See also Viterbo, Texas and Viterbo University
Viterbo listen (help·info) is an ancient city and comune in the Lazio region of central Italy, the capital of the province of Viterbo. It is approximately 80 kilometers (60 mi) north of Rome on the Via Cassia, and it is surrounded by the Monti Cimini and Monti Volsini. The historic center of the city is surrounded by medieval walls, still intact, built during the 11th and 12th centuries. Entrance to the walled center of the city is through ancient gates.
Apart from agriculture, the main resources of Viterbo's area are pottery, marble, and wood. The town also hosts the Italian gold reserves, an important Academy of Fine Arts, and the University of Tuscia, and is located in a wide thermal area, attracting many tourist from the whole central Italy.
The first report of the new city dates to the eighth century, when it is identified as Castrum Viterbii. It was fortified in 773 by the Lombard king Desiderius in his vain attempt to conquer Rome. When the Popes switched to the Frankish support, Viterbo became part of the Papal States, but this status was to be highly contested by the Emperors in the following centuries, until in 1095 it is known it was a free comune.
In a period in which the Popes had difficulties asserting their authority over Rome, Viterbo became their favourite residence, beginning with Pope Eugene III (1145–1146) who was besieged in vain in the city walls. In 1164 Frederick Barbarossa made Viterbo the seat of his Antipope Paschal III. Three years later he gave it the title of "city" and used its militias against Rome. In 1172 Viterbo started its expansion, destroying the old city of Ferentum and conquering other lands: in this age it was a rich and prosperous comune, one of the most important of Central Italy, with a population of almost 60,000.
In 1207, Pope Innocent III held a council in the cathedral, but the city was later excommunicated as favourite seat of the heretical Patari and even defeated by the Romans. In 1210, however, Viterbo managed to defeat the Emperor Otto IV and was again in war against Rome.
In the thirteenth century it was ruled alternately by the tyrants of the Gatti and Di Vico families. Frederick II drew Viterbo to the Ghibelline side in 1240, but when the citizens expelled his turbulent German troops in 1243 he returned and besieged the city, but in vain. From that point Viterbo was always a loyal Guelph. Between 1257 and 1261 it was the seat of Pope Alexander IV, who also died here. His successor Urban IV was elected in Viterbo.
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