History of Lugnano in Teverina, Italy

See Lugnano in Teverina guide for highlights and historic monuments

Lugnano in Teverina, in the Province of Terni, is situated at a height of 400 meters above sea level, in the Amerini Mountains in southern Umbria, on the border with Latium. We need to specify the province when talking of Lugnano to avoid the locality becoming confused with other towns that bear the same name.

Ancient Lugnano

The territory of Lugnano is very old, and archaeological evidences have brought to light important remains of a Roman villa, which has been greatly studied in recent years, and with very interesting results.

Archaeological excavations have also shown that in the territory of Lugnano, near Amelia, there were many Roman villas, whose products could be easily transported through the waterways and along the Amerina Road.

Many of these Roman farms belonged to the famous Roscius Amerinus, mentioned by Cicero (106-43 BC). We also have epigraphic evidence about a property belonging to a "Gens Masonia" [Masonia Family], the owner of many slaves in the Lugnano area, and which was mentioned by Pliny the Younger [61-113 AD] (Epist., 8, 20), who mentioned a small lake, now identified with the Lake Vadimone.

We observe, however, that, with regard to the antiquity, the history of the little town merges with that of some major cities, such as Amelia.

Tracing the origins of Lugnano

A clear reference to Lugnano is however present in late-medieval documents, where the town is mentioned as "Terra Luniani" [city of Lugnano]. A site called "de Luniano" is then mentioned in the "Bullarium Franciscanum" in the year 1291, under Pope Nicholas IV [1227-1292] which says: "de Luniano. Lugnano is seven miles westward from Ameria" [7].

In other early documents we find that Lugnano is defined by the term "Terra" [city], "Terra Luniani" [city of Lugnano]. In a document reflecting a dispute between the Chapter of the Cathedral of Amelia and a priest of the Collegiate of Lugnano, the city is called "Terra Luniani" [= the city of Lugnano] [8].

Around 1667 the village was already named "Lugnano": "Iunianum, a fortified town in Umbria, today called Lugnano" [9]. Despite the documentation about Lugnano in Teverina suggesting late origins:

“The presence of burials in fifth-century contexts at Lugnano and Popigliano at least, and in the sixth century at Pennavecchia, reveal rural populations in the vicinity” [10].

In addition, Christie points out a fact already studied by D. Soren and D. Monacchi about the Villa Poggio at Gramignano Lugnano, namely that:

“The early imperial villa itself, like others in the region ... around the mid-fifth century, one specific area of the ruinous site came to be re-utilized as a child cemetery ... perhaps linked to victims of an epidemic, probably malaria” [11].

Christie’s suggestion about "Rural populations in the vicinity" shows that even if Lugnano had not yet been built, there was a sparse population who worked in the countryside and also performed important works of fortification and control of the system of rivers.

Polygonal Walls

These fortifications were built using the typical Roman technique of "polygonal walls", an imposing building technique adopted in the north-west of the city with the function of terracing and the aim of bridging the unevenness of the ground, characterized by blocks of stone interlocking one with the other without the use of mortar.

It has been shown by F. Della Rosa, who has studied the so-called "polygonal walls" in the territory of Amelia and Lugnano:

"in the Municipality of Lugnano, near the “Fosso Porcianese”, we encounter a massive polygonal wall ... the magnitude of which is 44.00 meters long, while its height varies between 0.50 and 2.10 meters, the thickness reaches 3.00 meters" [12].

When was Lugnano actually founded?

So we are still unclear about the date of the foundation of Lugnano, and there is no easy solution - as you can see below there is great uncertainty. However, there is some interesting data to help.

Chronicles quote Lugnano around 1047, when the town was governed in the name of the Holy See by the Bovacciani Counts (Latin "Bobaccianus”] and then by some members of the powerful Roman family of the Vico, who married into the noble Bovacciani Family:

"In 1047 the lords of Vico married into the Bovacciani Counts Family, who ruled Lugnano in Teverina in the name of the Holy See (...) According to some historians, because of this marriage, Lugnano came under the domination of the lords of Vico, who in 1049 expanded the city" [13].

Furthermore, we observe that Lugnano, during the war between Todi and Orvieto, was mentioned explicitly in some documents as a "Castrum":

“The well-known pride of Todi grew to the point that it unfairly attacked the Castle of Lugnano (="Castrum Luniani”)] [14].

