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From Aquileia to Gorizia, from Udine to Cividale, from Gradisca to Palmanova, a Middle Ages "border", that of Friuli, almost unknown but essential for the development of Europe to come. History, culture, wars and conflicts but also the unprecedented meeting of the three main European civilizations, the Latin, the Slavic and the Germanic, to which we in Gorizia3. 0 we always add the Jewish one, which here interact, exchange culture and traditions, interpenetrate ways of life and languages, so much so as to become in Gorizia, a popular grammelot, not yet thoroughly investigated: to remain in the field of language in this territory on the extreme margins of empires and nations, cultures and civilizations, an original language is developed, such as Friulian. Aquileia, founded by the Romans in 181 B.C., developed in the following centuries to become one of the most important centres of the empire, a hub of trade between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, a meeting point of philosophies and religions of the then known world, whose fascinating and in some ways still mysterious complexity is still witnessed today in the most ancient mosaics of its extraordinary Basilica, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site: A similar symbolism can only be found in the Gnostic texts found in 1945 in Nag Hammadi in Egypt and testify to the Mithraic and Gnostic influences on the nascent Christianity. From Aquileia, a mystical forge halfway between the Baltic Sea and the Nile Delta, Christianity spread to Eastern Europe: after the fall of the Roman Empire the city lost its role as a commercial power to assume a new fundamental religious function: the bishops of Aquileia exercised, together with the diocese of Milan, (in 381 AD. c. a Council was celebrated in Aquileia, promoted by Saint Ambrose of Milan and presided over by the Bishop of Aquileia, Valerian, who condemned the Aryan doctrines spread in the West) a primacy over the Church of the West, also because of the authority exercised over about twenty dioceses in Italy and about ten beyond the Alps.

As an ecclesial reality, in fact, the Patriarchate of Aquileia was the largest diocese and metropolis of the whole European Middle Ages. Until 811 its ecclesiastical province reached as far as the Danube River to the north, Lake Balaton to the east and west as far as Como and today's Canton Ticino. To the south it included Istria until 1751, the year of its suppression. In 811, Charlemagne extended its borders as far as the Danube and the Drau. The diocese of Aquileia was also very large. The court of the Patriarch of Aquileia included people of different language and ethnicity. He united the Latin world with the Germanic and the Slavic ones, as the County of Gorizia did, even if for completely different reasons. The year 1001 is the year of the first mention of Gorizia (from the Slovenian Gorica) and Salcano (from the Latin Sylicanum), in an edict by Ottone Primo that prefigures an administrative reorganization of the Empire after the devastation of the Hungarians. In the document the emperor donates half of these territories to the Carinthian family of Eppestein and half to the Patriarchs of Aquileia, creating a fundamental ambiguity that will give rise to innumerable conflicts in the following centuries. Between 1070 and 1090 the County of Gorizia was actually born, first dominated by the Eppestein family and then by the so called Ariboni from Milstatt, also from Carinthia.


The relationship of Aquileia and Gorizia with the Germanic world is relevant in the medieval period, even if from the 15th century the power relations in the Northeast of Italy changed radically. The county of Gorizia was indisputably born as a Germanic institution on a territory where Latin and Slavic populations had lived together for centuries. In a handkerchief of land then, Gorizia, which at that time was little more than an agglomeration of hovels perched on the hill now dominated by the Castle, the three main European civilizations intersected and interacted linguistically. The county grew larger under the dynamic action of the Mainardina dynasty (so-called because of the frequency of the name Mainardo in its lineage) and, although strongly opposed by the Patriarchate of Aquileia, it developed unstoppably until it reached its maximum extension around 1320, when the Counts of Gorizia dominated over vast territories of Istria, Friuli, Carinthia, Tyrol, and present-day Slovenia, conquering even Treviso and Padua for a few years. The influence of Aquileia first of all, but also of Gorizia on central-eastern Europe is still little known today: for the part of Gorizia, we could say almost unknown, except in Austria: visible evidence, traces and finds often very interesting of this domain are now found in Italian, Austrian, Slovenian and Croatian territory (Istria) confirming the prefiguration, certainly on a smaller scale, but still with a very rich diversity of people and languages, the future Mitteleurope. There is, therefore, a very strong relationship between these two entities of north-eastern Italy, a continuous interaction from vocations to unite different traditions and worlds.

