Patria del Friuli

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The Patria del Friuli[1] (Latin: Patria Fori Iulii, Friulian: Patrie dal Friûl) was the territory under the temporal rule of the Patriarch of Aquileia and one of the ecclesiastical states of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1420, the Republic of Venice acquired it, but it continued to be ruled for some time under its own laws and customs.


The former Duchy of Friuli in the Italian Kingdom of the Lombards had been conquered by Charlemagne in 774 and incorporated as a march of the Carolingian Empire. When in 952 King Otto I of Germany invaded Italy, he added the Friulian territory to the March of Verona, ruled by the Dukes of Bavaria, from 976 by the Dukes of Carinthia. During the Investiture Controversy of 1077, King Henry IV of Germany deposed the Veronese margrave Duke Berthold II of Carinthia, as he had sided with antiking Rudolf of Rheinfelden. On 3 April 1077 at Pavia Henry, on his way back from the Walk to Canossa, vested Patriarch Sieghard of Beilstein with immediate comital rights in the Friulian lands of Verona, raising him to the status of a Prince-Bishop. The remaining margraviate passed with the Carinthian duchy to Henry's liensman Liutold of Eppenstein.

Sieghard in turn safely conducted the king across the Alps. Back in Germany, King Henry in addition nominally assigned the suzerainty over the marches of Carniola and Istria to the patriarchs as ecclesiastical Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The act, traditionally regarded as the birth of the ecclesiastical state of Aquileia, led to a long-time conflict with the rivaling margraves from the Carinthian House of Sponheim and the Andechs dukes of Merania.


The Patriarchate subsequently extended its political control in the area: regions under Aquileian control in the following centuries included the Friulian lands up to Cadore, the city of Trieste and the central parts of the Istrian peninsula. At its maximum height, the Patriarchate of Aquileia was one of the largest states in Italy. Noblemen from the Patriarchate were protagonists in the Crusades. In 1186 Patriarch Gottfried (Gitifredo Tedesco) crowned Frederick Barbarossa's son, Henry VI, as King of Italy: in retaliation, Pope Urban III deposed him.

From 1127 the vogts at Gorizia from the Meinhardiner dynasty emerged from Aquileia, calling themselves Counts of Görz. Their autonomy was strengthened, when they inherited the Imperial County of Tyrol in 1253 and were elevated to Princes of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Charles IV in 1365.

In the early 13th century, particularly under Volchero (1204–1218) and Bertrand (1218–1251), the Patriarchate had a flourishing economy and cultural life, favoured by good roads network. Damaged by earthquakes and other calamities, and reduced to a few hundred inhabitants, Aquileia was nearly abandoned in the 14th century. The capital of the state was moved first to Cividale and then, from 1238, to Udine in central Friuli, which had been a favourite residence of the patriarch since the 13th century and soon became a large city.

Rivalry with Venice[edit]

The patriarchs had regained the rule of the Istrian march from the Dukes of Merania in 1209. However, they had to cope with the rising naval power of the Republic of Venice, which in the late 13th century had occupied the western Istrian coast from Capodistra (Koper) down to Rovinj (Rovigno). In 1291 a peace was made in Treviso, whereupon the western coast of the peninsula fell to Venice. In the late century the patriarchate had to face the increasing rivalry with Venice, as well as the inner strifes between its vassals, and also became encroached in the endless wars between Guelphs and Ghibellines. In 1331 Venice also incorporated Pola (Pula) in the south. A certain recovery occurred during the rule of Bertrand (1334–1350), a successful administrator and military leader. He was killed in 1350 in a plot, at the age of ninety.

The Counts of Görz had retained some interior Istrian lands around Pazin (Mitterburg), which they bequeathed to the Austrian House of Habsburg in 1374. In view of the Venice threat, the city of Trieste submitted to the Habsburgs in 1382.

Since the transfer of the patriarchal residence to Udine, the Venetians had never lived in peace with the Patriarchate, of whose Imperial favour and tendencies they were jealous. From about 1400, Venice under the Doge Michele Steno and his successor Tommaso Mocenigo began to enlarge its dogado by occupying the Aquileia hinterlands. At the same time, the Patriarchate suffered internal conflict between the citizens of Cividale and Udine.

In 1411 this turned into a war which was to mark the end of the Patriarchate, Cividale having received support from most of the Friulian communes, the Carraresi of Padua, King Sigismund of Germany, also King of Hungary, while Udine was backed by the Venetians. In the December of that year an Imperial army captured Udine and, in the following January, Louis of Teck was implemented as patriarch in the city's cathedral. On July 23, 1419 the Venetians conquered Cividale and prepared to do the same with Udine. The city fell on June 7, 1420 after a long siege. Soon afterwards Gemona, San Daniele, Venzone and Tolmezzo followed.


