Viterbo Papacy

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The Papal Palace in Viterbo Viterbo, palazzo e loggia dei papi, 05.jpg
The Papal Palace in Viterbo

With a long history as a vantage point for anti-popes forces threatening Rome, [1] 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; [2] as a result, the papal palace in Viterbo, with that in Orvieto, are the most extensive thirteenth-century papal palaces to have survived. [3]

History of Rome History of city of Rome, Italy, from ancient Rome to the modern day

Roman history has been among the most influential to the modern world, from supporting the tradition of the rule by law to influencing the Founding Fathers of the United States to the creation of the Catholic church. Roman history can be divided into the following periods:

Viterbo Comune in Lazio, Italy

Viterbo is an ancient city and comune in the Lazio region of central Italy, the capital of the province of Viterbo.

Pope leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the Bishop of Rome and ex officio leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.


Shifting political and economic alliances pushed and pulled various popes of that century from Rome, taking refuge in other, not invariably hospitable, Italian city-states like Perugia and Orvieto. The primary cleavage in these divisions was between the Angevin and Hohenstaufen claimants to the title of Holy Roman Emperor, whom the pope could crown.

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.

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.

Capetian House of Anjou

The Capetian House of Anjou was a royal house and cadet branch of the direct French House of Capet, part of the Capetian dynasty. It is one of three separate royal houses referred to as Angevin, meaning "from Anjou" in France. Founded by Charles I of Naples, the youngest son of Louis VIII of France, the Capetian king first ruled the Kingdom of Sicily during the 13th century. Later the War of the Sicilian Vespers forced him out of the island of Sicily, leaving him with the southern half of the Italian Peninsula — the Kingdom of Naples. The house and its various branches would go on to influence much of the history of Southern and Central Europe during the Middle Ages, until becoming defunct in 1435.

Prior papal connections

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Viterbo, "during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the city several times afforded the popes an asylum." [2] Pope Paschal II (1099–1118) was brought to Viterbo as a prisoner in 1111, [2] and when Pope Adrian IV (1154–1159) met with Frederick Barbarossa in the city in 1155, the city was firmly in the Emperor's hands

<i>Catholic Encyclopedia</i> English-language encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and History of the Catholic Church, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States and designed to serve the Roman Catholic Church. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index volume in 1914 and later supplementary volumes. It was designed "to give its readers full and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine".

Pope Paschal II pope

Pope Paschal II, born Ranierius, was Pope from 13 August 1099 to his death in 1118.

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.

Antipopes Paschal III (1164–1168) and Callixtus III (1168–1178) took shelter in Viterbo, where the nobility had Ghibelline loyalties, but—according to the Catholic Encyclopedia—much of the populace remained loyal to Pope Alexander III. [2] Viterbo rebelled against the Emperor after the peace between pope and Emperor was concluded. [2]

Antipope Person who holds a significantly accepted claim to be pope, without being recognized as pope

An antipope is a person who, in opposition to the one who is generally seen as the legitimately elected Pope, makes a significantly accepted competing claim to be the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. At times between the 3rd and mid-15th centuries, antipopes were supported by a fairly significant faction of religious cardinals and secular or anti-religious monarchs and kingdoms. Persons who claim to be pope, but have few followers, such as the modern sedevacantist antipopes, are not classified with the historical antipopes.

Antipope Paschal III Italian priest and diplomat

Antipope Paschal III was, from 1164 to 20 September 1168, the second of the antipopes to challenge the reign of Pope Alexander III.

Antipope Callixtus III or Callistus III was Antipope from September 1168 to 29 August 1178.

Pope Innocent III (1198–1216) issued a papal bull from Viterbo in 1214. [4] Viterbo remained loyal to Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and refused to admit Pope Gregory IX in 1232. [2] A series of sieges brought the city back and forth between Guelf and Ghibelline loyalty. [2]

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.

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor 1194 – 1250, Holy Roman Emperor of the Middle Ages

Frederick II was King of Sicily from 1198, King of Germany from 1212, King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 and King of Jerusalem from 1225. He was the son of emperor Henry VI of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and of Constance, heiress to the Norman kings of Sicily.

