The Palace of the Popes is one of the most important palaces in European history as it is where the famous ‘Slap of Anagni’ took place on September 8, 1303, when Pope Boniface VIII was publicly humiliated by Sciarra Colonna during the tough confrontation between the pope and the representative of Philip IV of France called the Fair, William of Nogaret. A sign of the gravity of the conflict between the papacy and the empire is that much of the episode was retold by Dante in the Inferno of the Divine Comedy.
The ‘slap’ marked an important step in the history of the church: the Pope died a few days later and a few years later the seat of the papacy was moved to Avignon.
The palace dates back to 1200 and was built by the Conti family, by Pope Gregory IX, and here the emperor Frederick II of Swabia stayed after the peace of Cassino, which was then called San Germano.
Manfredi, the son of Frederick II, also came to Anagni and here he met Pope Innocent IV to seek an agreement between the Church and the Empire. In 1297 the palace was bought by the Caetani family and belonged to Pope Boniface VIII.
The facade has two large Gothic arches, which protect an access staircase to the first floor, above which there is another floor lit through 5 mullioned windows and two others on the near side. On the first floor are the two frescoed rooms, where the ‘slap’ took place, which take their names from chess on one side and from the representations of various birds on the other.
A large room is dedicated to the findings of the Roman era from Anagni as well as a copy of a statue made by Arnolfo di Cambio (located in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence) and the reconstruction of the funeral monument of the pope.
In the eighteenth century the palace of Boniface was enlarged with a new wing and a baroque church was built over the former medieval church dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damiano. The new wing is the maternal home of the Cistercian nuns of Charity, who run the museum. The Cistercian nuns were founded by Sister Claudia de Angelis, in the process of sanctification.
In the rooms on the ground floor of this new wing it is possible to admire a rare collection of 80 epigraphs and engravings coming from the major Roman catacombs such as Santa Domitilla and San Sebastiano. Each registration has been catalogued and the place of origin and the history of how it arrived in Anagni are known. They arrived in Anagni thanks to Marcantonio Boldetti and Giovanni Marangoni, superintendents of the catacombs between 1700 and 1753, and today are located in the side walls of a large room with a vaulted decorated ceiling.