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Anagni, (Latin Anagnia) is an ancient town in Latium, Italy, in the hills east-southeast of Rome, famous for its connections with the papacy and for the picturesque monuments of its unspoiled historical center. Legend, history, and tradition have accompanied the fame of Anagni (pronounced Ah-Nah-Nyee), the historical center of Ciociaria, where there are traces of human activity through the millenniums.
Anagni appears today as a small medieval town, placed on the ridge of a hill (460 meters above sea level), with small twisting streets and steep lanes everywhere. It is built inside powerful Roman boundary walls which seem to preserve, like a treasure-chest, its innumerable treasuries of art and history and its troubling modern contradictions.
Initially, the built-up area included only the acropolis— that is the north-east zone comprising the Cathedral, Tufoli gate and Piazza Dante— and partially defended by walls in opus quasi-quadratum (almost squared work). Under Roman domination, the map of the city changed, starting from the modification of the boundary walls. The archaic inhabited places spread out protected by the so-called Servian walls, made with stone blocks placed in alternate lines and dating back to the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Most of the boundary walls have been subjected to rebuilding and restorations in the course of the first millennium A.D.; but the most remarkable re-arrangement took place in the XVI century.
The city is divided into eight districts, or contrade: Castello, Torre, Trivio, Tufoli, Piscina, Colle Sant'Angelo, Valle Sant'Andrea, and Cerere.
The first human settlements date back to more than 700,000 years, according to the dating of some paleolithic hand-made fragments recently recovered; while the historical sources (Livy, Virgil, Servius , Silius Italicus) mention Anagni only once the city had already been introduced into the Roman orbit. Several objects made of bone and flinstone and also two human molars and incisors belonging to fossil Homo erectus have been found in Fontana Ranuccio.
The people who lived in those places were of Ernican ancestry, migrated - as it seems - from the Aniene valley and probably descendant from the Marsi (Marsians) (or from the Sabines), at least according to the ethnical term deriving from the Marsian herna, "stone", that is: "Those who live on the stony hills". Only two words remain of their language: Samentum, a strip of sacrifical skin, and Bututti, a sort of funeral lament.
The importance of Anagni as a holy city and spiritual centre of the Hernici ( Er-Nee-Chee: Ernici in Italian) is outstanding. The city was the seat of temples and sanctuaries, where in the second century A.D., many linen codices containing sacred Etruscan writings were still well conserved, according to the testimony of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Of these writings there is a sole survivor which is the Liber Linteus.
Recent archaeological discoveries have revealed cultural and economic relationships betweeen the Ernici and the Etruscans around the seventh century BC., perhaps it was commercial center which conducted trade with Magnae Greacia . Probably, at the foot of the hill on which the city stands, there was the so-called Maritime Circle, where the Erniche ethnies of Alatri, Piglio, Veroli, and Ferentino, confederated under the aegis of Anagni. There they held their sacred and political meetings until the Romans, on the pretext of a presumed treason of the Ernica-Roman alliance, attacked Anagni, and defeated the Confederatio Hernicae and dissolved the Confederation in 306 BC.
The Anagnini allied with Rome in the struggle against the Volscians, was then reduced to a city sine suffragio, that is, without the right to vote, although conserving a proper religious autonomy and strategic importance.
In Imperial times, many emperors used to spend their summers in Anagni to escape the heat of Rome, most notably Marcus Aurelius, Settimius Servus , Commodus, and Caracalla. By the end of the Roman Empire a deep political and economic crisis caused the demographic collapse of Anagni's population. The suburban zones, which during the Roman Age had grown along the most important roads of the area were depopulated; the lower parts of the city were abandoned, vegetation gradually took possession of several spaces. As a proof of that, in the 10th century, an inner zone of Anagni was marked by the place-name Civitas Vetus (Old Town).
In spite of this, the town was achieving a more and more outstanding importance over the territory, being the seat, since the fifth century, of an important diocese. In the ninth century the first Cathedral was built on the ruins of the temple dedicated to the Goddess Ceres. The agricultural reconquest, begun in the tenth century, was supported by the ecclesiastic power, which allowed the laic lords to exploit the earth resources and to build some fortified settlements for their own peasants, and favoured a new economic and demographic growth.
During the tenth and the eleventh centuries the city strengthened its link with the papal court: in fact the popes began to consider the old capital city of the Ernici a safer and healthier spot compared to Rome which was the place of frequent epidemic diseases. For this reason, even if the presence of factions inside the town cannot be excluded, Anagni remained faithful to the Roman Church, becoming more and more frequently one of the most favourite residences of the popes, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Thanks to this situation the city became the cradle of several events connected with the struggle between Papacy and Empire and it was the witness of some of the most important acts in the political life of these two centuries. In 1122, in fact, Callistus II promulgated the basic Bull of the Concordat of Worms; in 1159 Pope Adrian IV received in Anagni, during the siege of Crema, the legates of Milan, Brescia, and Piacenza (the building of the Civic Palace was committed to the Ambassador of Brescia, Architect Jacopo da Iseo). In 1160 Alexander III excommunicated the Emperor Federico Barbarossa in the Cathedral; in 1176 after the Battle of Legnano, the same pope received the imperial legates, with whom he elaborated the Pactum Anagninum (Anagni's Agreement), premise to the peace which was achieved in Venice in 1177.