Pope Gregory IX 178th Pope

Pope Gregory IX was Pope from 19 March 1227 to his death in 1241. He is known for issuing the Decretales and instituting the Papal Inquisition in response to the failures of the episcopal inquisitions established during the time of Pope Lucius III through his papal bull Ad abolendam issued in 1184.



Pope Alexander IV was elected in Naples in December 1254. He inherited his predecessor's allegiance to the Hohenstaufen claimants to the Holy Roman Empire but quickly turned against them. Because of the strength of the Ghibelline faction in Rome, he withdrew to Viterbo in 1257 until his death in 1261. Alexander IV began enlarging the bishop's residence by the Cathedral, and the Papal Palace was completed probably in 1266.

Alexander IV's successor, Pope Urban IV, returned to Viterbo from the Crusades and was present there when Alexander IV died. A non-cardinal, Urban IV moved to Perugia upon his election, where he died. Urban IV spent the winter and spring of 1261-1262 in Viterbo. [5]

Urban IV's successor, Pope Clement IV, was elected in Perugia, but established himself in Viterbo, where he remained until his death. Clement IV established permanent residence in Viterbo in 1266. [5] He did not even return to Rome for the crowning of Charles of Anjou as the Holy Roman Emperor by the College of Cardinals.

The election after Clement IV's death, in Viterbo, lasted three years. Pope Gregory X, a non-cardinal away on the Crusades, was finally elected. Gregory X returned to Rome, and died in Arezzo, while returning from the Second Council of Lyon. in France. His successor, Pope Innocent V also resided in Rome.

Pope Adrian V was pope for a little over a month, and accomplished little other than dying in Viterbo before even being ordained a priest. His Portuguese successor, Pope John XXI remained in Viterbo. John XXI expanded the papal palace in Viterbo, and died when a section of the roof collapsed on him. [5]

The next pope, Pope Nicholas III, although from the powerful Roman Orsini family, also died in Viterbo in 1280. During the ensuing election, the magistrates of Viterbo threw two Orsini cardinals into prison. [2] By the time his successor, Pope Martin IV, was elected, Viterbo had been placed under interdict, and because the French pope was resented in Rome, he was crowned in Orvieto. The influence of Viterbo on the papacy declined after Martin IV's death in Perugia in 1285.

Pope Pius II was in Viterbo in 1462 to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. [6]


Papal palace

The loggia of the papal palace LoggiaPalPapiViterbo.JPG
The loggia of the papal palace

The palace at Viterbo had been the residence of the Bishop of Viterbo until the 1250s. [5] Alexander IV (1254–1261) enlarged the palace for use as a papal residence. [5] A large three-storied addition was completed in 1266, during the reign of Clement IV (1264–1268). [5] The palace was redecorated in the 1290s, and some of the new additions bear the Caetani coat-of-arms of Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303). [5] According to Prof. Radke, although Boniface VIII never even visited Viterbo during his papacy, "the papal arms indicate that the structure had not completely lost its papal associations." [5]

According to Prof. Radke, "the papal palaces in Viterbo and Orvieto are the most extensive thirteenth-century papal palaces to survive to our own day." [5] Radke dates a series of frescoes in the palace to its enlargement during the residence of Clement IV (1264–1268). [5]

Papal tombs

Four popes were buried in Viterbo:

Nicholas III, from the powerful Roman Orsini family, was returned to Old St. Peter's Basilica for burial.


  1. The Lombard king Desiderius and Frederick Barbarossa (who established his anti-papal there, are both noted by Edward T. Price, "Viterbo: landscape of an Italian city", Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 54.2 (June 1964:242-75) .
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Diocese of Viterbo and Toscanella". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. Gary M. Radke, "Medieval Frescoes in the Papal Palaces of Viterbo and Orvieto", Gesta, 1984; Radke, Viterbo: Profile of a Thirteenth Century Papal Palace, 1996.
  4. William Heywood (1910) A History of Perugia , p. 35.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Gary M. Radke. 1984. "Medieval Frescoes in the Papal Palaces of Viterbo and Orvieto." Gesta23(1): 27-38.
  6. Ludwig Pastor (2009) The History of the Popes, BiblioBazaar, LLC, p. 95 ISBN   1-116-40997-6

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