Orvieto Papacy

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The papal palace of Orvieto Palazzo dei Papi.JPG
The papal palace of Orvieto

Orvieto, Umbria, Italy, was the refuge of five popes during the 13th century: Urban IV (1261–1264), Gregory X (1271–1276), Martin IV (1281–1285), Nicholas IV (1288–1292) and Boniface VIII (1294–1303). During this time, the popes took up residence in the Papal Palace of Orvieto (also known as Palazzo Soliano), which was adjacent to the Orvieto Cathedral and expanded onto the bishop's residence. None of these popes died in Orvieto, and thus no papal elections took place in there, nor are there any papal tombs.

Orvieto Comune in Umbria, Italy

Orvieto is a city and comune in the Province of Terni, southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The city rises dramatically above the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone called Tufa.

Umbria Region of Italy

Umbria is a region of central Italy. It includes Lake Trasimeno and Marmore Falls, and is crossed by the River Tiber. The regional capital is Perugia. Umbria is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, culinary delights, artistic legacy, and influence on culture.

Pope Urban IV pope of catholic church 1261–1264

Pope Urban IV, born Jacques Pantaléon, was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 29 August 1261 to his death in 1264. He was not a cardinal; only a few popes since his time have not been cardinals, including Gregory X, Urban V and Urban VI.


Political and strategic reasons motivated the frequent moves of the pope and Roman Curia during this period, and other destinations include Viterbo and Perugia. Urban IV and Martin IV resided in both Viterbo and Orvieto. During the period from the reign of Nicholas IV to Benedict XI (1303–1304), Orvieto hosted the pope more frequently than Rome.

The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the Pope’s name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the central organization for the Church to advance its objectives.

Viterbo Papacy

With a long history as a vantage point for anti-popes forces threatening Rome, Viterbo became a papal city in 1243. During the later thirteenth century, the ancient Italian city of Viterbo was the site of five papal elections and the residence of seven popes and their Curias, and it remains the location of four papal tombs. These popes resided in the Palazzo dei Papi di Viterbo alongside the Viterbo Cathedral intermittently for two decades, from 1257 to 1281; as a result, the papal palace in Viterbo, with that in Orvieto, are the most extensive thirteenth-century papal palaces to have survived.

Perugia Comune in Umbria, Italy

Perugia is the capital city of both the region of Umbria in central Italy, crossed by the river Tiber, and of the province of Perugia. The city is located about 164 kilometres north of Rome and 148 km southeast of Florence. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area. The region of Umbria is bordered by Tuscany, Lazio, and Marche.

Art historian Gary M. Radke notes that "the papal palaces in Viterbo and Orvieto are the most extensive thirteenth-century papal palaces to survive to our own day." [1] He dates the frescoes in the palace to the 1290s, during the reign of Nicholas IV or Boniface VIII. [1] They display naturalistic impulses in the Gothic style. [1]

Gothic architecture style of architecture

Gothic architecture is a style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th-century France, it was widely used, especially for cathedrals and churches, until the 16th century.


The city is mentioned in the writings of Gregory I (590–604). [2] Adrian IV (1154–59) was the first pope to spend significant time in Orvieto. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "on account of its position, Orvieto was often chosen by the popes as a place of refuge and Adrian IV fortified it." [2] His successor, Innocent III (1198–1216), was a militant opponent of the Cathar heresy, which had infiltrated the city, and took measures to eradicate that heresy; Innocent III sent Pietro Parenzo to govern the city, who was quickly martyred. [2] In 1227, Gregory IX (1227–1241) confirmed the Dominican studium generale in Orvieto, a school of theology, one of the first in Europe. [2]

Pope Gregory I Medieval pope from 590 to 604

Pope Gregory I, commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was Pope of the Catholic Church from 3 September 590 to 12 March 604 AD. He is famous for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, the Gregorian Mission, to convert the then-pagan Anglo-Saxons in England to Christianity. Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as Pope. The epithet Saint Gregory the Dialogist has been attached to him in Eastern Christianity because of his Dialogues. English translations of Eastern texts sometimes list him as Gregory "Dialogos", or the Anglo-Latinate equivalent "Dialogus".

