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The outrage of Anagni

On a hilltop in the region of Lazio lies the village of Anagni, a special place where a violent act changed the fates of empires.
Ptolemy
24 August, 2022

The history of Anagni is very ancient, and it roots its origins back in the ancient inhabitants of this area, the Ernici, who established this town as their capital before being subjugated by the Romans, who finally conquered Anagni in 306 BCE.

From here, the history of this small town goes long and troubled until the 12th-13th centuries CE, when the town reached its peak, becoming a papal residence and renowned birthplace of three popes-Alexander IV, Gregory IX and Boniface VIII. However, it is with the latter, Boniface VII, that the small village witnesses a shocking episode...

Cattedrale Santa Maria (Carlo Ribaudo, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
(Camelia.boban, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

The facts

In those days, the king of France and the papal state did not get along very well. Because of increasing tensions, King Philip IV of France sent a delegation led by his ally Colonna Sciarra and the royal councillor Guillaume de Nogaret. The emissaries had the task of silencing the heavy accusations made by the church against their king and preventing the imminent ex-communication of the latter by deposing Pope Boniface VIII.

Pope Bonifacio VIII
Pope Bonifacio VIII

In September 1303 CE, French forces entered Anagni. They broke down the doors of the church, where the pope had taken refuge by barricading himself in.

Boniface VIII, was arrested and subjected to two days of insults and humiliation that, according to tradition, led to the famous episode in which Sciarra Colonna slapped the Pope, thus giving the name 'Outrage of Anagni'.

Giacomo Colonna
Guillaume de Nogaret

This was an important event because although Pope Boniface was freed again, due to the threats he had been subjected to, he later agreed to move the papal residence to Avignon in France, initiating a period of French control over the papacy. This was, of course, a shocking moment in history when the mighty empire of the Vatican was not only humiliated but also forced to change location.

Particular of Bonifacio VIII on Anagni's Cathedral (Antmoose, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Particular of Bonifacio VIII on Anagni's Cathedral (Antmoose, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Today we admire the artistic masterpiece of the Romanesque cathedral, where the Pope took refuge before being caught by French forces who entered after burning down the front door. Noteworthy is the cathedral's crypt boasting an incredible Lombard-Gothic masterpiece, a unique medieval gem known as the “Sistine Chapel of Middle Ages”.
Inside of Santa Maria Cathedral (Livioandronico2013, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Crypt of San Mano inside the Cathedral Santa Maria (Diego Baglieri, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
(Diego Baglieri, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
(Diego Baglieri, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
(Diego Baglieri, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

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