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 Lazio, South of Rome




Deathplace of the only English Pope, Hadrian IV, in 1159


Birthplace of four Popes in the 1200s (High Middle Ages)


Innocent III 1161 - 1198 - 1216 (55)

the most powerful of the medieval Popes

Gregory IX 1143 - 1227 - 1241 (98)

who canonized his friend Saint Francis of Assisi

Alexander IV ? - 1254 - 1261

Boniface VIII c1235 - 1294 - 1303 (68)

who declared the first Jubilee Year, appointed the first Doctors of the Church, and put up lots of statues of himself




Anagni is known as the city of Popes - having produced four of them in the 1200s.  It is also possible to drive up through its narrow hill town streets and park next to the cathedral in the Piazza Innocenzo Terzo at the top - a tradition long since forgotten in Tuscan hill towns. 



The powerful Pope Innocent III (1161 - 1198 - 1216 (55)) was the first of the four medieval Popes from Anagni, but has only secured naming rights on the piazza next to the Duomo (view right).  The statue high on the the west wall of the Duomo (below) (whose axis is N - S) is of the fourth of the Anagni Popes - Boniface VIII.  Boniface was criticized for putting up such an ostentatious monument during his lifetime, but it's now one of a very few surviving contemporary statues of a medieval Pope.





The west wall of Anagni Duomo (the church is orientated north - south) with the contemporary statue of Boniface VIII well out of present day reach at the top.  It's not in quite such an odd position as it seems, as, until it was demolished in 1839, there was a monumental stairway leading from Piazza Innocenzo III up to the doorway that can be seen just under the Pope's statue.  The lower right part of the structure, now the Oratory of Saint Thomas Becket, was originally a Mithraic Temple (as indeed was part of the space on which Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome now stands - in fact many of the old church sites of Europe, not surprisingly, have histories as sites of worship stretching back much more than 2000 years). 




Pope Boniface VIII c1235 - 1294 - 1303 (68)


Boniface VIII (1235 - 1294 - 1303 (68)) was accused by some of murdering his short poped hermit predecessor Saint Celestine.  He was himself not well equipped personality wise for the challenges he faced, which included Philip the Fair of France, the Roman Colonna family and the overzealous Franciscan Spirituals.  During a brief spell of popularity he declared the first Jubilee Year ( = go to Rome, spend money, have your sins forgiven) in 1300 and this turned out to be an embarrassing success (like there was nowhere for people to kip).


Boniface had earlier invented the title "Doctor of the Church" and awarded it to Saints  Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine and Gregory the Great on 20 September 1295.


Another hugely successful (for the Rome tourist industry) invention of Boniface's was the first Jubilee year in 1300.  30 days (for Romans) or 15 days (non-Romans) spent in the Roman churches of Saint Pater and Saint Paul was the bronze frequent flier qualifying level for a no frills full remission of sins - silver and gold could be acquired with suitable gifts.


In 1302 Boniface demonstrated his political ineptitude by issuing perhaps the most futile of Papal Bulls - Unam Sanctum - which claimed papal jurisdiction over kings and emperors in addition to the church itself.  Well, his nemesis Philip the Fair of France did not like this one little bit, and in 1303 Boniface suffered the ignominy of being captured and beaten up in this, his home town, by a bunch of Colonnas (a Roman family) and French mercenaries.  He was released but died a short time later.  Never again was the Pope to challenge the power of monarchs.


Boniface VIII was the first Pope to be a major patron of the fine arts, and amongst other things brought the Florentine pre-Renaissance Masters Giotto  and Arnolfo di Cambio to Rome.  Vasari tells the story of how Pope Boniface VIII sent a messenger to Giotto with a request for samples of his work. Giotto dipped his brush in red and with one continuous stroke painted a perfect circle. He then assured the messenger that the worth of this sample would be recognized. When the pope saw it, he "instantly perceived that Giotto surpassed all other painters of his time."  Arnolfo's statues of Boniface (see below) are now in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence and the Vatican Museums, whilst Giotto's portrait fresco fragment (also below) is now incorporated in Boniface's tomb in St John Lateran.


