2 June 2024

Battle of Marino

Bloody fight that entrenched rival factions in Catholic Church

Robert of Geneva, rival pope to Urban VI
Robert of Geneva, rival
pope to Urban VI
Giacomo Orsini, a member of the Orsini family of Rome that produced five popes between the eighth and 18th centuries, stormed the Castle of Marino - in the area south of Rome known as the Castelli Romani - on this day in 1379, bringing a decisive conclusion to a military battle that would end any hopes that the 1378 split in the Catholic Church might be quickly resolved.

The Battle of Marino was fought between armies loyal to Pope Urban VI, the former Archbishop of Bari who had been elected as successor to Pope Gregory XI, and the antipope Clement VII, who had set up rival courts a year earlier following the split that became known as the Great Schism or Western Schism.

The papacy had only just been returned to Rome by Gregory XI from Avignon in France following a fragmentation that had occurred 70 years earlier but the election of Bartolomeo Prignano to rule as Urban VI reignited the division.

Urban VI was hostile toward the French cardinals who had gained significant power during the Avignon years and wanted the papal court to remain in the city in southeastern France.

Those cardinals, fearing that they would become marginalised, responded by declaring that Urban VI’s election was invalid due to having taken place in a climate of fear and instead elected Robert of Geneva to lead the church as Pope Clement VII.

The two rival factions assembled armies. The troops backing Urban VI were mainly Italian mercenaries under the command of Alberico da Barbiano, while the anti-papal army consisted of French mercenaries led by the Count of Montjoie.

The scene of the Battle of Marino, fought to the  south of Rome, as it looks in the present day
The site of the Battle of Marino, fought to the 
south of Rome, as it looks in the present day
They faced each other in the Battle of Marino, fought in the valley east of the town that is now known as the Valley of the Dead, perhaps on account of the bloody battle fought there.

Victory went to the Italians, the battle concluded when the Castle of Marino - on the site of  which the Palazzo Colonna now stands - was besieged by papal troops. The fact that the castle was commanded by Giordano Orsini, a supporter of the antipope, yet the papal soldiers who took it on June 2, 1379 were led by Giordano's son Giacomo, illustrates how the split in the church also divided families. 

Following the defeat of his army, Clement VII, who had based himself in Anagni, 72km (45 miles) southeast of Rome, felt vulnerable and fled Anagni first for Sperlonga, then Gaeta, finally landing in  Naples.

He was received well by Queen Joanna I of Naples, who afforded him great respect, but in the streets he found himself confronted by angry mobs declaring their support for “Papa Urbano". He returned to Gaeta, where he boarded a ship that would ultimately take him to Avignon.

The Western Schism, also known as the Great Schism, would last from 1378 to 1417, a tumultuous period in which there were two - later three - rival popes, each claiming to be the legitimate pontiff.

The division was finally ended by The Council of Constance, which met over a period of four years between 1414 and 1418, eventually finding a mutually acceptable pope in Oddone Colonna, a Roman, who was elected as Pope Martin V. 

Via Roma in Marino, looking  towards Palazzo Colonna
Via Roma in Marino, looking
 towards Palazzo Colonna
Travel tip:

Marino today is a town in Lazio, set among the Alban Hills, 21 km (13 miles) southeast of Rome, with a population of 37,684. It is bounded by the towns of Castel Gandolfo, Albano Laziale, Rocca di Papa, Grottaferrata, and Ciampino.  Marino is famous for its white wine, and for its Grape Festival, which has been celebrated since 1924.  Marino suffered extensive damage during World War Two. In 1944 it was heavily bombed by aircraft from the United States Air Force and in the spring of 1945 it was the scene of heavy fighting between troops of the British Indian Army and Axis troops which caused much of the city to be destroyed.  As well as the Palazzo Colonna, built on the site of the former castle, Marino's  main sights include the Basilica of San Barnaba, built in Baroque style, with an imposing fa├žade dating to 1653. Among other works of art, it houses the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew by Guercino and a bust of St. Anthony Abbot by Ercole Ferrata.

The former palace of Boniface VIII in the town of Anagni, which has produced four popes
The former palace of Boniface VIII in the
town of Anagni, which has produced four popes
Travel tip:

Anagni is an ancient town in the province of Frosinone in Lazio, built on a hillI above the Sacco Valley, southeast of Rome. It is in an area known as Ciociaria, named after the primitive footwear - ciocie - favoured for many years by people living in the area. It was a papal residence in the Middle Ages and the birthplace of no fewer than four popes: Innocent III, Gregory IX, Alexander IV, and Boniface VIII. With the death of Boniface VIII, the power of the town declined. The mediaeval Palace of Boniface VIII is near the Cathedral. Among sights worth seeking out is the majestic cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata, built with a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles and completed in 1104, which stands out as a city’s symbol and seat of the local diocese, with a steeple about 30m (98ft) high. The crypt of San Magno is sometimes called the 'Sistine Chapel of the Middle Age', owing to its  fresco cycle with images telling about the genesis of the world, the creation of humans and their salvation, as well as the lives and miracles of the Saint and other martyrs.

Also on this day: 

1882: The death of unification hero Giuseppe Garibaldi

1957: The birth of cycle racer Roberto Visentini

Festa della Repubblica 


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