AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE - Places to Visit
Viterbo and its territory
The city of Viterbo in the Province of Rome stands at the foot of Monte Cimino, in Central Italy, in an agricultural region. It has to a great degree preserved its medieval character, more particularly in its encircling walls, which are still in good preservation.
The most ancient building in the city, the cathedral, dedicated to St. Lawrence, was altered in the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries. The capitals of the columns, the two monuments of John XXI, and some frescoes and framed pictures are worthy of note. On the cathedral square stands the episcopal palace, decorated with fine sculpture of the thirteenth century; here the conclaves of Gregory X (1271-73), John XXI (1276), and Martin IV (1282)were held.
The former Servite church of the Verit? is now a museum in which a fresco of Lorenzo da Viterbo is preserved, representing the "Espousals of the Blessed Virgin". The adjoining convent is occupied by the Technical Institute. In the Church of S. Francesco are a Madonna by Sebastiano del Piombo, and the tombs of Adrian V, by Vassalletto, and of Clement IV, by Pietro d'Oderiso.
The Church of S. Sisto is remarkable for the great height of the sanctuary around the bulk of the nave. In this church Henry, son of Richard of Cornwall, was slain by Simon and Guy de Montfort in 1271. S. Maria della Salute is remarkable for its graceful doorway.
The Madonna della Quercia, with its annexed Dominican convent, is of elegant Renaissance architecture; in the lunette of the doorways of the fa?ade are examples of majolica by Luca and Agostino della Robbia. The richly gilded ceiling is by Antonio da Sangallo; the tabernacle by Andrea Bregno.
In the Church of S. Rosa the mummified body of the saint is preserved. On her feast day (September 4), her statue, enshrined in a large tempietto decorated with lanterns, is borne aloft by sixteen men. (Refer to the Italy Journal for September 4 of 2003 for our description of this event, referred to as The Macchina di Santa Rosa.)
S. Maria dei Gradi, of which the church still remains, was one of the earliest convents of the Dominicans and is even now a house of retreat. S. Juliana de Marescotti is buried in the Church of S. Maria della Pace.
Among illustrious Viterbans, the Augustinian Blessed Giacomo of Viterbo from the thirteenth century is worth mention. Notable profane edifices are the Municipal Building, with its splendidly frescoed halls and important Etruscan, Roman, and medieval museum, the Rocca, and, among a number of private buildings, the arches of S. Pellegrino.
The neighborhood is rich in Etruscan and Roman remains. The public fountains are especially beautiful. Noteworthy are the burial-places of Castel d'Asso, Norchia, and Musarna, which have yielded a large number of Etruscan sarcophagi and inscriptions.
The town of Ferento, on the other hand, is rich in Roman remains, among them the theatre and temple of Fortuna. Viterbo is famous for its numerous and copious mineral springs, the chief of which is the little sulphur lake of Bulicame; other sulphur springs are those of Bagnaccio, Torretta, and Cruciata. The water of the Grotta spring is sub-acid.
There is much dispute as to the origin of the city of Viterbo. It is certain that many relics of the Roman period are found in the district, and the baths of Bulicame (Aquae Caiae) and of Bacucco (Aquae Passeris) were unquestionably frequented both in the Roman and the Etruscan periods. It is not improbable that the city of Sorrina Nova stood here; others think that this may have been the site of Forum Subertanum.
The name of Viterbo occurs for the first time in the eighth century, under the pontificate of Zachary, when it was a village tributary to Toscanella, in Lombardic Tuscany (Tuscia Langobardorum) on the Via Cassia. Charlemagne gave the pope all this Tuscan territory in feudal tenure, the imperial authority over it still represented by a sculdascio and later by a count.
In the eleventh century the city had already grown very considerably, numbering thirteen churches, three of them with collegiate chapters. For its loyalty to him Henry IV granted it communal privileges.
During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the city several times afforded the popes an asylum. In 1155 Adrian IV here met Barbarossa, who, it is said, had to hold the pope's stirrup. When Rome became a republic it tried to subdue Viterbo, which, supported by Barbarossa, attached itself to his party, and sheltered the antipopes Paschal III and Callistus III. But the people were faithful to Alexander III, and only the nobility were Ghibelline, though after the peace between the pope and the emperor they rebelled against the latter.
