top of page




Reflections by Roberto Sciurpa




The coat of arms of the municipality of Umbertide dates back to 1189 when the Fratta was subjected to Perugia and changed its original coat of arms (the lily). Guerrini describes it in detail (1) and it is worth reporting its description because over the years it has undergone not marginal adaptations and some interesting details have even disappeared.


“... This was composed of the figure of a bridge over running water and in a red field. The bridge has three arches and in the middle of their lights there are initial letters FOV which mean Fracta oppidum Uberti and which therefore by solemn vow of public calamity were converted into Fracta oppidum Virginis. Above the three pillars there are three towers, with the Virgin Patroness of the Castle dominating in the middle; and to the right the Grifo, which indicates the dependence on Perugia; on the left the emblem of the Apostolic Chamber which signifies the high dominion of the Pontiff. And finally an ornate crown encloses the shield all around where we can read these words: Defensores Populi et insignis Comunitatis Terrae Fractae ”.


The italics are by Guerrini who wants to highlight the essential characteristics of the coat of arms.

The interpretative doubt is linked to the letter "V" which is found in the light of the arch and which for some means "Uberti" and for others "Virginis" (according to Guerrini both would be right). As it is easy to guess, the two sides, at least in the past, were conditioned by logic. belonging (clerical or anti-clerical), but today that both the iconoclastic wave of the Enlightenment and the acrimonious antipapalian resentment linked to the events of the Risorgimento has faded, it is possible to express a serene and detached judgment on the matter. Indeed, a thorough reflection could lead. at least according to my point of view, to reconstruct the truth also on another interesting detail linked to local history, as I will say later.











But let's proceed in order:


1. In the space of a few decades at Fratta there were two important events: the opening to worship of the Church of Santa Maria della Reggia and the Tuscan siege of the troops of the Grand Duke. The first (last years of the 16th century) marked a fundamental stage in the faith and customs of the people. The monumental temple that housed the miraculous image of the Madonna, so dear to the piety of the faithful, had finally been completed. From that moment, thanks also to the majestic visibility of her house, the Madonna became the point of reference for all the people. The old patrons (S. Andrea and S. Erasmo) still venerated and loved, slowly faded into the background because the ancient castle was increasingly entrusted to the patronage of the Virgin.


In November 1643, in fact, during the siege of the Tuscan troops, the inhabitants overwhelmed by fear gathered in the church of San Giovanni inside the city walls, to implore the Madonna for salvation. It was not a question of winning or losing a battle, but of surviving or dying in the rubble and flames of a fortress that would surely have been razed to the ground, according to the military custom of the time. The people of Fratta, on that occasion, entrusted themselves to the Virgin and not to the secular patrons. A lot of water mixed with sleet fell; the Tiber swelled, discouraging any attempt to ford; the siege was lifted without firing a cannon shot; the Tuscans left and there was talk of a "miracle", giving rise to the conviction of the miracle granted by the Madonna to a castle which thus became oppidum Virginis. And the image of the Madonna inserted above the central tower of the coat of arms, now disappeared with the other surrounding details, seems to reinforce the belief that FOV meant Fracta oppidum Virginis at least from this period onwards.

At each centenary anniversary, the "miracle" was commemorated with great solemnity by popular piety. This event consists of the "solemn vote for public calamity" of which Guerrini speaks and which makes Giulio Briziarelli so doubtful that he wonders what the miraculous event had been. (2)


2. I believe that Umbertide is one of the few cities, if not the only one, that has left the ancient Protectors, considered everywhere sacred and untouchable because they are linked to the faith and traditions of one people, to entrust itself to the protection of another, although of higher rank such as the Virgin.

