History of Capolona, Italy

See Capolona guide for highlights and historic monuments

Prehistoric and ancient Capolona

According to studies by C. Starnazzi, the territory of Capolona had been inhabited since Prehistoric times [10]. Archaeological studies show that:

"the territory of Arezzo hosted groups of Neanderthals who left traces of their passage in outdoor settlements on terraces (…) In addition, various occurrences of Acheulean-type artefacts were found at Pratantico, Giovi and Capolona" [11].

Ligurians, Etruscans and Romans

In historical times, the territory of Capolona was inhabited by various peoples, such as the Ligurians, Etruscans, Romans and Lombards. The Ligurians settled in the mountainous areas, while the Etruscans and Romans settled in the valleys. With regard to the Roman presence and dominion, V. Cappelletti observed that:

"Capolona, formerly called 'Campus Leonis', was a castle with a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which was called also St. John in Sulpiciano, because it originally belonged to the 'Sulpicia' family and therefore it was of Roman origin" [12].

Moreover, at Belfiore and Capolona there were found:

"Roman burial practices from cremation to inhumation dating back to the second century AD and traces of a previous habitual attendance" [13].

The Roman origin of many churches around Capolona seems to be confirmed by the use of certain expressions which are still in the early Middle age documents relating to disputes between the Bishops of Arezzo and Siena, referring to "the time of the Roman emperors" ["a tempore Romanorum imperatorum"] [14].

10th century beginnings for modern Capolona

The earliest mention of "Campus Leonis" [= Lion Field] and "Caput Leonis" [= Lion Head] which are the earlier names for towns on the site of Capolona seem to date back to 943 AD, in an act by the emperors Ugo [880-948] and Lothair [928-950] confirming the estates of Bernardo, who was a nobleman of Arezzo:

"943. October 21. Pavia. Ugo and Lothair Kings, through the intervention of Count Hilderic, confirm to the faithful Bernardo his estates, they make new donations and take him under their protection: ‘ We confirm our loyal Bernardo all estates located in Campriano, Blatiano, Fabriciano and Cerreta, which were located in our court of 'Caput Leonis'" [1].

We should say that it "would seem" that "Caput Leonis" or Campoleone [= Capolona] dates back to 943. In fact, as Luigi Schiaparelli wrote, this document is a forgery of the 10-11th century, preserved in the Chapter Archives of Arezzo, which was copied from an original document of 943, but where "Caput Leonis" was not actually mentioned, and the other places were only mentioned in a general way:

“We confirm to our loyal Bernardo the estates located in the country house of Manditiano at Campriano and Blatiano, and other nearby estates mentioned by name" [1].

It’s possible that the place name "Caput Leonis" was added "ad hoc" in an earlier document to ensure the area a sort of imperial protection, thus removing it from the aims of other secular and ecclesiastical lords.

Although Capolona does not date back to 943, it is however very old, dating back to the time of Marquis Ugo of Tuscany (953[4]-1001), to whom the foundation of the village of "Caput Leonis" [then called, "Campoleone" and finally, by linguistic corruption, "Capolona"] was undoubtedly due.

Founding of the Abbey of San Gennaro and town of Capalona

"Caput Leonis" or "Campus Leonis" was built around the Abbey of San Gennaro, founded by the same Marquis Ugo of Tuscany mentioned above and his wife Judith, perhaps around 972, and then taken under imperial protection by Emperors Otto III [980-1002] (997), Conrad II [990-1039] (1026 and 1027), and Henry III [1017-1056] (1047).

However, even if the foundation of the monastery would seem to date from 972, it is likely that the village foundation was later, because, according to W. Kurze, negotiations between Ugo of Tuscany and other landlords were rather long and laborious:

"The foundation of the Abbey was preceded by property transactions made (...) many years ago, which shows that the foundation was not a spontaneous act of piety, but an action in the long term. So also the foundation of Capolona, which I would place in the last years of the tenth century, was preceded by preparations which date back to 972" [2].

On the other hand, we are not even sure that the foundation of the Abbey dates back to 972, in fact, M. E. Cortese pointed out that "the documentation about the Abbey of Capolona was lost" [3]. However, the foundation of the Abbey dates back at least 10-15 years before 997, because in this year Emperor Otto III confirmed that, a few years before, he had given his consent to the foundation of the abbey:

"ob Dei Omnipotentis dilectationem (...) nec non propter ducis nostri Ugonis petitionem" [for pleasure of Almighty God and 'also' at the express instance of our Duke Ugo"], whose Otto III was also the "tutor" [4].

Therefore, it is conceivable that the foundation of the Abbey, if not to 972, can be traced back to a few years later, perhaps to 980-981. All in all, Friar Ildefonso in the 18th century was right when he wrote that:

"the famous abbey was founded around the end of the tenth century by the famous Count Ugo, Marquis of Tuscany, as Placido Puccinelli wrote in his 'Life' [5].

Furthermore, according to W. Kurze, the Diocese of Arezzo was very important to the Empire. In fact, the privilege of Emperor Otto III [997] was urged by the same Ugo, and the emperor supported with great pleasure its foundation in Arezzo, that is in an areastrategically important for his Empire.