The dominions of the city increased after this, many towns and villages placing themselves under its protection, while others were subdued by force. The neighboring town of Ferento was completely destroyed (1172) because it represented Christ crucified with eyes opened instead of closed. These conquests resulted in renewed friction with the Romans, who overcame the Viterbans (1201).
War broke out again when Viterbo purchased Centocello (1220). As a result the victory of Viterbo (1234), the cities of Tuscany were freed from allegiance to the Senate of Rome. In 1207 Innocent III there held a parliament to establish a form of government for this province, which was called the Patrimony (more properly, the Patrimonium Tusciae), and of which Viterbo was then the capital.
In the discord between the popes and Frederick II the city was Ghibelline; it refused to receive Gregory IX in 1232; in 1237, while the same pope was at Viterbo, a Ghibelline revolt broke out; and in 1240 the city received Frederick II. In 1243 Raniero Capocci drove the Imperialists out of Viterbo. Frederick regained the city in 1247, after a siege lasting a year. On the death of Frederick II it submitted to the temporal authority of the pope, after Innocent IV had guaranteed its communal liberties.
At this period, the death of St. Rose of Viterbo occurred. Rose, because she had preached against Frederick II, was exiled with her entire family a few days before the emperor's death was known. She was permitted to return some months before her own death. Under Alexander IV her body was buried in the monastery of the Clarisses.
In the subsequent period of tranquility the city extended its dominion over all the territory of the Papal States north of Lake Bracciano and on the right bank of the Tiber. After the death of Alexander IV at Viterbo (the exact whereabouts of his grave in the cathedral is unknown), the papal Court remained there for twenty years. Urban IV, Gregory X, John XXI, Nicholas III, and Martin IV were elected there.
In the last election the Viterbans attacked the two Orsini cardinals and threw them into prison, because of a dispute over the possession of certain villages. The controversy between the Orsini and Viterbo was eventually settled by Boniface VIII. At around 1300 the communal government was reorganized; the power was placed in the hands of eight "reformers" and of a "defender of the people" without whose assent the assembly could not be convoked, nor any public matter discussed or expense incurred.
This soon developed into despotism; after 1312 the office became hereditary in the Ghibelline family of Prefetti di Vico. From 1319 to 1329, however, Silvestro Gatti forcibly caused himself to be elected defender, and serious disorders ensued. In 1328 the city gave a festive reception for Louis the Bavarian and received a schismatic bishop from him. Very soon, however, it repented and received the legate of John XXII with honour.
In 1329 Faziolo di Vico slew Gatti and made himself defender. Faziolo was in turn slain by his brother Giovanni, who lorded it over the whole Patrimony during the absence of the popes, but was driven out by Lando Gatti, a former Cistercian monk. Wars followed with the governor of the Patrimony, when the Viterbans refused to pay certain imposts (1346-50), and with Cola di Rienzi (1347), to whom the city surrendered.
When Cardinal Albornoz came to effect the reconquest of the Papal States, Viterbo submitted and built a fortress (Rocca) for the governor of the Patrimony. In 1367, during the sojourn of Urban V at Viterbo, a quarrel between the populace and the retinue of one of the cardinals developed into a general uprising, which the Viterban Cardinal Marco quickly put down.
In 1375 Francesco di Vico took possession of the city, which joined in the general revolt against papal rule, but quickly submitted. When the Schism arose, Vico's tyranny recommenced; he took the side of Clement VII and sustained a siege by Cardinal Orsini. The people rose against the tyrant and killed him (8 May, 1387), and Viterbo returned to the obedience or Urban VI.
But in 1391 Gian Sciarra di Vico reentered the city and took possession of its government. In 1391 Cardinal Pileo, the legate of Clement VII, would have given the city over to Boniface IX, but his plan failed, and he with difficulty saved himself by flight: Vico came to an understanding with Boniface.
