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The Arch of Victory:
Commemorating the Battle of Montemolino
September 5, 1310

[image ALT: An archway in a medieval wall of small stone masonry: the arch is ogival and a shallow stairway rises thru the arch into the background. It is the Arco della Vittoria in Corciano, Umbria (central Italy).]

This quiet archway in a south-facing medieval wall of the lovely little town of Corciano is easily walked by, part of the background charm of the place. As we stroll past though, the little inscription above it ought to tip us onto something. The uncial lettering is very beautifully carved (even if the Latin is pretty awful), and the stones are carefully protected in their niche: they're probably there for a reason. Hint to the visitor: get your nose out of that guidebook, and look! You'll learn more from your own observation than from any number of books.

[image ALT: A pair of small horizontal stones set one above the other in a little stone niche. It is an inscription in Corciano, Umbria (central Italy), commemorating the Perugian victory at the battle of Montemolino (1310); the text is transcribed, translated, and commented on in this webpage.]

The inscription as it appears:

Sub · M · CCCX · die · U · S
pteb · comuē · Tuder
fuit ꝑ coe Ꝑusi debell
tū · et · d̅e pote motis
molini p̅sentes · la
pides aportati ·


Sub MCCCX die V Se‑
ptembris comune Tuder
fuit per comunem Perusiae debella
tum et de ponte Montis
Molini praesentes la
pides aportati.


In 1310 on the 5th day of
September the comune of Todi
was vanquished by the comune of Perugia
and from the bridge of Monte
Molino these stones
were taken away.

As it turns out, the battle of Montemolino was one of the formative episodes of the history of central Italy: these two stones are more than just crowing over the loss inflicted on a neighboring town.

To understand what happened, we need to see the region not as it is today, neatly packaged into a rather homogenous unified "Umbria" — that geographical name didn't so much as exist at the time — but as a patchwork of warring feudal city-states of shifting politics and allegiances, among which the only law was that of opportunity.

During much of the Middle Ages then, Perugia and Todi were at each other's throats. Along with Spoleto and Terni, these were very aggressive little cities, constantly fighting to extend their reach and domination over the landscape (and the long-suffering smaller towns) of central Umbria.

In this struggle, the battle of Montemolino was one of the bloodier episodes. The excuse, as often, was warfare between Guelfs and Ghibellines — partisans respectively of the Pope and the Emperor, or at least nominally — which served as the ever available pretext for fighting whatever other town you didn't like. Montemolino, a village perched on a hill above some rapids of the Tiber River, was the site of the first bridge over that river as you went N from Todi toward Perugia: and in 1310, an army led by the Ghibelline condottiere Bindo dei Baschi, fighting for Todi, defended that strategic bridge against Perugia, but was cut to pieces. The defeat opened the way for Perugia's power to be extended almost to the gates of Todi; and set in motion one of the trends that eventually led to Perugia becoming the chief city of Umbria.

As for the other stones from the bridge at Montemolino, we are told that most were sent to Torgiano, where they were used to build the town walls. Two other special stones ended up in Corciano, however: the two Romanesque lions that had stood in front of Montemolino's church — a very frequent arrangement, as for example at S. Pietro in Spoleto, or S. Michele in Cortigno — now flank the patch of public garden around Corciano's low-key War Monument, a hundred meters NW of our arch, following the Via del Belvedere:

[image ALT: A small elevated public square, the details of which are not very visible, in part because obscured by a park. From the road in front of it, two staircases lead up to it; the foot of the staircases is shared, and on either side is a large stone lion. It is a view of the Piazza dei Caduti in Corciano, Umbria (central Italy), and the two Romanesque lions that in 2004 guarded it.]

If one of the lions of Montemolino is now pretty much worn down to a blank nub, the one on the left still shows enough detail for us to see what a magnificent beast he must have been a few hundred years ago:

[image ALT: A partly eroded large stylized Romanesque stone lion. It is one of two that in 2004 guarded the entrance to the Piazza dei Caduti in Corciano, Umbria (central Italy).]

[image ALT: A partly eroded large stylized Romanesque stone lion. It is one of two that in 2004 guarded the entrance to the Piazza dei Caduti in Corciano, Umbria (central Italy).]

[image ALT: A partly eroded large stylized Romanesque stone lion. It is one of two that in 2004 guarded the entrance to the Piazza dei Caduti in Corciano, Umbria (central Italy).]

Update, June 2013:

These lions no longer flank the entrance to the Piazza Caduti, having at long last made their way to cover out of the rain: they are now in the town's historical and archaeological museum, Corciano Antiquarium.

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Page updated: 26 Oct 18