But that then raises the question about the date of the Lugnano castle...With regard to the period of the Gothic-Byzantine War, we do not have historical data about Lugnano and Amelia, but we know that in the Byzantine and Lombard times Amelia was fortified and it is likely that even the first origins of the "Castrum Luniani" refer to this period, that is at a time when "the whole area" was fortified in defense of the important Amerina Road:

"Amelia was annexed in 579 at Lombard Duchy of Spoleto: at the end of the century, the Byzantines created a series of fortified strongholds to protect the Amerina Road, which connected Rome with Ravenna  (...) In the second half of the 7th century (...) Amelia became a 'Castrum' " [15].

If in the second half of the 7th century, Amelia became a 'Castrum', it is very likely that, with the strengthening of the territory, the strategic position where Lugnano is located was utilized. Therefore, around the 7th or 8th century AD, it is very likely that also the "Castrum Luniani" was built. Afterwards, Lugnano was at the center of expansionist designs of all the major cities close to it, such as Orvieto, Spoleto, Todi and Amelia.

In practice, Lugnano-in-Teverina was always legally subject to the State of the Church, since by the 11th century, the Bovacciani Counts ruled the city as Papal "defensores" [defenders]. The Papal city was bitterly contested between the Guelphs of Orvieto and the Ghibellines of Todi and Amelia, undergoing great devastation.

Lugnano in the Middle Ages

In the well known historical context of medieval Italy, characterized by constant wars among neighboring communes, Lugnano was attacked and damaged a first time by Amelia in 1176, and in 1204 his feudal lord, the Viscount Guido, submitted to Orvieto, which involved a war between Orvieto and Todi against Lugnano.

We can say that, starting from 1204, Lugnano was constantly under the control of  Orvieto, but this domain was poorly tolerated by the inhabitants of Lugnano because of the exorbitant taxes imposed on the city by Orvieto. From the Chronicle of Luca Manenti (15th century) we know that in 1321:

"Sir Vanni, an envoy of the Podesta of Orvieto, Ranuccio dei Serra from Gubbio went to Lugnano with some men on horseback to collect taxes that Lugnano had to pay for the maintenance of the army of Orvieto. The inhabitants of Lugnano, suddenly, 'excited by an evil spirit' (the Chronicler said),  attacked ‘the cops’ of Orvieto, who combed the cattle as a token of payment, killing some, wounding others and finally repulsing them" [16].

These incessant wars went on in the Modern Age. In 1424 Pope Martin V (1368-1431) sent some forces of Todi, Orvieto and the Patrimony of St. Peter against the castle of Lugnano to flush out Ulisse Chiaravalle, who had occupied it, and which implied severe damage to the town.

Pope Pius II (1405-1464) wanted to put an end to these constant wars, and ordered the towns of Todi and Orvieto to conclude a lasting peace [17]. In fact, the crest of Lugnano is surmounted by that of Pope Pius II, in gratitude to the Pope, who rebuilt the city and declared it as a free commune.

In the early 16th century the city was endowed with new statutes, which aimed to ensure, for example, relations between workers and owners, or to perform maintenance and protection of the walls:

"Those who undertook to work the land of others, had to go to work in good faith and in a cost-effective (manner). Those who wanted to graze 'small animals' [= sheep] in the territory owned by the town, had to report the number of them at the gate and pay a fee at the Chamberlain grazing of three ducats for every 100 animals, under penalty of 10 pounds" [18].

Lugnano-in-Teverina enters the modern age

In the Early Modern Age, the territories in southern Umbria were all included in the Duchy of Spoleto, with the exception of Orvieto, incorporated in the Patrimony of St. Peter. Perugia in 1540, when it became fully part of the Papal States, became the capital of its legation, while Terni and its territory was directly under the control of Perugia. Amelia and Lugnano were equipped with their own governor.

During the 17th century in southern Umbria there emerged the usual idiosyncracies and struggles to acquire political supremacy. This fragmentation was only surpassed in the late 18th century, during the French domination.

Much of the province of Terni, divided into the cantons of Amelia and Lugnano, Narni and Terni was included in the department of Clitunno. With the unification of Italy (1861) Terni was the seat of the district, and on which Narni and Amelia with Lugnano were dependents.

Origins of the name Lugnano

The presence of numerous villas and farms that carried a predial (family) name, such as the name "Roscius", and clearly indicating the owner, has suggested that the etymology of "Lugnano" may be related to a gentilitial name, such as "Lunius" [1].

