The family history and birth of Ceccano County

Ceccano County has distinguished the history and the life of a large territory between the Valle d’Ameno and the Lepini Mountains for almost 500 years, from the eighth to the thirteenth century.

The Conti de Ceccano (Counts of Ceccano) family were among the feudal houses of medieval Lazio and ruled Ceccano and numerous castles in the Valle d’Amore and in the areas of the Lepini Mountains for about five centuries. The Ceccano family relations with the Church were not always optimal, and in some periods they became very bad (the Counts of Ceccano were among the promoters of Anagni’s Schiaffo).

The fascinating family events still are told to us today by the Annales Ceccanenses (also known as Chronicles of Fossanova), the oldest secular chronicle of all Lazio still available today. The Annales tell the story of the family and give valuable historical information about the surroundings.

The narration begins with the birth of Jesus Christ, followed by brief annotations until the year 1000. Subsequently, the narrative is extended as well as the description of the events relating to the de Ceccano, to arrive at 1217, the year in which the chronicle is interrupted. Today, transcripts of the original manuscript are preserved, but the original has unfortunately disappeared.

Historians are divided between various assumptions about the origins of the family. According to some historians such as Ferdinand Gregorovius, the family was of Germanic origin and descended from the Lombards in the 8th century and since then the family settled on the site and named it. According to others it comes from the line of Petronio Ceccano, a count from Campagna (ancient region to the South of Rome) from which the city gained its present name.

The earliest known facts about it were found in the second half of the twentieth century in some documents from the Abbey of Montecassino that speak of Leo, Uberto and Amato who donated many goods to the Benedictine Abbey.

The family did not add any popes to their story but had numerous cardinals including Cardinal Giordano, Abbot of Fossanova, who was created by Cardinal Clement III in 1188 who sent him as Apostolic Nuncio to France and Germany. Returning to Ceccano the following year, he restored the Church of Santa Maria in Rijeka, which was then consecrated with a solemn ceremony described in detail in the Annales Ceccanenses.

Cardinal Stefano, abbot of Fossanova, created a cardinal by Pope Innocent III, was a friend of San Domenico of Guzman. He was one of the founders of the Abbey of San Galgano and of the nearby chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Rotunda at the place where San Galgano had died. In that chapel is a fresco that depicts him in prayer before the Virgin.

The figure of Cardinal Teobaldo is closely linked to Saint Thomas Aquinas. The saint, seriously ill, wanted to find death in a place suitable for his religious vocation and took himself to the Fossanova abbey, where he expired at the age of forty-nine years in the arms of the abbot Teobaldo de Ceccano (1274).

Cardinal Annibaldo IV, theologian and professor at the Sorbonne of Paris, a friend of the artists Giotto and Petrarca, during the Papacy of Avignon, opened the Jubilee of 1350 on behalf of Clement VI. In Avignon there is still the building that was his residence, Livrée Ceccano, an important mediateca of Provence, with its large halls enriched by numerous frescoes with the cardinal’s heraldic coat of arms.

Other important figures were Donna Egidia, one of the first women in history to undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, who departed in 1190 returning the following year, healed of the evil that afflicted her and her son, Count Giovanni I. In 1190, he was created a knight by Emperor Henry VI of Swabia.

His is the oldest testimony to a chivalric investment in southern Lazio and denotes the high rank achieved by the Ceccano family of counts at that time. In 1200, in the Cathedral of Anagni, Count Giovanni swore allegiance to Pope Innocent III, who awarded him the rights to Sezze.

In that period the county experienced its greatest splendor. Under Ceccano’s government were Ceccano, Arnara, Patrica, Cacume, Monte Acuto, Giuliano, Santo Stefano, Maenza, Rocca d’Asprano, Prossedi, Pisterzo, Carpineto, with rights also claimed to Montelanico, Alatri, Frosinone, Priverno , Torrice, Ceprano and Ninfa.

In 1216 Giovanni forcefully ejected Ruggero dell’Aquila, caught him at Vallecorsa and defeated him forcing him to pass back the Liri and imprisoning his uncle Roberto and seventy soldiers. He subsequently attacked the Colonna family, who had sided with Ruggero dell’Aquila, assaulting the castle of Morolo and causing the death of more than 400 people.

One should conclude by writing that by the mid-1900s the family remained without heirs and extinct. The last female exponents were tied in marriage to the Caetani (who in a sense inherited their possessions). The last male exponents were cardinals or religious devotees.