The thirteenth century represented the real golden period of the city: in one hundred years, Anagni gave four popes to the Christianity, all members of the Conti family. The first one to ascend to the papal throne was Lotarius Conti who, as Innocent III (1198-1216), was one of the outstanding personalities of his century, together with Frederik II of whom he favoured the coronation as Emperor of Germany and Saint Francis of whom he approved the first Rule. To Innocent III credit is given for the elaboration and the most complete and concrete issue of the theocratic doctrine, principle according to which the absolute rule on every earthly power is ascribed to the Pope. He died in 1216, leaving the Church at the historical peak of its power.
Innocent III's efforts were taken up by Gregory IX (Ugolino Conti 1227-1241), who belonged to the powerful Family of Conti di Anagni. On the 29th of September 1227 in Anagni's Cathedral he excommunicated Emperor Frederik II who had abandoned the Crusade that the Emperor himself had proclaimed. The suggestive ceremony took place by the lights of the torches, firstly shaken, then thrown on the ground and finally blown out by the prelates. In September 1230 after the reconciliation, Gregory IX received in Anagni Frederik of Svevia who had been able to conquer, without bloodshed but by means of his great diplomatic ability, both Jerusalem and Nazareth.
During his pontificate Alexander IV (1254-1261), Gregory's relative and Anagni's third pope, had to face the raged theological dispute raised by the University of Paris against the Mendicant Orders. The leader of this dispute, by means of a pamphlet against the Dominicans, was Guillaume de Saint-Amour, whose text was burned in front of the Cathedral, the sentence having been passed in Anagni in September 1256. In 1255 the Pope canonized Chiara of Assisi in Anagni.
The name of Anagni is particularly connected to the events of Boniface VIII, the fourth Pope of the city, a member of the powerful Caetani Family. His election, which occurred after the historical and dark abdication of Celestine V, was opposed by French Cardinals and by the powerful Colonna Family.
In 1300 Boniface VIII, at the summit of his pontificate, set up the first Jubilee and founded the first Romnan university. Having got into a violent conflict with the King of France, Philip the Fair, who assigned himself the right to tax the French clergy, Boniface VIII emanated the famous Bull Unam Sanctam of 1302, which arrogated to the Pope's absolute supremacy over earthly power, against the king. The contrast became so harsh that Philip the Fair organized an expedition to arrest the Pope, with the purpose of removing Boniface from his office by the help of a general council. The Pope was captured in his palace at Anagni in September 1303, by the French and Italian soldiers led by Guglielmo di Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna.
A Legend tells us that in such circumstances the Pope was slapped by Sciarra Colonna. The outrageous imprisonment of the Pope inspired Dante Alighieri in a famous passage of his Divine Comedy (Purgatory, XX, vv. 85-93), the new Pilate has imprisoned the Vicar of Christ. The people of Anagni rose against the invaders and released Boniface, but the old pontiff, already suffering, died in Rome about a month later. After the death of Boniface VIII, both the splendour of Anagni and the dreams of power of the Caetani Family collapsed and the doctrine of papal theocracy lost its consistence forever.
The transfer of the papal court to Avignon marks for Anagni the beginnning of a long period of decline which lasted through the entire XV century.
Sacked by the troops of Duke Guarnieri (Werner) von Verslingen in 1348, ruined and depopulated, the city became a battlefield in the conflict between pope Paul IV and Philip II king of Spain. The Spanish army, led by the Duke of Alba sieged Anagni in 1556 bombarding it and horribly sacking it as soon as the papal troops abandoned their defenses and escaped.
The damages suffered by the town, particularly by the town walls, were accentuated by the fortifying works carried out in 1564 under pope Pius IV. Around 1579 a short period of refluorishing begins, thanks to Cardinal Benedetto Lomellino, bishop and governor of the city.
The planned works are made under the sign of a recovery of the architectonic structures and the medieval constructive and decorative style. The great architectonic and urbanistic reconstructions began around 1633. The works concerning the ecclesiastic buildings which determined the present look of the churches in Anagni are very interesting. The new architectonic canons which, howerver, left the existing Gothic Roman elements untouched are reflected in the transformation of the buildings. Also the ancient noble mansions embellished by magnificent portals were restructured and, toward the end of the XIX century, also the cultural level of the city rose again, thanks to the growing welfare. In fact, in this period, other institutions and congregations were born, which, together with the constitution of various schools, made Anagni an important centre of study thanks to its long cultural tradition.