Ugo of Tuscany, son of Hubert, was a great founder of monasteries all over the territory within his jurisdiction:

“But it was especially in favour of the monasteries that the action of Ugo practiced in the County of Arezzo. He founded the monastery of San Gennaro of Capolona in a 'curtis' of his property" [6].

However, we are uncertain about the number of monasteries founded by Marquis Ugo of Tuscany:

"Falce wrote in 1921: 'The tradition passes that Ugo founded seven monasteries: St. Peter Damian wrote that he did build six monasteries and Leo Ostiense five. However, according to the results of our research, we must attribute to the Marquis only the foundation of the Abbey of Marturi, the Abbey of Capolona, and perhaps also that of Veronica and Vangadizza" [7].

Ugo of Tuscany was also the owner of the Castle of Capolona, mentioned as early as the tenth century: According to M.E.Cortese, the Tuscan castles of the tenth century were imperial possessions, while "the Castle of Capolona belonged to Ugo, Marquis of Tuscany" [8].

Of the many tenth century castles dotting the Aretine countryside, none has survived to the present day (...) The retreat from the castle of Capolona occurred between the late 12th and early 13th century, because of the struggle between Florence, Arezzo and local landowners [9].

Capolona since Lombard times

So as we have seen, the village of Capalona was founded in the 10th century around the Abbey of San Gennaro, which was one of the richest and most important abbeys in the Casentino

The presence of the Lombards is widely attested in Tuscany and the Casentino in particular. J. P. Dulumeau stressed that Capolona had strong relationships with the powerful Lombard family of the Walcherii:

“The Walcherii and then the nobles of Petrognano had durable relations with the Abbey of Capolona, who were very close to them (...) A document of 1133 shows the privileged relations that the Walcherii of Pratomagno had with the Abbey of Capolona, situated almost opposite the Castle of Petrognano, on the opposite bank of the Arno; in addition, we have seen that William Walcherii had decided to extend his interests in Castelnuovo, on the east bank of the Arno] [15].

Apart from the relations of the Walcherii with the Abbey of Capolona, which undoubtedly there were, we must emphasize that the powerful Abbey of San Gennaro had already for a long time subjected many Lombard families. According to P. Licciardello:

"with regard to the subjection of Lombard families (…) in 1059 were bent to the Monastery the Walcherii, the nobles of Petrognano, in 1073 the nobles of Subbiano-Caliano, and in 1077 the family of the Feralno from Corbizo. But this does not mean that the Monastery of San Gennaro (...) did not engage expensive legal disputes against the invaders of its estates, such as the Lombards from Dorna and Carpineto" [16]

Capolona in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages the territory of Capolona developed mainly in the south-west. The village, which was very important from the strategic point of view, was the object of attempts at conquest by the Arezzo, which, in the early years of the 13th century, activated a series of wars on the borders of its territory; so:

"The year 1214 saw the capture of Capolona by the Commune of Arezzo" [17].

The conquest, however, had very serious consequences, because it involved the destruction of the Abbey, which is now a villa:

"At this date the Abbey of Capolona had already arrived near the end of its glorious, but short existence. In 1214 it was destroyed by the forces of the city of Arezzo and for all practical purposes it ceased to exist" [18].

In the early fourteenth century, Capolona came under the dominion of the powerful Florentine family of the Tarlati, and then directly under the dominion of Florence:

"With the conquest of Arezzo, in fact, went to Florence a number of castles in the Casentino, which under the lordship and initiative of the Tarlati were conquered in the first third of the 14th century" [19].

In 1527 Capolona was besieged and ravaged by troops commanded by Charles of Bourbon, the commander-in-chief of Charles V. During the domain of the Medici and of the Dukes of Lorraine, the territory of the Casentino was divided into the "vicariates"; in this sense:

"with the great reforms of King Peter Leopold dating back to 1790 (...) the vicariate of Poppi covered the entire valley, with the exception of Capolona and Subbiano (which were) included in the Vicariate of Arezzo" [20].

All in all, the domination of the Dukes of Lorraine was characterized by a lively economic activity, which resulted in some famous legislative reforms and reclamation works.

From the Napoleonic era

After the domination of the Lorraine Dukes, Capolona lived difficult years, especially in the Napoleonic period, with the onset of a Sanfedist activity and an anti-French movement:

"The countryside of Arezzo was distinguished by the movement called “Viva Maria!”, decidedly hostile to the ideas of the French Revolution and supporter of the deposed dynasty of the Dukes of Lorraine and religious tradition. In 1805, the administrative restructuring imposed by the French domination established a new district of Arezzo, consisting of 19 cantons and 32 municipalities. However, it was a reform of short duration, because with the Restoration (1815) Arezzo joined the Florentine District" [21].

In 1826 the "District of Arezzo" emerged, wanted by the Dukes of Lorraine. Although the area had a mainly agricultural vocation, in the first half of the 19th century in the district of Arezzo there emerged some industries, like the reeling of silk, and the manufacture of woollen cloths and utensils of iron.