In the beginning of the fifteenth century Viterbo and the Patrimony were incessantly objects of attack, now of Ladislaus of Naples, now of Braccio da Montone, now of the Sforza. Two of these having died, Giovanni Gatti made himself lord of Viterbo, intending at the same time to maintain good relations with the pope, who still kept a governor of the Patrimony there.
His son Princivalle was killed at the instigation of the Mondaleschi (1454), and a like fate befell Guglielmo Gatti (1456). There followed a series of fights between the Gatteschi and Maganzesi factions, especially in 1496, leading to the extinction of the Gatti domination.
Peace was not re-established until 1503, when certain devout youths, robed in white, went about the city repeating: "Pace, pace sia con noi! Pace, pace vuole e commanda Maria Vergine" (Peace be with us! The Virgin Mary wills and commands peace). The Bishop of Adria, governor of the city, joined in this movement, and he was followed by all the magistrates and nobles, who bound themselves by oath to observe perpetual peace.
The government of Viterbo was subsequently confided to, instead of the governor of the Patrimony, a cardinal legate; after 1628 it was the residence of a simple governor. One of its cardinal legates was Reginald Pole, around whom a coterie of friends grew up at Viterbo. Vittoria Colonna was one, who aroused suspicions of heterodoxy. In 1860 the Piedmontese had already advanced as far as Viterbo, when an order from France recalled them.
Toscanella, which had recently resumed its ancient name of Tuscania, is a small town in the Province of Rome, about twelve and a half miles from Viterbo, on the River Marta and the ancient Via Clodia. It still preserves its medieval encircling walls.
The two most interesting and most ancient churches are outside the city, those of S. Maria Maggiore, the old cathedral, and of St. Pietro, situated on a hill, also at one time a cathedral. Both are notable for their Lombard architecture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, their sculptures, and their frescoes. The churches themselves date back as early as the fifth century; that of St. Leonardo, now a hay loft, preserved its fifteenth-century fa?ade.
The little Church of S. Francesco, also turned to profane uses, is decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Desparapane and his son (1466). The present cathedral was enlarged by Cardinal Gambara (sixteenth century) and restored in 1706; the "St. James" on the high altar is a notable work of Salvagni, and in one of the chapels are six fifteenth century statuettes taken from the old Abbey of St. Giusto. S. Maria delle Rose (1484) is remarkable for its fa?ade. S. Maria del Riposo (1495), formerly a Franciscan church, contains some good pictures.
In the vicinity of Toscanella Etruscan tombs have been found, which, however, have mostly gone to enrich the various museums of Europe. The archivium of the commune contains the most interesting papers.
Tuscania was anciently included in the territory of Tarquinia (Corneto). With the decay of the latter, the former grew, and became particularly important in the Lombard period, when it was a royal fief. Tuscania supported the Romans, to whom it was tributary, but after frequent conflicts with Viterbo finally yielded to it.
From 1419 to 1421 Tuscania was under the lordship of Angelo Tartaglia, a soldier of fortune, the remains of whose palace are still extant, and to the tower of which access is gained by a subterranean passage. In 1495 Charles VIII, returning from the Neapolitan campaign, wished to enter Toscanella, but being denied admission sacked the city and destroyed a great part of it. On 12 September, 1870, it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. Toscanella was the native city of Cardinal Consalvi.
The episcopal See of Viterbo was transferred from Toscanella, which venerates the martyrs Sts. Secundianus, Verianus, and companions (who, however, were Romans). They died not far from the city, to which their relics were translated in the seventh century by Bishop Maurus, the first bishop known (649).
Among the successors of Maurus may be mentioned Homobonus, to whom Leo IV (850) addressed a letter determining the boundaries of the diocese. In 876 Joannes, in the name of John VIII, carried the imperial insignia to Charles the Bald. During the tenth century Toscanella was for some time under the Bishop of Centumcellae.
The succession of its bishops recommences with Joannes (1027); another Joannes distinguished himself in the reform of Benedict (1049) and brought back the clergy of Tuscania to the common life. Gilbert (1059) and Giselbert (1080) were also promoters of reform, while Richard (1086) adhered to the antipope Clement III, who united with Toscanella the sees of Centumcellae and Blera (Bieda).
