the Abbazia di Santo Stefano in Manciano, outside Trevi, in 1363).

Pietro Panciani and Giovanni di Vico

The Guelf hold on Spoleto was threatened when Louis of Bavaria was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor in 1327.  It was in these circumstances that Pietro Panciani rose to prominence under the patronage of King Robert d’ Anjou, who knighted him in 1328.  He was accepted as “Gonfaloniere perpetuo”.   However, he was undermined by factions within the Guelf party as well as by the Ghibellines and ultimately failed in his ambition to become lord of Spoleto. 

Pietro Panciani was exiled in 1347.  After the devastation caused by the Black Death in 1348, he tried to re-enter the city.   The attack was carried out in early 1350, with help from Perugia and from the papal legate, Bishop Filippo dell’ Antella of Ferrara.  Spoleto sought help from Archbishop Giovanni Visconti of Milan, the leader of the Ghibelline cause in Italy, who dispatched Giovanni di Vico to their aid.   The latter, who became the effective ruler of the city, delegated day-to-day control to his captain, Giannotto d’ Alviano.

Pope Clement VI appointed Filippo dell’ Antella as Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto in 1352.   After the Treaty of Sarzana (1353) brought peace between Giovanni Visconti and the papacy, the Guelfs were able to return to Spoleto, and Perugia regained its dominant position.

Cardinal Albornoz 

In 1353, Pope Innocent VI entrusted Cardinal Alvarez Carillo Gil de Albornoz  with the task of restoring papal authority in the Papal States, as a prelude to the return of the papacy to Rome. 

After Albornoz had pacified the Patrimony in late 1354, Spoleto, which was reeling from the recent attentions of Fra Moriale, submitted to him.  According to local sources, in early 1355:

  1. Blasco Fernández de Belvis, a cousin of Albornoz, was readily accepted as the Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto (although, if this is correct, the position soon passed back to Filippo dell’ Antella);

  2. the priors began to describe themselves as “Priores Populi pro S. Romana Ecclesia”; and

  3. ambassadors from Spoleto went to Avignon in order to place their city formally under the protection of the papal nephew, Cardinal Andouin Aubert.

In February 1355, Albornoz formally reconciled representatives of Spoleto and of its exiles at a ceremony in Foligno.  However, Perugia was allowed to retain the right to appoint the Podestà of Spoleto.

When Albornoz now turned his attention to the March of Ancona, a pro-Perugian faction in Spoleto rebelled, and invited the Perugians to complete the fortress near Porta Fuga.   In November 1355, Innocent VI wrote to the Perugians, complaining (inter alia) about these illegal actions.  He nevertheless advised Albornoz to treat the Perugians cautiously.  This paid dividends, because the Perugians subsequently reconciled the rebels of Spoleto with the papacy.  In February 1356, Albornoz ordered Filippo dell’ Antella, the Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto, to go to Spoleto and formally absolve the rebels.  However, there was no requirement this time for the readmission of exiles, no doubt in order to prevent further disorder.

There seems to have been an uprising against Perugian domination in the summer of 1359, and the Spoletans once more submitted formally to Albornoz, this time at Ancona (October 1359).  Albornoz appointed his chaplain Enrico da Sessa, Bishop of Ascoli, to reform the statutes of the city.  The Perugian fortress near Porta Fuga was demolished. and the ambassadors sent by the Perugians to protest apparently returned to the city “with little honour”.  However, Albornoz conceded that the Perugians should still retain the right to appoint the podestà of Spoleto.  (The last such appointment to be documented was in 1370).

Albornoz appointed Ugolino da Montemarte as rector of the Duchy of Spoleto in 1360.  He was documented in Spoleto in April 1360.  He was present, together with Albornoz and Blasco Fernández de Belvis, at the provincial parliament held in Spoleto on April 22, 1361, at which (inter alia) a tax was imposed on the citizens of the city in order to finance the construction of the papal fortress (later known as the Rocca di Albornoz).  Work began on the project a year later.

Blasco Fernández de Belvis, who was appointed vicar of Gubbio and rector of the Duchy of Spoleto at about this time, subsequently usually resided at Spoleto. 

In 1365, when Albornoz was sent as legate to Naples, Ugolino da Montemarte was appointed as Lieutenant General of the Duchy of Spoleto.

Blasco Fernández de Belvis 

Pope Urban V re-appointed Blasco Fernández de Belvis as Rector of the Duchy of Spoleto in 1367.  He and his son Garcia were murdered in 1368 at Piediluco, near Terni by Ghibellines from Spoleto.  Ugolino da Montemarte, who was camped at Bettona during the papal was with Perugia, led an army from Spoleto to exact fierce reprisals.   In 1373, Sancia de Cortinis, the widow of Blasco Fernández de Belvis, gave 300 florins to the friars of San Francesco, Assisi for the restoration of the Cappella di Sant’ Antonio Abate and 100 florins for the tombs of her husband and son. 

Papal Schism (1378 - 1415)

The Italian, Pope Urban VI was elected on the insistence of the Roman mob that was determined to enforce the return of the papacy to Rome.  However, his mental instability made him unpopular with the cardinals.  Cardinal Robert of Geneva led the attempts to depose him and duly emerged as the anti-Pope Clement VII.  He was soon forced to flee to Avignon, and the Papal States descended into anarchy.

Bishop Gallardus de Pallairaco de Bellovide, who had been appointed by Pope Gregory XI in 1372, supported the anti-Pope and was driven from Spoleto in 1378. 

In 1383, Rinaldo Orsini took Spoleto for the anti-Pope Clement VII after laying siege to the Rocca for 4 months. He was a close ally of Cardinal Pietro Pileo da Prato, the legate of the antipope Clement VII.   In 1384, he rebuffed an attempt by John Hawkwood to retake the city for Pope Urban VI.  However, he lost popular support in Spoleto after the election of Pope Boniface IX in 1389.  He was murdered in Aquila in 1391.

Tommaso Petrucci, Conti di Chiavano, the leader of the Ghibellines of Spoleto, laid siege to the city in 1391.  The siege was lifted on the feast of St Peter Martyr, and he was duly proclaimed as a patron of the city.

Return to the page on the History of Spoleto.