The temporal authority of the patriarch was lost in 7 July 1420 when its territories were secularised by Venice. Doge Francesco Foscari in 1433 signed an agreement with Emperor Sigismund, whereby the Empire ceded the Domini di Terraferma, stretching from the Adriatic Sea to the Alps, to the Republic, then officially as an Imperial fief. The territory around Gorizia and Aquileia proper was retained by the Counts of Görz; the last Count Leonhard in 1500 bequeathed his lands to Archduke Maximilian I of Austria, who also annexed the city of Gradisca in 1511. The former Görz territories were incorporated into the Inner Austrian possessions of the Habsburgs.

In 1445, after Patriarch Ludovico Trevisan at the Council of Florence had acquiesced in the loss of his ancient temporal estate in return for an annual salary of 5,000 ducats allowed him from the Venetian treasury. Henceforth only Venetians were allowed to hold the title of Patriarch of Aquileia. The former Friulian state was incorporated in the Venetian Republic with the name of Patria del Friuli, ruled by a General Proveditor or a Luogotenente living in Udine. In 1523 Emperor Charles V ultimately renounced any Imperial feudal rights to the former Aquileia territory.


The Friulian parliament evolved out of ad hoc patriarchal councils of increasingly greater size, convoked in the 13th century to obtain the financial and military support of the Friulian barons in the near continual wars of patriarchs with their neighbours. By the century's end, the institution had become regularized and in the early 14th century it spoke of itself as acting "in the name of the whole population of Friuli" (nomine totius universitatis Foriiulii). During the entire period of patriarchal rule the parliament's primary function was military. Barons, ecclesiastics and towns participated according to their military responsibilities as listed in the talea militiae. These responsibilities were fixed and periodically changed by the parliament. The patriarchal demesne itself owed service according to the talea. The patriarch's chief influence over the parliament lay in his appointment of gastalds in the towns, by which means he could influence the choice of representatives the towns sent to parliament.[2]

The parliament met up to ten times a year, and was especially important during vacancies in the patriarchal office, which were frequent. Plenary sessions never lasted more than one day, and the main work of the parliament was done by committees (consigli, sinular consiglio), of which there were two were regular. The first was composed of sixteen men—two churchmen, two barons, eight ministeriales and four representatives of the towns—and any appointees the patriarch chose. This committee met for one or two days immediately after a plenary session to apply its decisions. The second committee consisted of three representatives each from the three estates of the realm elected by the plenary session and six appointees of the patriarch. The patriarch was eventually restricted in his selections to the members of parliament. This second committee sat for six months, becoming in essence a permanent committee.[2]

The parliament had original jurisdiction in cases of feudal law, conspiracy and rebellion, and in civil actions against the patriarch. It was also the court of last resort in almost all cases.[2] In March 1355 the parliament codified a constitution for Friuli, the Constitutiones Patriae Foriiulii. This was amended in 1366, 1368 and 1380 and confirmed by Venice in 1429. It remained the fundamental law of the Patria del Friuli until the fall of Venice in 1797.[3]

The parliament cooperated with the patriarch in treating with foreign powers, but it had no role in the Venetian conquest and incorporation of Friuli into the Domini di Terraferma in 1420. Nonetheless, it continued to function in the same relation to a lieutenant (luogotenente) appointed by the Venetian Senate as it had had with the patriarch. Udine and Cividale ceased to participate and the parliament was divided into two assemblies for the regions east and west of the Tagliamento. In the mid-16th century, a separate body—the corpo della contadinanza—representing the rural districts was created. A 16th-century antiquary, Count Girolamo di Porcia, remarked nostalgically that Friuli under the patriarchs had "more the form of a republic than of a principality" (più a forma di repubblica che di principato).[2]


  1. ^ Carla Marcato, "The Friulian Lexicon", in Rosa Mucignat, ed., The Friulian Language: Identity, Migration, Culture (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), p. 63: "at least since the twelfth century, the designation Patria del Friuli ("Fatherland of Friuli") has been used to indicate the Patriarchate of Aquileia, which as a territorial entity dates back to 1077. . . The designation Patria del Friuli continued to be used ... during Venetian rule over Friuli."
  2. ^ a b c d Helmut Georg Koenigsberger, "The Italian Parliaments from their Origins to the End of the 18th Century", in Politicians and Virtuosi: Essays on Early Modern History (London: The Hambledon Press, 1986), 27–62 [originally published in The Journal of Italian History 1, 1 (1978), 18–49]: "Friuli was a part of Italy in which a feeling of community developed without the help of compelling geographical or ethnic circumstances, neither of which, in fact, existed. The cohesion of the principality was due to the feudal overlordship of its prince, the patriarch of Aquileia. Since the prince was an ecclesiastic, this was not a dynastic overlordship. The state could therefore not pass to a foreign ruler by inheritance, nor could it be divided among a ruler's sons, as happened so frequently in the lay principalities of Germany during the middle ages. Most important of all, monarchical power tended to become institutionalised relatively early.".
  3. ^ C. Foligno, "Review of Pietro Silverio Leicht, Parlamento Friulano, Vol. I (1228–1331)", The English Historical Review, 37, 148 (1922): 576–79.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainShahan, Thomas J. (1913). "Aquileia". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.