Anagni, Province of Frosinone, Lazio

Anagni is an ancient town in Latium, in the hills east-southeast of Rome, famous for its connections with the papacy and for its unspoiled historical center. Legend, history, and tradition have accompanied the fame of Anagni, the historical center of Ciociaria, through the millenniums.


  • Altitude: 460 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 19,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 03012
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0775
  • Patron Saint: St. Magno

The Territory

Anagni appears today as a small medieval town, placed on the ridge of a hill, with twisting streets and steep lanes everywhere. It is built inside powerful Roman boundary walls which preserve its innumerable treasuries of art and history. The town is divided into eight districts, or contrade: Castello, Torre, Trivio, Tufoli, Piscina, Colle Sant'Angelo, Valle Sant'Andrea, and Cerere.

History - Antiquity

The first human settlements date back to more than 700,000 years, according to the dating of some paleolithic hand-made fragments recently recovered; while the historical sources (Livy, Virgil, Servius, Silius Italicus) mention Anagni only once the city had already been introduced into the Roman orbit.

The people who lived in those places were of Ernican ancestry, migrated from the Aniene valley and probably descendant from the Marsi (Marsians) (or from the Sabines), at least according to the ethnical term deriving from the Marsian herna, "stone", that is: "Those who live on the stony hills".

The importance of Anagni as a holy city and spiritual centre of the Hernici ( Er-Nee-Chee: Ernici in Italian) is outstanding. The city was the seat of temples and sanctuaries, where in the second century A.D., many linen codices containing sacred Etruscan writings were still well conserved, according to the testimony of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Of these writings there is a sole survivor which is the Liber Linteus.

Probably, at the foot of the hill on which the city stands, there was the so-called Maritime Circle, where the Erniche ethnies of Alatri, Piglio, Veroli, and Ferentino, confederated under the aegis of Anagni, until the Romans attacked and defeated Anagni, and dissolved the Confederation in 306 BC.

In Imperial times, many emperors used to spend their summers in Anagni to escape the heat of Rome, most notably Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Commodus, and Caracalla. By the end of the Roman Empire a deep political and economic crisis caused the demographic collapse of Anagni's population. In the 10th century, an inner zone of Anagni was marked by the name Civitas Vetus (Old Town).

History - The early Middle Ages

Since the fifth century Anagni was the seat of an important diocese. In the ninth century the first Cathedral was built on the ruins of the temple dedicated to the Goddess Ceres. The ecclesiastic power favoured a new economic and demographic growth.

During the tenth and the eleventh centuries the city strengthened its link with the papal court: in fact the popes began to consider it a safer and healthier spot compared to Rome. For this reason, Anagni remained one of the most favourite residences of the popes, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The thirteenth century represented the real golden period of the city: in one hundred years, Anagni gave four popes to the Christianity, all members of the Conti family. Gregory IX (Ugolino Conti 1227-1241) on the 29th of September 1227 in Anagni's Cathedral excommunicated Emperor Frederik II who had abandoned the Crusade. In September 1230 Gregory IX received in Anagni Frederik of Svevia who had been able to conquer, by means of his great diplomatic ability, both Jerusalem and Nazareth.

History - the 14th century

The name of Anagni is particularly connected to the events of Boniface VIII, a member of the powerful Caetani Family. His election, which occurred after the abdication of Celestine V, was opposed by French Cardinals and by the powerful Colonna Family. In 1302 Boniface VIII emanated the famous Bull Unam Sanctam, which arrogated to the Pope's absolute supremacy over earthly power, against the king. Philip the Fair king of France organized an expedition to arrest the Pope, with the purpose of removing Boniface from his office by the help of a general council.

The Pope was captured in his palace at Anagni in September 1303, by the French and Italian soldiers led by Guglielmo di Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna. A legend tells us that in such circumstances the Pope was slapped by Sciarra Colonna. The outrageous imprisonment of the Pope inspired Dante Alighieri in a famous passage of his Divine Comedy (Purgatory, XX, vv. 85-93), the new Pilate has imprisoned the Vicar of Christ. The people of Anagni rose against the invaders and released Boniface, but the old pontiff, already suffering, died in Rome about a month later.

The transfer of the papal court to Avignon marks for Anagni the beginning of a long period of decline which lasted through the entire XV century.

History - the Renaissance

Sacked by the troops of Duke Guarnieri (Werner) von Verslingen in 1348, ruined and depopulated, the city became a battlefield. The Spanish army, led by the Duke of Alba sieged Anagni in 1556 bombarding it and horribly sacking it as soon as the papal troops abandoned their defenses and escaped. Around 1579 a short period of refluorishing begins, thanks to Cardinal Benedetto Lomellino, bishop and governor of the city.

History - Modern Times

Toward the end of the XIX century also the cultural level of the city rose again, thanks to the institutions of various schools: in 1890, in the presence of the Queen, the Queen Margaret's National Boarding-house for the education of the orphan-girls of grammar schools teachers was opened, and in 1897 the Collegio Leoniano, entitled to the pontiff Leone XIII. In 1930, the Prince of Piedmont's Boarding-house was built for the sons of local body personnel.

Since the second post-war period the territory of Anagni has become a prominent industrial settlement in Central-Southern Italy.

What to see

  • The Cathedral of Anagni, dedicated to Santa Maria, is a great Romanesque monument. It was constructed during the years 1071-1105 A.D. The most spectacular part of the Cathedral is its cript, which contains the tomb of Saint Magno, the patron saint of Anagni, and Saint Secondina of Anagni. The frescos on the walls and ceiling are some of the most spectacular works of Byzantine art all over Italy.
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