In 1192 Celestine III formed Viterbo into a diocese, combining it with that of Toscanella. Among other bishops to be noted is Ranieri (c. 1200), in whose episcopate the Paterini came to Viterbo, and this heresy had still to be combated in 1304. After him Cardinal Raniero Capocci was for a long time the administrator.
In the fourteenth century the clergy of Toscanella repeatedly refused to recognize the bishop elected by the chapter of Viterbo, so that Clement V (1312) reserved to the Holy See the right of appointment. Bishop Angelo Tignosi (1318) laboured for peace among his fellow citizens. Niccolo dei Vetuli (1351) was famous as a physician and man of letters, and held an important diocesan synod at Montalto.
In 1435 the Diocese of Corneto was separated and joined with the then recently erected Diocese of Montefiascone. In 1467 a picture was painted on a tile that had been hung by a peasant upon an oak tree (quercia) of the Madonna della Quercia.
Other bishops were: Gian Pietro Gratti (1533), a distinguished writer; Sebastiano Gualtieri (1551), the author of a diary of the Council of Trent; Cardinal Francesco Gambara (1561), a munificent restorer of churches; Alessandro Sforza Cesarini (1636), who began the seminary of Viterbo, completed by Cardinal Francesco Brancacci (1638), a model of all the virtues; Michelangelo Conti (1712), afterward Pope Innocent XII; Cardinal Gabriele Severoli (1806), nuncio at Vienna. The bishop, Mgr. Ant. M. Grasselli (1899), O.M.C., was formerly delegate Apostolic at Constantinople.
The canons of Viterbo received from Benedict XIII the privilege of the mitre, ring, and bugia. The seminary is interdiocesan for the dioceses of the Roman province north of Rome. Toscanella also has a seminary of its own for clerical studies. Of Blera (Bieda) seventeen bishops are known, the first of whom was Maximus (487).
Thanks to newadvent.org for this history of Viterbo.
Bagnaia, Province of Viterbo, Lazio
The Villa Lante gardens in Bagnaia
Five kilometers from Viterbo on Route 205.
Since the 13th century, Bagnaia had been the personal fief of the bishops of Viterbo. The Villa Lante was thus not created by lay princes such as Orsini or Gonzagues, but by men of the Church. As you will see, the tone does not change. The Villa Lante is the work of two bishops of Viterbo who succeeded each other on the city's episcopal throne.
The first was Gian Francesco Gambarra, the second, Alessandro Montalto.
According to the chroniclers of the time, the former was learned but lived simply. The latter, a cardinal at the age of seventeen, was the nephew of Pope Sixtus V.
The combination of Gambarra, a mature man, and Montalto, an adolescent, would produce one of the strangest Italian villas and one of the strangest Italian parks.
To create this work, Gambarra called on one of the great architects of his era, Giacomo Barozzi, known as "Il Vignola". Il Vignola worked in close collaboration with an acclaimed specialist, Pirro Ligorio, to deliver yet again a sort of initiatory path with surprises and shocks.
A hydraulics specialist had to be added, a man from Sienna called Thomaso Chiruchi. It was he who adjusted the waterworks to perfection.
It should be noted that after having been the episcopal see, the villa was sold to the Duke of Lante in the 17th century. The villa was described by Montaigne. It was one of the residences he explored during his trip to Italy.
Thanks to bergerfoundation.ch for the history of Villa Lante.
Bomarzo, Province of Viterbo
The park of Monsters (Parco dei Mostri)
The park was born in 1552 as "Villa of Wonders" to be the only one of it's kind in the world.
The Park of Monsters remained in oblivion till 1954 when it was bought by Mr Giovanni Bettini who with loving care has managed it.
A visit to the park will unfold in a series of stages ranging between mythology and fantasy.
The park is open all year.
For information on prices and special opening hours, contact the park on telephone number +39-761924029.
Thanks to bomarzo.net for the history of Parco dei Mostri.