In 1890, in the presence of the Queen, the Queen Margaret's National Boarding-house for the education of the orphan-girls of grammar schools teachers was opened.
In 1897 the Collegio Leoniano, entitled to the pontiff Leone XIII, was opened, too. In it the theological teaching is entrusted to the Jesuit fathers. The edifice is the seat of an interesting archaeological collection.
Finally, in 1930, the Prince of Piedmont's Boarding-house was built for the sons of local body personnel.
Since the second post-war period the territory of Anagni has become an industrial settlement ranking among the most important ones in Central-Southern Italy; a settlement which, even though it resulted to be remarkably useful to our economy, caused - on the other hand - several damages to the local culture and tradition, also deforming some traits of the environmental patrimony.
Anagni and the Roman Catholic Church
A measure of Anagni's importance as a religious site is that its church claims to be of apostolic foundation, a diocese not overseen by a bishop but under the immediate jurisdiction of the Holy See, even though a bishop of Anagni first appears in the 5th century, when Felix its bishop attended the Lateran Synod of 487 and bishop Fortunatus was among the signatories of the Acts of the Synod of 499, according to Theodor Mommsen's history of Rome. Zachary of Anagni was the legate of pope Nicholas I at the synod held in Constantinople in 851 to decide the validity of the election of Photius to the patriarchate. In 896 Stephen, bishop of Anagni became pope. Anagni was also the summer residence of the popes up until recently. It was similar to what Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills is to today's popes.
The Cathedral of Anagni, dedicated to the Santa Maria, is a great Romanesque monument of the wealth and importance of the city and its people. It was constructed during the years 1071-1105 a.D. The most spectacular part of the Cathedral is its cript, which contains the tomb of Saint Magno, the patron saint of Anagni, and Saint Secondina of Anagni. The frescos on the walls and ceiling are some of the most spectacular works Byzantine art in all of Italy.
Language and Dialect
The Language, or Dialect, of Anagni (called Anagnino) can be categorized as Northern Ciociaro (Choh-Chah-Roh). The Definite Articles (the) are Ju-Masculine Singular (pronounced like the English word you), La-Femine Singular, Ji-Masculine Plural (pronounced Yee), and Le-Femine Plural (pronounced like the English word Lay). The Indefinite Articles (a,an) are nu-for masculine words and na for femine words. The final vowel is always pronouced in the plural form and usually in the singular form (this is in comparison with Southern Ciociaro and Neopolitan where the final vowel of a word is usually slerred, unaccented). For those who know Italian, the Anagnino dialect preserves the u's found in Latin; for example instead of the Italian con (with), the people of Anagni use cu from the Latin cum. There are many other differences between the Italian and Anagnino. Some examples include the deletion of some n's, l's, and r's commonly found in Italian. For Linguistic Historians, the dialect is especially important for studying Pre-Roman Italic Languages and also the formation of Italian. Like Latin, the v's are pronounced like u's; for example vino (wine in Italian) is uino in Anagnino. Today's Standard Italian is heavilly influenced by German (from the Goths who invaded and assimilated into Northern Italian Culture), French (from France's political and historical influence on Northern Italy), Arabic (from the Arab rule and influence from the golden period of Sicily and Far-Southern Italy occupation), Greek (from the influence of the Holy Byzantine Empire), and Spanish (from the Royal and Dynastic Unions of Spain and Italy before 1860). While the dialect of Anagni and the others of Central Italy (south of Rome, west of the Apennines, and north of Campania) are relatively considered solely Latin and Pre-Italic, due to the limited settlement of foreign people in the area.
Coat of arms
Its coat of arms include an eagle over the lion and the letters S.P.Q.A. The cost of arms symbolizes the forced union of Anagni and the Roman Empire in 306 b.C. The lion symbolizes the native Ernici people, and the eagle on top of the lion symbolizes the Romans conquering the Ernici. The letters S.P.Q.A. stands for Senatus Populusque Anagnia (the Senate and the People of Anagni). It is a model after the ancient acronym S.P.Q.R. for Rome, Senatus Populusque Romanus (the Senate and the People of Rome). The two keys above the eagle signify the city's papal history, in which there were four popes from Anagni, Pope Innocent III (1198-1261), Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241), Pope Alexanader IV (1254-1261), and Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). The imperial crown above the crest and the imperial robe signifies Anagni was a famous and important residence of the Roman Emperors. The label is in Latin, HERNICA SAXA COLVNT QVOS DIVES ANAGNIA PASCIT.
Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages 1993.
Alessandro De Magistris, La Istoria della Citta' di Anagni.
- Official Website Comune (Italian)
- Official Website Cittā (Italian and English)
- AnagniOnLine - History, Recipes, Dialect (Italian)
- William of Hundlehy's contemporary pamphlet, 'The Outrage'
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