The Teofilatto of Torre Cajetani Castle: “they came back!”
There are stories that are written about how the fate of people cannot be avoided. When the stories are beautiful then they become really like a dream come true.
One of these stories is the one that links the Teofilatto family to the castle of Torre Cajetani, a splendid little hamlet near Fiuggi, which is named after the family of Boniface VIII who had chosen to have one of his residences in this place. The famous water of Fiuggi that has its source here was used by the pontiff to cure his ‘evil stone’.
The story begins, but maybe we can say ‘restarts’ in 1944 when a soldier passed around the castle and remained enchanted. In his heart he thought, “One day I’ll defend it!”
The castle was then very large, but partly ruined by a violent earthquake at the beginning of the century that had destroyed several parts. The negligence of the civil genius who had demolished the precarious walls, and the citizens who had used the stones for the construction of their homes, had completed the work of degradation.
But the soldier could not forget the castle and in 1958 came into possession of it.
He was Achille Teofilatto and by a strange destiny his family had already been the owner of the castle from the 9th century until the 12th when various noble families of Alatri and Anagni took control, in a historical period about which there is not much news.
Certainly, the Teofilatto family belongs to that small number of noble families with over a thousand years of history. Even though their noble titles do not sink into feudalism but are still a precedent, at the time when people were divided into patriarchs, plebeians, and priests.
But who were the Teofilatto family and what did they do to Torre Cajetani in the 9th century?
Teofilatto was a powerful Roman patrician belonging to the group of Optimates (a kind of senator) present in the government of Rome until the eleventh century.
They were rich landowners, ecclesiastics and high officials. His name appears for the first time in 901 with the title of Judex Palatinus on a dispute involving Emperor Ludwig III of Provence. It is a sign that the Teofilatto family with their palace in Via Lata near the Quirinale had already a prominent role in the Roman aristocracy.
In 904 he was among the supporters of the election of his relative to the role of pope under the name of Sergio III and gained the role of Magister Militum (Army General), of Vestatarius, keeper of the treasures of the palace, illustrious Dux and Senator of the Romans.
In this way Teofilatto became the absolute leader of Rome with a power superior to that of the Pope himself, and thus one of the wealthiest and most influential men of the then West.
It is he who supported Pope John X to conclude agreements with the powerful Byzantine longobards, in control in the center of Italy, an alliance that in 1015 defeated the Saracens settled along the banks of the Garigliano who had been routinely looting the city of Rome and the coastal towns. His ‘kingdom’ lasted twenty years until his death, followed by those of his nephew Alberico II, Princeps Omnium Romanorum, from 932 to 954.
With Alberico II the power of the family expanded with the control of vast areas of Lazio to enable combatting the Saracens and for this he consolidated in Veroli, extending to the tower of Torre Cajetani, which then was more like a castrum, that is to say a lookout tower with a fortification around it.
This was the time of the greatest splendour of the Teofilatto family, which includes various popes in the family (Sergio III, John XI and John XII), who continued to be present on the pontifical throne with direct descendants in the Counts of Tuscolo (Benedict VIII, John XIX and Benedict IX).
At a certain point, the vicissitudes of the Teofilatto family dbecame complicated in Rome and its surroundings. One of the sons of Alberico II, Gregory I, formed the Branch of the Counts of Tuscolo, who move to the fortress located on the Colli Albani.
But the family remained involved in the struggles between the papacy and the empire and after the destruction of the Tuscolo fortress in 1191, they had to take refuge in the properties in the province, in the areas between central and southern Italy, and probably just in Torre Cajetani.
The strong link between the Teofilatto family and this castle and with the fortified centers of Gavignano and Veroli dates back to this period, but the loss of control took place already in the 12th century when the nobles of Alatri, Anagni, Segni and others took over the castle.
The rest of the story is known: feudalism came and these areas passed from the Caetani to the Colonna, then the Borgia took over before a return to the Caetani. A history of local facts linked through the centuries from the Saracens, to the temporal power of the Church, to the phenomenon of the encastellation, of the control of the territory, to the administration of taxes and justice.
Yet, in 1944, a soldier, a true warrior, suddenly brought all this back to light, and since then the new generations of Teofilatto have been caring for the love of this castle to where their ancestors had taken refuge after beating the Saracens invaders