Key to Umbria: Spoleto

Carolingian Duchy of Spoleto

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Duke Hildeprand (774 - 89)

Charlemagne, King of Francia defeated the Lombards and became King of Italy (a title that applied only to the territory of the old Lombard Kingdom) in 774.  The Spoletans took advantage of the Lombard defeat to reassert their independence.  Pope Hadrian I ratified their appointment of a new duke, Hildeprand, presumably in the expectation that Charlemagne would soon transfer the Duchy of Spoleto to him.  However, this did not happen and Hildeprand disappointed him by submitting formally to Charlemagne in 775.  The Duchy of Spoleto thus became part of the Frankish Kingdom, although it retained its administrative identity. 

Charlemagne transferred this title of King of Italy to his son Pepin in 781.   He went some way towards placating Hadrian I at this time by transferring the Sabina to him at the expense of the Duchy of Spoleto. 

However, this did not imply papal control of the Abbazia di Farfa: indeed in 803 he confirmed the diploma he had granted in 775 by which the abbey had become independent of the local civic and episcopal authorities.  Duke Hildeprand was among the most generous of the donors who enriched the abbey in the following period.  Bishop  Adeodatus II is mentioned in  a number of documents that Duke Hildeprand issued in relation to the abbey.

Duke Winigis (789-822)

Duke Grimoald of Benevento also initially submitted to Charlemagne: thus, in 788, both Grimoald and Hildeprand fought for him against  Byzantine forces in Calabria.  Duke Hildeprand died later in 788.  His successor, the Frankish  Duke Winigis became involved in periods of confrontation with the rebellious Duchy of Benevento that were particularly intense in 791-2.  Many of his Lombard subjects fled south rather than engage in the fight, so that the Frankish hold on the Duchy of Spoleto was strengthened by default.

When Pope Leo III  (795-816) was elected, he immediately announced the fact to Charlemagne and acknowledged his temporal suzerainty.  In return, he was able to rely of Charlemagne for protection from the factions of Rome.  In 799, this threat culminated in a violent attempt at deposition.  Leo III took refuge in St Peter’s until Duke Winigis and a Spoletan army was able to rescue him and take him to Spoleto.  From there, he travelled to Charlemagne’s court in Francia. 

This painting (ca. 1636) of Pope Leo III arriving at Spoleto is now in the Pinacoteca.

Leo III returned under Frankish protection and Charlemagne followed him to Rome in 800.  In order to underline Charlemagne’s role as papal protector, Leo crowned him as Holy Roman Emperor during the Mass on Christmas day.  The newly crowned Emperor stayed in Spoleto in 801 on his way home from Rome. 

Duke Grimoald of Benevento rebelled again in 801 and King Pepin led forces against him.  Duke Winigis was again involved on the Carolingian side: Duke Grimoald actually captured him in 802 and held him captive for 18 months.

Charlemagne decided to accept the de facto independence of the Duchy of Benevento in ca. 812, so that the Duchy of Spoleto became the southern march of the Kingdom of Italy.  King Pepin died at about this time and Charlemagne appointed Pepin’s son Bernard as King of Italy.  After Charlemagne's death in 814, his only surviving son, Louis the Pious (813-40) succeeded him as Emperor and, at least initially, left Bernard in place.  Thus when Leo III again faced by a revolt of the Roman nobility in 815, Louis sent Bernard to Rome to protect him.  Bernard once more called on Duke Winigis for a Spoletan force to restore order.

In 817, King Bernard rose in rebellion.  Louis the Pious used this as an excuse to clear the decks of his father’s supporters and to establish his own men in Italy.  Bernard was captured and blinded, and he died soon after from his injuries.  Louis’s eldest son, Lothar I replaced him as King of Italy.  Duke Winigis, who had probably supported Bernard, managed to survive, doubtless because of his strong personal following in the Duchy.  

A dispute over property between Duke Winigis  and the Abbazia di Farfa culminated in a hearing at Norcia in 821 at which a representative of the Emperor Louis the Pious officiated.  Two Umbrian bishops attended: Bishop Sigualdus of Spoleto and Bishop Magione of Assisi.

Duke Winigis retired through ill health in 822.   The Duchy of Spoleto seems to have remained without a duke for the next 20 years.

Bishop Sigualdus  (814 - ca. 827)

Bishop Sigualdus is first documented in 814 in connection with a meeting at the Abazia di Farfa.  In 820, the Emperor Louis the Pious confirmed an agreement between the Abbazia di Farfa and Bishop Sigualdus about the ownership of San Marco.  He is also documented at a ducal synod held at Norcia in 821 (see above).

Duke Guy I (842-59)

Lothar I delegated the defence of Rome to Guy of Nantes, whom he appointed as Duke Guy I of Spoleto.  (Guy’s father, Lambert had been Lothar’s ally during the civil war in Francia, and he had lost his lands there as a result.  He had died in exile in Italy and the Duchy of Spoleto was Lothar’s reward to his family).  