The hypothesis was proposed back in the 19th century by Giovanni Flechia, who wrote that:

"Lugnano presumably derives from 'Julianum', 'Julius', but Lugnano could derive from a gentilitial name such as 'Lunius'" [2].

Giovan Battista Pellegrini, a century later, agrees with Flechia:

"Lugnano, quoted in 1275 as 'de Luyano', 'de Lugnano' and 'Lugnano' [derives] from 'Lunius' ... as with 'Luna' and 'Lunius', and in France ‘Luniaco’ in the Loire Valley" [3].

E. Santacroce, a local scholar, strays from these assumptions, and proposes that the name could also have some relation to the form of the crescent-shaped crag on which the city of Lugnano is located [4].

However, the abundance of predial names belonging to the Roman and local aristocracy suggests that the first hypothesis has a solid foundation, so Lugnano would also be one of:

"many Latin predial names, from which Lugnano first would indicate a fam and then then later became a poleonym [= name of city]" [5].

Of the same opinion are A. Lamanna et al., who state that:

"the name of Lugnano (in Teverina), is a clear predial name derived from Lunius" [6].

See the Lugnano in Teverina to help organise your visit.


1. See D. Monacchi, “Storia e assetto in età antica del territorio in cui ricade la villa di poggio Gramignano ...”, in “A Roman Villa and a Late Infant Cemetery at Poggio Gramignano”, Roma, 1999, pp. 37 ff.

2. See G. Flechia, “Nomi locali nel napolitano derivati da gentilizi italiani”, in “Atti della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino”, Torino, 1874-1875, Vol. X, p. 109

3. See G.B. Pellegrini, “ Saggi di linguistica italiana: storia, struttura, società”, Boringhieri, 1975, p. 248

4. See E. Santacroce, “Lugnano in Teverina nella storia”, Nobili,  1968, p. 189

5. See R. Villicich, “Regimazione idrica: uno sbarramento in opera poligonale nel territorio di  Lugnano in Teverina”, in “Campagna e paesaggio nell'Italia antica”, Roma, 2000,  p. 154

6. See A. Lamanna-E. Puletti-P. Salerno, “Ascoltare il Tevere: viaggio nei nomi di luogo e della natura nella Valle del Tevere”, Era nuova, 2000, p.  42

7. See “Bullarium Franciscanum romanorum pontificum constitutiones epistolas, ac diplomata...”, Romae, 1768, p. 228

8. Vedi “Decreta Autentica Congregationis Sacrum Ritum...”, cura et studio Aloisii Gardellini, Romae, MDCCCLVI [1856], Vol. II,  p. 444: “Ad definiendas nonnullas controversias exortas inter Capitulum et Canonicos Ecclesiae Cathedralis Amerinae ex una et Archipresbyterum et Canonicum Curatum Ecclesiae Collegiatae 'Terrae Luniani' ”

9. See M. A. Baudrand, “Novum Lexicon Geographicum”, 1677, Tomus I,  p. 538

10. See N. Christie, “From Constantine to Charlemagne. An Archaeology of Italy AD 300-800”, 2006,  p. 421

11. Christie, p. 112

12. See F. Della Rosa, “Opere della bassa Umbria: cinque recenti rinvenimenti di Guardea e Lugnano in Teverina”, in  “Seminario internazionale sulle mura poligonali”, Alatri,  1989, pp. 95 ff.

13. See G. Moroni, “Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica”, Venezia, 1854, Vol. LXIX,  p. 49

14. See G. Calisse, “I prefetti di Vico”, in “Archivio della società romana di storia patria”, Roma, 1887, Vol. X, p. 24

15. See D. Morlacchi, “Storia e assetto in età antica del territorio in cui ricade la villa di Poggio Gramignano ...”, p. 41

16. See C. Ciucciovino, “La cronaca del Trecento italiano: giorno per giorno l'Italia di Giotto e Dante”, 2007, Vol I, p. 668, footnote 142

17. See G. Italiani, “Le Cronache di Todi (secoli XIII-XVI)”, 1991, p. 537

18. See “Lugnano in Teverina”, in “Gli archivi dell'Umbria”, 1957,  p. 194: “Archivio storico comunale: Pergamene, 1435-1703, n. 27; Statuto, in pergamena, 1508” ed  E. Santacroce, “Lugnano in Teverina nella storia”