History of Viterbo







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History of Viterbo                                  (Back to Viterbo main information page)  

The area of Viterbo was once known as ?Surrena? then ?Tuscia? named after the Etruscan populations that once lived in the northern part of Lazio.

The region is indeed an area full of history and art, the best preserved in Italy and testimony of the mysterious Etruscan culture, defined as the genius ?polis? of Italian history.

According to historical documents, it was eventually taken over by the Romans and in the VIII century, the city was identified as Castrum Viterbii.

It was then fortified in 773 by the Lombard king Desiderius in his vain attempt to conquer Rome.

Its well documented origins are indeed from times where the city became known as the refuge from Rome for the Popes, earning the title of the ?City of Popes?.

During the long controversy between the Roman Catholic?s church and the Emperor, Viterbo grew as a free city.

Then, with the Franchi support, Viterbo became part of the Papal States.

In 1164 the Barbarossa made Viterbo the seat of his Antipope Paschal III, using the city?s militias against Rome.

In 1172 the city was a rich and prosperous comune, one of the most important of Central Italy, with a population of almost 60,000.

Around 1207 the city was excommunicated as favourite seat of the heretical Popes and defeated by the Romans.

In the 13th century it was ruled alternately by the tyrants of the Gatti and Di Vico families.

Since 1240 Viterbo has been a loyal Guelph town and between 1257 and 1261 it was the seat of Pope Alexander IV, while his successor Urban IV was also elected here.

Other popes elected in Viterbo were Gregory IX (1271) and John XXI (1276), Nicholas III and the French Martin IV.

Without the Popes, the city fell into the hands of the Di Vico?s family.

It is however worth to note that the city has always followed the vicissitudes of the Papal State well known nowadays as the Vatican.

It then became part of the Italian history since 1860.



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