Travel and Culture in Umbria
Orvieto’s origins have got Etruscan roots, since the cliff was inhabited first by these populations in the 9th-8th centuries. Velzna was Orvieto’s ancient name. It was a flourishing settlement, which based its economy on the ceramics’ production (the buccheri) and on the bronze manufacture.
The town, which was in conflict against Rome’s expansionist politics, was then occupied by the adverse army in 254 B.C. and it was razed to the ground.
The consequence was the flight of its inhabitants and some of them were forced to move on the high grounds of Lake Bolsena.
During the barbarian invasions the town was occupied by Alarico and Odoacre and was the scenary of numerous fights and battles.
From 596 on, Orvieto was occupied by the Longobards of King Agilulfo and, later, in the context of the religious revival desired by Ottone III, many abbeys and monasteries were built in the whole surrounding territory.
The commune was founded beginning from 1137 and, twenty years later, under the influence of Pope Hadrian IV, the fights between the Guelph factions (pro-Pope) and the Ghibelline ones (pro-Emperor) began and went on for a long time. These fights marked the city history, transforming this centre into a Guelph stronghold. In 1200 the Four Hundred General Council was created, with the following election of the People’s Captain, of an Elders’Government and of the Arts, with a prior and its own magistracy. Moreover, in 1290, they began to build the Cathedral, besides other churches present in town. Between the end of 1200 and the first years of 1300, with Pope Martin IV, the French arrived in town. The people rose against them and began a series of fights among factions. In 1354 Cardinal Albornoz occupied Orvieto, subjugating it to the Church State, even if the town continued to maintain its communal institutions.
Only in 1860 the town was annexed to the Italian Kingdom.