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Our earliest knowledge of the history of Citta Della Pieve is from some 12th century documents when, in a papal Bull of 1181, Pope Lucius III (1100 ca.-1185) granted some privileges to Guglielmo. With these the Bishop of Lucca. Lucius III appointed:
"[...] the fortress and the Court of ‘San Gervasio’, with all its appurtenances" .
We know that the ancient "castrum" ("fortress") was a fortified outpost controlled until the 7th century by the Lombards. The "castrum" was then strengthened in 1326, with the building of a Fortress by the Perusians - after the death of Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) the Perusians took Citta under their rule until 1529, when Pope Clement VII (1478-1534) de Medici incorporated the town under the power of the Church State.
The main buildings of the Old Town were built between the 13th and 16th century, using brick as a building material - Citta della Pieve was a major production center for bricks in the Middle Ages.
The trades of the city were helped by several routes that connected it to the important "Via Francigena" (so called because it connected Italy with France), which was located to the west, so the merchants of the city had access to international trade routes that crossed the whole of Tuscany to reach the Po River Valley.
Città della Pieve was also located on another important route, the "Way of Alpe di Serra". The road, recently discovered, was built by the Lombards as a link between the "Via Emilia" and "Via Francigena. The "Via Emilia" reached the “Alpe di Serra” in Tuscan-Apennine, climbing the “Mandrioli Pass”, then descending to Arezzo in the Arno Valley. From here, along the eastern part of the "Val di Chiana," the road continued to “Castiglion Fiorentino”, Cortona, Castiglione del Lago, Castel della Pieve, Orvieto and Montefiascone, where it joined the “Via Francigena”.
These major road junctions thus promoted a wide trade in the handicrafts of “Città della Pieve”, the economy of which still hinges on working with clay using ancient craft techniques, and offering terracotta artefacts of considerable value.
The city's economy is also boosted by tourism, thanks to the important artistic heritage, which is expressed mainly in the figure of Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci, called the “Perugino” (1450-1523), who was born here.
Origins of the name Citta della Pieve
The etymology is typically medieval, and it refers to the concept of a "castrum" ("Fortress"), around which there was a village with a "parish" (Latin "Plebs"), a name under which, in the Middle Ages, country churches were indicated. So the old medieval name of "Città della Pieve" was "Castrum Plebis" ("Fortress of the Parish Church").
Then, when the surrounding village was enlarged to become a "city" (Urbs), there was a change of name, and it, from "Castrum plebis", changed into "Urbs Plebis", which translated as “Città della Pieve” [“City of the Parish Church”].
It should be noted that the ancient name of “Castrum Plebis” remained a long time, and that the modern name was assigned to city at the behest of Pope Clement VIII (1535-1605) in the 17th century.
See the Citta Della Pieve travel guide if planning a visit.
1. See “Memorie e Documenti per Servire all'Istoria di Lucca” [" The Memories and Documents to Serve to the History of Lucca"], Vol. IV, Part II, Lucca, 1836, p. 195