Boniface was succeeded by the Dominican Benedict XI, who only lasted eight months before dying suddenly and unexpectedly (possibly assisted by poison) at Perugia in 1304.  After Benedict, the French Pope Clement V (aka Raymond Bertrand de Got) (1264 - 1305 - 1314 (50)) moved the seat of the Papacy from Rome to (you guessed) France - firstly Poitiers, then more permanently to Avignon, where it stayed until tentatively returning to Rome in 1376, then seesawing during the multiple popery of the Great Schism until definitely settling in Rome following the Council of Konstanz in 1417.









Above the statue of Boniface VIII is a panel of mosaics.  The top row consists of two shields showing the Caetani family crest (Boniface was a Caetani), separated by the outline of a tiara - the mosaics for which have completely disappeared.  The shields on the lower row depict the two (? looks like one from here) headed eagle of the Conti family of Anagni to which Gregory IX belonged.  Boniface had lots of statues of himself made and placed in (or in the above case on) churches and at city gates.







Above:  This Boniface VIII statue (attributed to the Florentinian sculptor and church architect Arnolfo di Cambio and from "The Papacy" by Paul Johnson) can be found in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence .  Go there to also see Donatello's Maddalena,  Michelangelo's Pietą (with self portrait), and original panels from Ghiberti's East Baptistery Door.


Left:  Close up of Boniface VIII (anon source) enthroned high up on the West side of Anagni cathedral.


Below Left:  Looks simple and little but this one is over 8.5 ft high and was made by Sienese goldsmith Manno di Bandino c1300 from embossed copper with bronze hands.  It stood in the facade of the Palazzo Pubblico in Bologna and is now in the Museo Civico Medievale there.  From "European Art of the 14th Century".


Below Right:  Arnolfo again - this time in the Vatican Museums.  From "Rome, Art and Architecture" by Marco Bussagli.






Giotto's take on Boniface VIII - now a fresco fragment on his tomb by Borromini in Saint John Lateran (Rome).

From "The Major Basilicas of Rome" by Roberta Vicci.







Boniface VIII at work with his cardinals (illustration from "The Papacy" by Paul Johnson).  Boniface was the first Pope to give a formal structure to the Curia - the Pope's Court and Administrators.




The evocative south facing facade of the Duomo, which would look even more evocative with a bit of sunshine!









Inside the Duomo, the promise of the ancient stonework outside evaporates into a pretty ordinary space, that is until you find someone to let you down into the large Crypt of Saint Magno, which lies under the "eastern" third of the church and was built at the same time as the latter (between 1072 and 1104).



The crypt was frescoed everywhere by Benedictine monks in the 1100s and 1200s and uniquely still has its original 1200s unrestored Cosmati flooring.  In the (postcard reproduction of the) crypt ceiling fresco below, Hippocrates debates Galen about the nature of the material world.



There is another medium sized oratory under the "north west" corner of the church, which is dedicated to Saint Thomas Becket and which used to be accessible from the piazza outside.  It was not open when we visited in 2005. 


In fact the origins of the oratory predate Becket, the Duomo and indeed Christianity, as it was in ancient times a centre for worship of the originally Indo-Iranian "God of Light" - Mithra.  Who knows, but it is within the grasp of the inventiveness of an untrained storico medievale to claim with certainty that the great(est) Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121 - 161 - 180 (59), who it is known used to come down here for his summer hols, trod these very stones.


Mithraism was one of the last major religions left standing in the Roman Empire alongside Christianity, and it is also arguable that in fact Christianity simply appropriated many things Mithraic like Christmas Day, Sundays, Bread and Wine etc, in the same way that several Celtic and other festivals were seamlessly adopted and rebirthed with Christian branding.  Mithraism was also into zodiacs.


The single barrel vaulted Saint Thomas Oratory is also completely frescoed, though the paintings are not in such good nick as the ones in the (larger) Crypt of Saint Magno.  The altar is at the oratory's "west" end.



The Duomo Bookshop and Museum is also on the lower level.  Sadly the museum had closed by the end of our 2005 visit - its exhibits include a valuable medieval textile collection, and a Limoges made Becket reliquary Chāsse plus one of Becklet's mitres (so they say). 



An interesting feature of Anagni is that it does not appear to posses a single signposted hotel !  However, the spa town of Fuiggi nearby has dozens (and you can take the waters as well).  Going towards the coast, the Hotel Cittą Dei Papi is near the Anagni turning off the A1 motorway, which could prove a good base for one or two interesting places in the area.



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