History of Pavia







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History of Pavia                                                  (Back to Pavia main information page)  

Known as ?Ticinum? by the name of its river, before the Roman conquest, it was a land inhabited by Ligurians and Celts (the Levi and Marici tribes), located in a strategic place for the waterway traffic.

Tradition tells of the existence of another town, Papia vegia, situated between the boundaries of the Ticino valley, near Santa Sofia, whose inhabitants were forced to leave in mysterious circumstances and to move where afterward was built the church to St. Thomas.

The City then became an important stronghold in Roman times being a municipality and an important military site. What is left of the Roman town is the chess board street plan and the brick vaulted sewerage system.

The small town was burnt by the Heruli who deposed the last Roman Emperor.

The Ostro-gothic King Theodoric made the town one of his favourite together with Ravenna and Verona.

The town became the head of the Gothic war against the Byzantine Empire and maybe this is why in this period it was being called Papia or ?the city of the palace?.

Under the Goths, Pavia became a fortified citadel and their last bulwark in the war against Belisarius in the war to reconquer Italy for the Eastern Roman Empire.

After the Longobards conquest, Pavia became the capital of their kingdom and during Queen Theudelinda times the Longobards were converted from Arianism to Roman Catholicism. Kings and Queens built several churches.

At the end of the Longobard kingdom, Pavia held for nine months the siege of Charlemagne who had the help, as the legend tells, of Bishop St. Theodore?s miracles.

Charlemagne won the Battle of Pavia (773) and the city became the capital of his Regnum Italicum, a vassal kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire, until the 12th century.


Following the Carolingian and Saxon rule, Pavia still remained the capital of Italy where several kings were crowned in St. Michael?s Basilica. Merchants from Pavia were granted special privileges and almost all Feudal Bishops had their representatives in the town.

In the 12th century Pavia acquired the status of a free comune.

During the Guelphs and Ghibellines times the city was traditionally Ghibelline, supported by the rivalry with Milan in defiance of the Emperor that led the Lombard League against Frederick Barbarossa, who was attempting to reassert Imperial influence over Italy. These were also known as the fights between the Emperors and the Pope and Pavia supported the Emperor against the Lombard League.

Frederick I (Barbarossa) was generous toward the capital of the Italian Kingdom and he helped to restore and rebuild many churches.



In the following centuries Pavia was an important and active town. Fights took place against Milan to gain the economic and political power until Pavia, conquered by the Visconti in 1315 and in 1359, remained chained to the rival town under the same Lordship.

Under the Visconti Pavia became an intellectual and artistic centre, being the seat from 1361 of the University founded around the nucleus of the old school of law, the ?Studium? founded by Lotarius in the X century, which attracted students from many countries. In this period it was also built most of the cathedral and started the construction of the Certosa di Pavia, a Carthusian monastery.

In 1447 Filippo Maria Visconti died without heirs, hence Pavia and Milan proclaimed themselves republics. However, soon the towns fell under the Sforza rule.


In 1525, under the town walls, was fought the important battle, the Battle of Pavia, between Spain and France, The victory of the Spanish imperial army led to a wave of strict Catholic rule, with many trials against heretics and witches and the expulsion of the Jewish bankers. The Spanish occupation lasted until 1900.

Pavia was then ruled by the Austrians until 1796, when it was occupied by the French army under Napoleon. In 1815, it again passed under Austrian administration until the Second War of Independence (1859) and the unification of Italy one year later.



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