The main threat at this time came from the Saracens, who had overrun Byzantine Sicily by 830 and established mainland bases opposite Messina and at Bari.  This threat intensified when Duke Sicard of Benevento, the ruler of the Lombard duchy to the south, was murdered in 839.  Both Radelchis (Sicard’s murderer) and Siconulf (Sicard’s brother) called on Saracen mercenaries in the war they fought for the succession.  Duke Guy I was inevitably drawn into the conflict, because he had married Sicard’s daughter and because of the intensified Saracen threat to Rome.   He may well have been present when Saracen mercenaries sacked Larino in 842, and this could explain how relics of St Primianus of Larino reached Spoleto. 

Saracens now began to raid the coast of the peninsula.  In 846, they sailed to Ostia and attacked Rome, sacking St Peter’s and other churches and communities outside the walls until Guy I arrived with forces from Spoleto and repelled the attack.  Pope Leo IV (847-55) rebuilt the defences of Rome to include St Peter’s and fortified the coastal cities that defended Rome.  He also mobilised fleets from Gaeta, Naples and Amalfi to defeat a second Saracen raid on Rome in 849.  Nevertheless, the Saracen threat intensified and the independent rulers to the south of Rome were unable to unite in order to remove it.

Lothar passed his title as King of Italy to his son, Louis in 844.  Pope Leo IV  crowned him as co-emperor (i.e. Emperor Louis II) in 850 in an effort to ensure his continued interest in meeting the Saracen threat.  However, Lothar I remained active in Italian affairs until 851. 

In ca. 850, Lothar I created the county of Nocera and granted it to Monaldo, one of the sons of Guy I.  When Saracen raiders destroyed Tadino soon after, what remained of the city was incorporated into the county.

In 858, taking advantage of the problems in Benevento, Guy I was able to incorporate part of that duchy into the Duchy of Spoleto.

Bishop Liutardus

Bishop Liutardus is known only from the legend of St Anasatsius of Terni (BHL 0407b), which relates to the discovery tempore Lotharii magnifici regis” (i.e the reign of the Emperor  Lothar I, i.e. 840-55)of the relics of St Anastasius.  Since Terni formed part of the diocese of Spoleto at this time, Bishop Liutardus of Spoleto was called to verify the discovery.  Since Bishop Peter II, Liutardus’ successor, was in office by 842 (see below) , we can place the recognition of the relics in the period 840-42.

Bishop Peter II

Bishop Peter II is first documented in 842, when the Emperor Lothar I entrusted the Abbazia di Farfa to him after the death of Abbot Sichardus in 842  Bishop Peter persuaded Lothar I to confirm the election of Abbot Hildericus in 844. 

In 853, Leo IV held a synod in Rome, which dealt with matters of discipline and decreed the condemnation of Anastasius, Cardinal of St Marcellus (later Antipope Anastasius Bibliothecarius) for disobedience.  According to the ‘Liber Pontificalis’, it was attended by 67 bishops, four of whom had been sent by Lothar I and Louis II: the four included Bishop Peter II of Spoleto.  After the synod, Leo IV sent Peter II of Spoleto as his legate to the Council of Soissons (854).

[In ca. 853, Adon (later Archbishop of Vienne) travelled from Rome to Ravenna, where he compiled the material for his Martyrology (858).  This martyrology constitutes the earliest surviving reference to three saints that were associated with Spoleto: SS Concordius, Pontian, and Gregory of Spoleto.]

Bishop Peter II is also documented in connection with the Abbazia di Farfa in ca. 864 in support of its negotiations with the Emperor Louis II in connection with an estate at Massa Torana (near Rieti).

Duke Lambert I (ca. 859-79)

When Guy I of Spoleto died in 859, his elder son became Duke Lambert I of Spoleto (while his other son became Duke Guy I of Camerino, later Duke Guy III of Spoleto).  Louis II had a less successful relationship with Guy’s sons.   Lambert I rebelled against him in 860, but soon fled to Benevento, where he was received by Duke Adelchis.   Louis II took Spoleto and marched on Benevento.  However, Adelchis came to terms with him and persuaded him to take Lambert I back into favour.

In 866, Louis II assembled the largest army ever seen in Italy and marched south against the Saracens, reinforced by a naval fleet from Venice.  When he conquered the Emirate of Bari in 871 he was at the height of his power.  However, he was immediately undermined when his erstwhile allies turned against him.  Adelchis of Benevento imprisoned him, and he was forced to acknowledge the effective independence of Benevento.  Lambert I joined the revolt.  The prestige of Louis II never recovered from the humiliation at the hands of his allies, who forced him to swear that he would take no revenge.  When he returned to Rome, Hadrian II released from his oath and crowned him a second time as emperor (872).  He was thus free to expel Lambert I from the Duchy of Spoleto. 