The Patriarchate of Aquileia was subjugated by the Serenissima, together with the whole of Friuli, in 1420; the Pope of Rome recognized the Patriarch who was confined to the now small town of Aquileia. The County of Gorizia, in the terms described up to now, ends in 1500, at the death of the last count, Leonardo, married to Paola Gonzaga (a marriage that testifies the fatal attraction of Italy also for an alpine dynasty, like the one in Gorizia) that did not give him heirs. After various war vicissitudes between Hapsburg and Venice, with what remained of its territory and above all with its historical territorial privileges, the County went to enrich the nascent Empire of Maximilian the First of Hapsburg, which lasted uninterruptedly until 1918.

The temporal and spiritual power of Aquileia and Gorizia overlapped between the 15th and 16th centuries in this hinge region of Europe. It is the opinion of many historians that the legacy of the County of Gorizia, which stretched from the mountains of Tyrol to the Adriatic Sea, was the fourth column that supported the enormous scaffolding of the nascent Empire, together with Flanders, Burgundy, Alsace. Gorizia and Lienz, the capital of Ost Tirol, were the driving centres of this seigniory and still today both in Gorizia and in Tyrol there are many interesting testimonies of the County of Gorizia which, paradoxically, is undoubtedly better known in Austria than in Italy. Lienz in particular preserves the imposing castle which was for centuries the second residence of the counts and houses the tombs of Leonardo and Paola Gonzaga. The spiritual influence of the Patriarchate of Aquileia remains, even if under trace, one of the most important glues linking West and East Europe: it would, therefore, be worth remembering a fragment of the regional history, which perhaps more than any other has determined European events: it is a little known history also in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Little remains of all this rich mass of historical events, which are important for their intrinsic, original cultural and historical interest and the future structure of the whole of Europe. The history of the County of Gorizia remains almost unknown in Italy: in Austria, in Tyrol and Carinthia, above all, it has certainly been more appreciated. The Patriarchate of Aquileia is still remembered - and honoured - among the Balkan peoples, from Carinthia to Hungary. One of the reasons for this oblìo that we propose to correct lies undoubtedly in the official historiography of the Italic North-East (or Austrian South-West), dominated for centuries by the Serenissima, which lucidly valorised Latin Friuli at the expense of the "German", imperial and therefore Hapsburg Friuli, whose Counts Mainardini were undoubtedly bishops. Specularly it was the Habsburgs as far as Gorizia was concerned.

Yet, the history of the Middle Ages in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the North-East of Italy, in the Eastern Alps, cannot disregard the diarchy formed by the Patriarchate of Aquileia and the County of Gorizia and their periodic and continuous conflicts for dominance over Friuli. Wars, battles, sieges, crimes, involving Udine, Cividale, Trieste, Grado marked a centuries-old rivalry that only ended when more important powers such as Venice and the Habsburg Empire burst onto the scene. Following the serious disputes between Venice and Austria for the nomination of the metropolitans, the patriarchate was suppressed on July 6, 1751, and replaced by the archbishopric of Udine given to the last patriarch Daniele Dolfin on January 19, 1752, and that of Gorizia, where Carlo Michele d'Attems was appointed. The county of Gorizia ended its "official" life with the Victory of Italy over the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. It should be remembered that the treasure of Aquileia was divided into equal parts between Udine and Gorizia. The treasure of Udine was stolen a few years after the donation. The one of Gorizia is intact, very precious and in the year of the Jubilee, a special Museum was created in an agreement between the Municipality of Gorizia and the Archiepiscopal Curia, the Museum of S. Chiara, which is still waiting to host a fundamental part of the history of our region. Today Cervignano and Aquileia fall under the Archdiocese of Gorizia, which therefore remains the true heir of this immense cultural and historical heritage. It would be worthwhile to enhance it.

The treasure of Aquileia