In this essay I will analyse the relationships that existed at the beginning of the 14th century between Orvieto, an Italian city in Umbria, and Bagnoregio, a town about twenty kilometres south of Orvieto. This article is part of the current historiographical debate, which I will shortly present in the first paragraph, about the interaction between the political actors in the cities and countries of central and northern Italy throughout the Late Middle Age. Studying the relationship between Orvieto and Bagnoregio allows us to observe these dynamics in a background more complex than the usual one shaped by the interaction between city and town. That was due to the particular status of Bagnoregio, which was a rural town from a demographical and economic point of view, but from the political standpoint it was considered a city, because it was a bishopric More on the connection between bishopric and city status in Chittolini (1990)
More on the connection between bishopric and city status in Chittolini (1990)
The making of the
In 1934 was printed the first monograph which emphasized on the existence of different reactions from the country inhabitants to the cities expansion: in that year Johan Plesner had his thesis published. The Danish historian studied the emigration of the countrymen to Florence in the 13th century and he concluded that more dynamic social groups took advantage of the Florentine expansion to strengthen their relations with the urban world, to have a better chance to accumulate wealth and social advancement (Plesner 1934). Since then, historians have developed a new interpretation of the relationships between cities and towns in central and northern Italy and begun to rethink not only the socio-economic perspective but also the political point of view. The late Fifties and early Sixties were especially fruitful for political analysis: in these years Philip James Jones started his lifelong studies of the Italian city-states, which gave a paramount contribution in the reconsideration of the role of cities in medieval Italy (Nobili 1980, Coleman 2010, Zorzi 2010), underlining the importance of extra-urban social and political factors Philip James Jones wrote his first essay on an Italian city-state in 1952 and he summarised his peculiar interpretation of this subject in his chef-d’oeuvre
Philip James Jones wrote his first essay on an Italian city-state in 1952 and he summarised his peculiar interpretation of this subject in his chef-d’oeuvre
Orvieto and Bagnoregio are the subjects of my article and I will consider the years 1303 and 1304, because in that time Bagnoregio was the Orvieto government’s main concern. Orvieto is a city halfway between Firenze and Roma, that reached seventeen-thousand inhabitants at the end of the Thirteen-Century and its
because everybody knew that Orvieto ruled over Bagnoregio, but none perceived the guidelines that underlined this connection.
On 16 February 1303, a delegation from Bagnoregio came to Orvieto, where it was immediately heard by the city council. Speaking before the councillors, the embassy complained that Bagnoregio had been attacked by a gang of Orvieto citizens. The envoys requested the conviction of all the people from Orvieto involved in the raid, both the assailants and their accomplices SASO, Riformagioni, reg. 73, cc. 90 r.-92 r., 04/12/1303. In spite of the dissenting vote from part of the city council, the government of Orvieto fined every citizen heavily, including the city magistrates that helped the bandits, but this law really didn’t say anything about the actual people from Orvieto that took part in the raiding party SASO, Riformagioni, reg. 73, cc. 90 r.-92 r., 04/12/1303. Some time after this assembly, there were riots in Orvieto that resulted in the demolition of the tower of the Lupicini family, an aristocratic lineage that supported the gang that raided Bagnoregio (ed. Fumi 1902). This matter was debated again in the city council in December, when the assembly annulled the sentence of the city court on Neri di Romano, the leader of the gang that assaulted Bagnoregio SASO, Riformagioni, reg. 73, cc. 90 r.-92 r., 04/12/1303.
At the beginning of December, just before the amnesty given to Neri, Bagnoregio was attacked once again by rebels and bandits. This time it was a noble citizen of Orvieto, Ugolino Monaldeschi, member of the most powerful and richest family in Orvieto, who came to speak before the city council. The nobleman demanded that the city government concede him the right to reprisal against Bagnoregio, because, as Ugolino told the council, the inhabitants of Bagnoregio had cooperated with the rebels that attacked and expelled him from the town where he was serving as the elected
The relationship between Orvieto e Bagnoregio put the struggle for Maremma and the Papal authority in their political and territorial context.