He awarded Lambert I the County of Capua in 866, taking the Duchy of Spoleto to its greatest extent.  However, Lambert I sacked Rome during the coronation of Pope Hadrian II in 867 and lost both papal and imperial support.

Louis II made the first recorded imperial visit to the Abbazia di Farfa soon after and subsequently confirmed its Imperial privileges.  He  died prematurely and without heirs in 875.  Pope John VIII (872-82) now moved to the forefront of the defence against the Saracens.  In return for a series of territorial concessions, he crowned Louis’ uncle, Charles the Bald as Holy Roman Emperor in 875 and he duly reinstated Lambert I as Duke of Spoleto.  It was at about this time that his brother Guy (Later Duke Guy III - see below) married Ageltrude, the daughter of his ally, Duke Adelchis of Benevento.

Charles the Bald died in while crossing the Alps in 877 to attend to political problems in his northern territories.  Carloman, the son of Charles’ brother, Louis the German, now marched into Italy to assert his claim to the crown.  Duke Lambert I, Duke Adalbert I of Tuscany (who had married Rotilde, the daughter of Lambert I, in 859) and representatives of Bishop Formosus (an enemy of John VIII) marched on Rome in order to force the Pope to crown Carloman.  They duly captured John VIII, but he escaped and fled to Troyes, from whence he excommunicated Lambert. 

Carloman suffered a stroke in 879 and surrendered the Kingdom of Italy to his brother, Charles the Fat.  Duke Lambert died at about the same time.

Duke Guy II (ca. 879-82)

The political situation now deteriorated:

  1. Charles the Fat in effect surrendered power in central Italy to John VIII in return for his coronation as Emperor in 881;

  2. John VIII was murdered in 882; and

  3. Duke Guy II of Spoleto, Lambert’s son and successor, died soon after.

Throughout this unhappy period, the Saracen threat went unchecked.  Saracens raiders sacked Narni in 876, Foligno in 881, Narni again in 882 and Terni and Trevi at unknown dates in the late 9th century.  They also sacked the Abbazia di Farfa in 890.  The legend of St John of Spoleto, which was written in the 10th century, refers to the destruction of Spoleto itself by saracens: if this is correct, it probably happened at this time.

When Charles the Fat died in 888, the Carolingian Empire finally disintegrated.

Duke Guy III of Spoleto (883-89)

In 883, Guy, the brother of Lambert I, who was already Duke of Camerino, became Duke Guy III of Spoleto and Camerino.  He spent the period 887-8 in West Francia, where he had hopes of taking the crown, but returned to Italy when these came to nothing.  He then fought Duke Berengar of Friuli for the Iron Crown of Lombardy and defeated him at the Battle of Trebbia.  He forced Pope Stephen VI to crown him as King of Italy in 889 at which point his younger son became Duke Guy IV of Spoleto (see below). 

In 891, Stephen IV crowned Guy III as Holy Roman Emperor in 891.  Pope Formosus (891-4) was forced to re-crown him at Ravenna in 892 and to crown Guy’s older son, Lambert II as co-emperor.  

Duke Lambert II of Spoleto (889-98)

In 893, Pope Formosus appealed to Arnulf, King of East Francia to rescue Rome from the Guideschi tyranny.  By the time of Arnulf’s invasion of Italy in 896, Guy III was dead, but his wife Ageltrude of Benevento still held Rome on behalf of Lambert II.  After a vigorous defence, she and her supporters had to withdraw to Spoleto.  Pope Formosus crowned Arnulf as Holy Roman Emperor, but before he could invade the Duchy of Spoleto, he was paralysed by a stroke.  He returned to East Francia to die, and Formosus soon followed him to the grave. 

Lambert II was once more the master of Rome.  Pope John IX (898-90) reached an accord with him, and it seemed for a moment that they would now be able to restore the dignity of Rome and rescue the surrounding countryside (including the contadi of Narni and Orte) from Saracen occupation.  However, these hopes were dashed when Berengar of Friuli mounted a revolt in 898 and Lambert II died (perhaps assassinated).   Berengar took Pavia and was crowned as King Berengar I of Italy.

Duke Guy IV of Spoleto

As noted above, Lambert’s younger brother seems to have acted as Duke Guy IV of Spoleto from 889, when Guy III became King of Italy.  He conquered Benevento in 895 but was murdered in Rome in 897 by agents of Alberic, a former courtier of Guy III who went on to become Duke Alberic I of Spoleto.

Ageltrude of Benevento was to outlive both of her sons, Lambert II and Guy IV:  she made a donation of land to the Abbazia di Sant’ Eutizio in 907 and was last documented in 923.

Return to the page on the History of Spoleto.