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XI - XII Century

Gorizia was officially mentioned for the first time on 28th April 1001; in a document in which the emperor Otto III donated the castle of Salcano (Sylicanum, in Latin) and the "villa", called "Goritia" (from the Slavic diction "gorica", that is "little mountain") half to the Patriarch of Aquileia, and the other half to the Count of Friuli Guariento of the Eppenstein family. The territory of the Counts of Gorizia at the first donation was roughly the one indicated in the map below, according to the Friulian historian Mor.

A double attribution, this one, that was always caused by friction between Gorizia and Aquileia. The term "villa" suggests that at the time there was still no castle on the hill. Even if for many historians it is very likely that on the hill, already in the Lombard period, there were fortifications (perhaps a watchtower), it is widely believed that a real manor was built from the twelfth century. Gorizia faces the "official" and documented history after a tragic century, characterized by the cruel invasions of the Hungarians who, besides plundering Friuli, impoverished it to such an extent as to unhinge any trace of the established order. Added to this were the spiritual anxieties of a millennium that was about to end under the most sinister auspices synthesized by the fear of the end of the world: "A thousand and no longer a 

thousand". "After five decades of devastation - says the Friulian historian Mor - the Marca (Friulian) appeared as a pile of ruins, in a desolate and depopulated wasteland".

In 955 Emperor Otto, I finally defeated the Hungarians in a great battle near Augsburg in Bavaria. Emperor Ottone, I began the so-called "incastellamento" (the erection of castles) of Friuli: the Germanic emperors provided for an administrative reorganization of the whole area entrusting the various villas and territories to their faithful vassals who, obeying the imperial directives, erected numerous fortifications, destined to become the hundreds of castles that still embellish Friuli-Venezia Giulia today. (on the map here beside the primaeval territory of the County of Gorizia according to the Mor).


The origins of the dynasty of the Counts of Gorizia are not entirely clear. The possession of the area of Gorizia remained in the hands of the Eppenstein family until this dynasty was called to govern the Carinthian dukedom (in 1090) and then became extinct between 1122 and 1125. Through an intricate line of succession, the domain of the County was then taken over by a lineage that had already acquired numerous possessions in Millstatt where it had founded the famous Abbey. The Counts of Gorizia are therefore direct descendants of the Counts of Val Pusteria and Lurngau, even though they are related to the Bavarian family of the Ariboni: the origins of the lineage should be Liutgarda and Count Aribo (in the picture Count Aribo - on the right - with his wife Liutgarda in a bas-relief preserved in Milstatt), founder of the Millstatt monastery, on which the Counts exercised their hereditary vocation from the beginning. They had two children: Enghelberto and that Meginhard - or Mainardo - who is also mentioned in a document from Aquileia in 1064 as "Meginardhus de Guriza". Due to the frequency of the name Mainardo, the dynasty of the Counts of Gorizia was called "Mainardina".


ocatThe history of the County of Gorizia is inextricably linked to the contrast with the Patriarchate of Aquileia, of which the Counts were the lawyers. The Patriarchs, dominating Friuli, represented an obstacle to the expansionist aims of the Counts towards the Po Valley. Wars, battles, assaults and conspiracies studded, often bloodily, the history of the Friulian Middle Ages. It is an indisputable fact that the Counts of Gorizia often showed an unscrupulous behaviour, sometimes dictated by the difficulties to finding a living space between more homogeneous administrative entities and also by an objective difficulty to recompose unitarily a very wide territory, as can be seen from all the geopolitical maps reconstructed by historians. To unify and connect vast territories within defined boundaries was the constant, with alternate fortunes, of the policy of the Counts of Gorizia. One of the most dramatic moments of the dispute between the Counts and Patriarchs was recorded in 1150, when Count Engelbert II, accused by Patriarch Pellegrino of robbery, took the prince of the Church prisoner: at that time the fact aroused immense scandal and sensation. The lords of Styria and Tyrol intervened, who freed the Patriarch and imposed a harsh compromise on the Goriška but were not able to deprive him of his Aquileian vocation.

A period of continuous clashes between Gorizia and the Patriarchs followed. In the framework of these conflicts, on January 21, 1202, in a small church near Cormòns, whose remains, carefully restored, are still visible today, was stipulated the Treaty of San Quirino, which officially sanctioned the recognition to the Mainardini of the full possession of the area of Gorizia, with all the annexed properties. With the same treaty, the Patriarchate of Aquileia obtained the jurisdiction between the Isonzo, Monfalcone and the sea, while the Counts were entitled, beyond the territory of Gorizia, several other castles, including Cormòns, Arispergo, Barbana and Tomaj. The Treaty of San Quirino did not, however, put an end to the disputes between the County of Gorizia and the Patriarchate, but compromised relations even more because it had officially recognized the existence of the feud of Gorizia. The Gorizians then worked to complete their scattered possessions and to unify them in very limited domains. They consolidated them with the building of castles, effectively separating the territory of Gorizia from the Patriarchate.