After the expulsion of the Dukes of Lorraine in 1859, a popular referendum in 1860 confirmed the will of the Assembly to annex Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy. With such a plebiscite, according to N. Danelon Vasoli, a long diatribe whereby Capolona did not belong to the Casentino would be resolved:

"Today also Capolona is believed to be part of the Casentino, because, as the following list shows, the Casentino was ‘increased’ (to include) Capolona and Subbiano: Capolona, 716 registered, 596 voters, who favored Union 287, 97 opposed. Subbiano, 959 registered, 445 voters, 425 in favor, 18 opposed" [22]

Since the 1960s Capolona has become a place suited for industrial applications, especially for footwear, woodwork and jewelery, in particular goldsmiths.

Goldsmiths in Casentino and Capolona

Until 1953 Arezzo was the only municipality that registered the presence of goldsmith firms; then in the following years the industry began to develop in the municipalities of Pergine, Monte San Savino, Laterina and Cortona, and only in the sixties the municipalities of Subbiano, Capolona, Civitella in Val di Chiana and Castiglion Fibocchi).

The distribution of goldsmith firms on the territory evolved slowly over the years, an evolution still in progress, and the supremacy of Arezzo decreased, from 100% to 70%, in particular in favour of less municipalies such as Civitella in Val di Chiana, Monte San Savino and Capolona." [23].

Nowadays tourism also has started to develop in the region and plays an increasingly important role in the Casentino.

See also the travel guide for Capolona.


1. See L. Schiaparelli, “I diplomi di Ugo e di Lotario, di Berengario II e di Adalberto”, edited by L. Schiaparelli, in “Le fonti per la storia d'Italia pubblicate dall'Istituto Storico Italiano”, Roma, 1924 About the original diploma see pp. 210-212; for the falsification see pp. 212-213

2. See W. Kurze, “Monasteri e nobiltà nella Tuscia altomedievale” , in “Atti del Congresso internazionale di studi sull'alto Medioevo”, Spoleto, 1973, p. 356

3. See M. E. Cortese, “L’incastellamento del territorio di Arezzo ( secoli X-XIII)”, in R. Francovich-M. Ginatempo, “Castelli. Storia e archeologia del potere nella Toscana medievale”, Firenze, 2000, pp. 68-69 footnote 13

4. See M.E. Cortese, pp. 68-69 and footnote 13 and J.P. Delumeau, "Espace et sociétés, 715-1230", École française de Rome, 1996, p. 210 footnote 63

5. Ed. Milan, 1664, page 35) "(See Fr. Ildefonso di San Luigi, “Istoria fiorentina di Melchionne di Coppo Stefani”, 1781, Vol. IX, p. 378

6. J.P. Dulumeau, p. 210

7. See G. Spinelli, “Monasteri maschili nella Toscana dell’alto Medioevo”, in “Il monachesimo italiano dall'età longobarda all'età ottoniana, secc. VIII-X: atti del VII Convegno di studi storici sull'Italia benedettina, Nonantola (Modena), 10-13 settembre 2003”, Badia di Santa Maria del Monte, 2006, p. 409

8. M.E. Cortese, p. 81

9. M.E. Cortese, p. 95

10. C. Starnazzi “Acheuleano superiore di tecnica Levallois nel territorio di Capolona (AR)”, in , “Studi per l'Ecologia del Quaternario”, Firenze, 1990, n. 12, pp. 47-65

11. See G. Tanelli, “Storia geologica e antiche georisorse della terra d'Arezzo”, in “Arezzo nell'antichità”, Roma, 2009, p. 41 and 35

12. See V. Cappelletti, “Le chiese d'Italia”, Venezia, 1864, Vol. 18, p. 21

13. See C. Masseria, “Foglio 114. Arezzo”, in “Atlante dei siti archeologici della Toscana”, Roma, 1992, p. 227

14. See I. Moretti-A. Baldinotti, “Il Medioevo nelle colline a sud di Firenze”, p. 36 footnote 14

15. See J.P. Dulumeau, "Liber Largitorius", Droz, 2003, p. 159 and 167

16. See P. Licciardello, “Agiografia aretina altomedievale: testi agiografici e contesti socio-culturali ad Arezzo tra VI e IX secolo”, 2005, p. 215

17. See J.P. Dulumeau, “Des Lombards de Carpineta aux Bostoli secc. XI-XIII”, in “I ceti dirigenti dell'età comunale nei secoli XII e XIII”, 1982, p. 97

18. See Tafi, p. 159

19. See M. Bicchierai, “ Ai confini della repubblica di Firenze ...”, Olschki, 2005, p. 30 footnote 110

20. See “Val di Chiana, Toscana: territorio, storia e viaggi” , Polistampa, 2011, p. 16

21. See“La Toscana e i suoi comuni: storia, territorio, popolazione, stemmi e gonfaloni delle libere comunità toscane”, Marsilio, 1995, p.27

22. See N. Danelon Vasoli, “Il plebiscito in Toscana nel 1860”, Olschki, 1968, p. 201

23. See L. Lazzaretti, “Nascita ed evoluzione del distretto orafo di Arezzo (1967-2001) ”, Firenze University Press, 2003, pp. 61-62