The history of Cagli

In ancient Rome times a station of change for horses and a village called vicus Cale grown on the two sides of the via Flaminia, the road built in 219 the consul Caio Flaminio to connect Rome to Rimini, were on the level of the present Cagli. The Romans defined vicus a village grown like that along an important road and mutatio the stations of change for the postal service situated every 10 miles, which was the distance covered by a horse at full speed before it was considered necessary to leave the horse in its stables and get a new one.
Evidence of the grandiosity of the via Flaminia, it is still possible to admire in Cagli at the confluence of the rivers Bosso and Burano a wonderful stone bridge, the stately Ponte Mallio, intact after two thousand years. Besides, two tunnels are at the pass of Furlo to get over the gorge: the bigger tunnel built under Emperor Vespasiano in AD77 and the adjacent shorter one, probably bored by the Umbrians before the Roman conquest. Well preserved paragons of realizations made by the Romans are located within a radius of few kilometres.

The via Flaminia was the most important road in central Italy and to the North: in many occasions, starting from the victory on the Carthaginians led by Hasdrubal in the battle of Metauro in 207 B.C., the troops who made the history of ancient Rome marched through Cagli. If we include the Roman bridges on the via Flaminia near Cantiano and other great examples like the Roman theatre in Gubbio it can be said that marvels of archaeology by themselves offer plenty of reasons to visit the area. Hiking and cycling throughout a few Roman bridges and the two tunnels at the pass of Furlo is possible on a flat itinerary along the modern low car traffic via Flaminia, whose layout treads the Roman route, and Cagli is the perfect base to do that.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire frequent attacks made by barbarians, Longobards and Goths, fighting to take the region and the road Flaminia, drove the population to leave the ancient vicus and to settle higher. The making of the new walled town of Cale, seat of diocese, on the hill called Banderuola was completed at the beginning of the VIII century. There were a cathedral, local administration’s buildings, a square, fortifications. The Byzantyne control on Cagli was interrupted two times by the Longobards before 755 when Cale and the territory of the Exharcate whose seat was in Ravenna were conquered by Pipino, the king of Franks. That event meant for Cagli the beginning of the Pope’s authority over its territory and the introduction of the feudal system brought by the Franks. The free city held by a podestà thrived until before the end of the XIII century when Cagli was about to die in consequence of a great fire set by the followers of the Emperor fighting against the followers of the Pope, the Guelphs, who had always prevailed in the previous centuries. Nobody could stop that wicked purpose and Cagli was destroyed. Just few ruins of the medieval town can be recognized now on the ground on the slopes of Monte Petrano.

Starting from 1289 Cagli was rebuilt on the plateau were we can admire it now under the name of Sant’Angelo Papale for the will of the Pope Niccolò IV whose help had been requested by both parties, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, after the destruction. The new settlement was attached to the first village grown from ancient Rome times on the two sides of the via Flaminia and other buildings like the church of Sant’Angelo Maggiore, the present church of San Giuseppe, which were already on that plateau. In 1376 Cagli passed to the duchy of Montefeltro as consequence of the alliance formed with Urbino. During the most creative period in its history Cagli gave the court of Urbino outstanding personalities like the priest Guido de’ Rossi, called Guido Bonclerici for his worth (from the appellative bonus et doctus clericus), who was secretary and advisor to the duke of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro and then became bishop of Cagli, or the jurist Antonio Luperti, or Pietro Tiranni who was advisor to Guidobaldo. The town’s name had been changed in Calli few years after the rebuilding and became Cagli in consequence of the however fleeting Spanish domination supported by Alessandro Borgia in 1502-1503, when the fortress on the overhanging hill was destroyed by the same cagliesi to avoid that it could be caught by the invaders.

The symbol of Cagli is the Torrione which was part of the town’s defensive system together with the walls and the fortress: it was planned by the military architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini on the will of Federico da Montefeltro duke of Urbino as many other fortifications in the nearby. Also the stately Palazzo Comunale overlooking the town’s main square, elegant city life’s center, was restored by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Thanks to all these events many styles from Gothic to Romanesque and Renaissance coexist in Cagli and can be admired in the oldest churches and buildings. A visit to the church of San Domenico with its Cappella Tiranni frescoed by Raphael Sanzio’s father Giovanni Santi is worthy of a trip to Cagli on its own.

In 1631 the troops of the Pope occupied the duchy of Urbino and Cagli entered the Papal States which included the regions Lazio, Umbria, Marche and Romagna until 1861 when the unit of Italy was made. The monumental patrimony of Cagli was damaged by a hearthquake in 1781 but the reconstruction brought new elegance. Important works were taken away from churches and convents and brought to France during the Napoleonic domination. Neoclassical style elements and XIX century buildings give the idea of the importance of Cagli in that time. The cathedral itself was restored. In 1878 the families of the local gentry contributed to the building of the theatre which is still today all year round the centre of the cultural life of the town. A town rich in art treasures to live on foot, full of spots to visit in the historical centre, provided with all the suitable services for residents and visitors.