Viterbo, the City of Popes

Two main attractions of Viterbo are situated in the San Lorenzo Square. One of them is the cathedral of San Lorenzo and the other is the Papal palace. The palace was built by commission of Raniero Gatti in 1266 in order to provide popes a secure residence. Its northern façade overlooking the Faul valley has an austere fortified look. The southern façade facing the Duomo square is decorated by an elegant Loggia delle Benedizioni (blessings) with tracery arches surmounted by a graceful entablement. The loggia was built in 1267 as a place for papal benediction. Thanks to this loggia, the medieaval San Lorenzo square is one of the most beautiful places in Viterbo. Formerly, the loggia had a roof and two rows of arches but in the 14th century the roof collapsed together with the northern arcade and the loggia became an open space.

More than once, the Papal Palace had been a scene of dramatic events. In 12-13th centuries the city had a rather turbulent relationship with the Papacy. Several popes chose Viterbo as their favorite residence, many popes were elected there and several popes were buried there. The city was involved into severe conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines. The rulers maneuvered between popes and emperors. Sometimes results were very unfortunate. Popes excommunicated the citizens and emperors besieged the city.

The papal election of 1268-1271 which took place in Viterbo after the death of Clement IV was the longest in the church history. The Holy See had been vacant for 1006 days or 33 months. This record election marked the beginning of a special election procedure, or conclave, which originates from the Italian phrase con chiave (with key). Pope Gregory X promulgated the apostolic constitution, Ubi periculum, on July 7, 1274, at the 2nd Council of Lyon, establishing the papal conclave, whose rules were based on the tactics employed against the cardinals in Viterbo.

Read more, see more photos

My previous post about Viterbo
Viterbo, a Perfect Mediaeval City


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