To analyse the political situation in Orvieto in these years, it is necessary to understand why in Orvieto there was a faction ready to attack their city’s allies. At the end of the 13th century in Orvieto there were two conflicting coalitions, one that wanted to use the city resources to annex a region in south of Tuscany called Maremma, west of Orvieto, while the second preferred to strengthen the city dominion over the road between Florence and Rome, to the north-east of the city. Starting in 1296, the government of Orvieto backed the project to conquer Maremma, while the other forces were in opposition. In that year many members of the Orvieto ruling class were excommunicated by Pope Bonifacio VIII (eds Digard, G. & Faucin M. & Thomas A. 1881), and the faction that backed the project to conquer Maremma took power in the city. From this perspective, the attack on Bagnoregio in 1303, when the subjugation of Maremma was nearly accomplished, was an attempt to put pressure on the Orvieto government and hinder its strategy in the south of Tuscany. The involvement of Lupicini family in the assault of Bagnoregio corroborates this: this was one of the richest and most powerful noble families in Orvieto during the 13th century, but it had lost many properties and most of its political influence after 1269, when most of its members where condemned for heresy and its goods were sold at auction (Henderson 1990). The families that benefitted most from the fall of the Lupicini were those ruling Orvieto at the end of the 13th century and that supported the annexation of Maremma. In spite of their setbacks, at the beginning of the XIV century, Lupicini was still a rich family that would gladly support anyone that attacked their old rivals (Pardi, 1896). Of course, loot was one of the main goals of the raid on Bagnoregio, but it was not the only one; to cause a lot of problems for the forces that ruled Orvieto was another aim for sure. The nomination of Ugolino Monaldeschi as Tudino di Buongiovanni, Odduccio di Andreotto – the two spokesmen that followed up this matter in the Orvieto city council – (SASO,
Tudino di Buongiovanni, Odduccio di Andreotto – the two spokesmen that followed up this matter in the Orvieto city council – (SASO,
However, in Bagnoregio there were also political factions that rejected the influence of Orvieto over their town. From their point of view, the February attack meant that there were forces in Orvieto that were willing to do anything to hinder the government of their city: this was the first opportunity in three years to overturn the ascendancy of Orvieto over Bagnoregio and to challenge the regime close to Orvieto. This faction made an agreement with marauders camped near the town: the outlaws attacked Ugolino and his men and instituted a new government which was hostile to Orvieto. The reactions of the political forces of the
The case study presented here has some interesting points in common with the way Avignon forced its power on the rural communities around it: in doing so, the French city relied on the support of the Count of Toulouse, who was one of the legitimates lords of that region. But he needed the help of the city during the hard times of the Albigesian Crusade (1202‑1229) (Balossino 2012). We could also make a meaningful connection comparing the relationships developed by the Orvieto councils with the countryside, and the politics implemented by the Milan government at the beginning of the 14th century, which chose to strengthen its institutions in order to deal with political actors based in the countryside (Grillo 2003).
The two battles that took place in Bagnoregio in 1303 and their political follow up in Orvieto, allow us to observe how complex the relations between political actors of the dominant city and the ones based in towns of its
In November 1303 a political group in Bagnoregio planned and perpetrated an attack on the governor from Orvieto and his men. This event allows us to observe that factions from a small town could interact in several ways with the government of their
The confirmation of Orvieto’s influence over Bagnoregio by the Pope put the small town under the city’s rule, but it also made possible for the political forces of the two urban settlements to interact with each other. Bagnoregio elected governors from Orvieto, but the power of these officials was balanced by the actions of the inhabitants, which could even collaborate with factions in Orvieto to undermine their authority. At the same time, neither the government nor the opposition in Orvieto considered the people from Bagnoregio simply as their vassals: on the contrary, they regarded them as political actors with whom to develop complex factional relationships. To conclude, Bagnoregio is an example of a
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