Pope Adrian IV Pope from 1154 to 1159

Pope Adrian IV, also known as Hadrian IV, was Pope from 4 December 1154 to his death in 1159.

Pope Innocent III 12th and 13th-century Catholic pope

Pope Innocent III, born Lotario dei Conti di Segni reigned from 8 January 1198 to his death in 1216.


The palace was expanded during the reign of Urban IV (1261–1264), but the "northwest hall must have been built earlier." [1] Urban IV was French and had been crowned in Viterbo, but spent most of his papacy in Orvieto. The structure became a papal palace during Urban IV's two-year stay in Orvieto, starting October 18, 1262, although it may not have been completed until Gregory X (1271–1276) took up residence there on July 26, 1272. [1] Urban began construction in 1263, the year he consecrated a new Dominican church in Orvieto. The first mention of the papal palace in contemporary documents dates to April 1, 1273. [1]

Pope Gregory X Pope from 1271 to 1276

Pope Gregory X, born Teobaldo Visconti, was Pope from 1 September 1271 to his death in 1276 and was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. He was elected at the conclusion of a papal election that ran from 1268 to 1271, the longest papal election in the history of the Catholic Church.

Martin IV (1281–1285) was in Orvieto between March 23, 1281 and June 24, 1282, and then nearby in Montefiascone in the summer and fall of 1282. [1] He returned to Orvieto from December 25, 1282 until June 27, 1284. [1] He likely chose to reside in his fortress in Montefiascone while the Orvieto residence was being expanded. [1] The modern Cathedral of Orvieto itself was begun in 1285. [2]

Pope Martin IV pope

Pope Martin IV, born Simon de Brion, was Pope from 22 February 1281 to his death in 1285. He was the last French pope to have held court in Rome; all subsequent French popes held court in Avignon.

Montefiascone Comune in Lazio, Italy

Montefiascone is a town and comune of the province of Viterbo, in Lazio, central Italy. It stands on a hill on the southeast side of Lake Bolsena, about 100 km (60 mi) north of Rome.

Nicholas IV (1288–1292) was in Orvieto from June 13, 1290 to October 19, 1291. Although Nicholas IV was Roman by birth, he brought the Curia with him to Orvieto. Nicholas IV was elected Podestà and Capitano del Popolo of Orvieto, the first pope to hold civic offices in the city. Boniface VIII (1294–1303) arrived in Orvieto on June 6, 1297 and left that same month. [1] During his stay, the Commune placed his coat of arms on the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, erected statutes of him on two gates of the city, and unveiled frescoes on the gates and paintings inside the Palazzo del Populo. [1] Boniface VIII was elected Capitano and Podestà in 1297, and Capitano again in 1298.

Later papal ties

Pozzo di S. Patrizio Orvieto italy well.jpg
Pozzo di S. Patrizio

Nicholas V (1447–55) in a 1449 letter gave money for the restoration of the Episcopal Palace and authorized Fra Angelico to begin painting in the Cappella Nuova of the Cathedral.

During the Sack of Rome (1527), Clement VII (1523–1534) took refuge at Orvieto. Preparing for a possible siege of the city, he ordered the Pozzo di S. Patrizio ("Well of St. Patrick) constructed by architect-engineer Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. [2] Of course, the pope and emperor had reconciled long before the well was completed. Sixtus V (1585–1590) drained the swamps around the city. [2]

Ownership of the palace passed from the pope to the cathedral in 1550, and the structure became a museum in 1896. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "in the palace of the popes, built by Boniface VIII, is the civic museum, which contains Etruscan antiquities and works of art that are, for the greater part, from the cathedral." [2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Gary M. Radke. 1984. "Medieval Frescoes in the Papal Palaces of Viterbo and Orvieto." Gesta23(1): 27–38.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Orvieto". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.

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