And that detail I mentioned in the introduction is also linked to this fact. This is the canvas placed in the church of San Bernardino. Certainly the official accreditation that sees reproduced the image of St. Anthony in adoration, as indicated in some photographic publications relating to the city and in tourist brochures, is incorrect. The symbolism of sacred iconography is an important key to understanding and must be kept in the utmost consideration. The character represented is a martyr because the angel shows a palm which is the symbol of martyrdom (St. Anthony is not a martyr). Furthermore, the person represented is also a bishop, as evidenced by the presence of the miter and the crosier. The abbots are comparable to the office of bishop, but in the pictorial works they are represented with their typical habit and not with the solemn vestments of the bishop's office. The presence of the angel is emblematic. It is true that in sacred iconography the figure of the angel is very widespread, but in the specific case it is said that in the life of St. Erasmus the legend speaks of the recurring role of an angel who accompanied the holy bishop to Syria, then to Dalmatia. , finally to Formia and to martyrdom. If the legend is combined with the reproduced subjects, the Immaculate Conception and the castle of Fratta, it can reasonably be assumed that that saint character had something to do with the small village and that he was even the protector who entrusted his protégés to the superior protection. of the Virgin. The canvas, therefore, could represent the "miracle" of 1643 and "The consignment" of the city to the Madonna by Sant'Erasmo. Popular tradition (3) has always indicated in the painting the memory of the prodigy. hypothesis was founded, the canvas should date back to around 1644 and it could be observed that the dome of the church of Santa Maria della Reggia was no longer there at the time. It is true, but it is a secondary detail, in my opinion, because the completion works of the dome, begun around 1621, were not yet completed. Perhaps the temple was covered by wooden scaffolding and the upper part of the church was incomplete, aesthetically uninteresting and indefinite so it was preferred to reproduce it with its characteristics originals.








3. During 1862, the Mayor of the time had appointed a commission to study the change of the name of the city. A measure to this effect was suggested by a dispatch from the government commissioner at the request of the Ministry of the Interior to avoid confusion caused by the numerous toponyms bearing the name of Fratta. "The commission was composed of the municipal secretary Dr. Ruggero Burelli, the chief engineer of the Municipality of Genesio Perugini, who was completing the history of Fratta left incomplete by the canonical uncle Antonio Guerrini who died in 1845, and by the lawyer Costantino Magi Spinetti.

The report presented to the Mayor closed by suggesting a range of four possible names and advocated that of Umberta or Umbertide because it is more closely linked to the memory of its alleged founders descendants of Uberto Ranieri. "Fracta filiorum Uberti is always called even in the ancient Perugian statutes", mentioned a passage in the report. It is worth noting that it does not state that Uberto or Umberto is also the name indicated by the letter "V" contained in the coat of arms (FOV) in order to reinforce the indication suggested in favor of the choice of Umberta or Umbertide by the City Council. It would seem evident that in the conviction of the three commissioners that "V" did not refer to any of the Ranieri, but meant something of different.























4. In Lauri's Latin, the ancient and correct expression of the Perugian statutes “Fracta filiorum Uberti” becomes “Fracta insigne Ubertinorum oppidum”, with a very strange philological contamination. In this regard, it is useful to recall the sharp judgment that Luigi Bonazzi gives of the cited author: “With Bonciario we generally returned to Latin vomit. The fellow disciple, Baldassarre Ansidei, prefect of the Vatican library, and the scholar Giambattista Lauri, both placed between one century and the next, continued to latin with fury, especially Lauri, on the same themes as the fellow citizen rhetorician, one until 1614 , the other up to 1629 ... " (4) .

Uberto Ranieri's descendants are called by Lauri "Umbertini" as if the sons of Pietro, Giovanni or Giacomo could be called "Pietrini, Giovannini or Giacobini". Such a license is completely foreign to the Latin language, as indeed to the Italian one, which at most could have tolerated Ranierorum and never Ubertinorum. But the Latins and the Latinists have always prefixed gens to noble names, therefore gens Claudia, gens Cornelia, gens Fabia, and, if anything. "gens Raniera" would have been the correct expression. Bonazzi's judgment on Lauri's "Latin with furore" seems completely founded. It seems very strange, therefore, that the letter "V" stands for "Uberti" because this does not correspond to the historical truth as the founders were his sons (Ugo, Ingilberto and Benedetto) and even more strange that it stands for “Ubertinorum” due to philological incompatibility.


I agree with what Guerrini affirms, towards whom I have respect and admiration for the seriousness and scruple, unrelated to some of his critics, with whom he has treated the history of the Land of Fratta. Personally, however, on the basis of the considerations set out in n. 4, I have serious doubts that 'Y' could mean "Uberti", even before 1643. That letter could, in fact, refer to Ugolino who ceded the Fratta to Perugia on February 12, 1189 or to the much better known Ugo, king of Italy, from which the Ranieri descended. It seems strange that history is entrusted with the name of Uberto who had the sole merit of having given birth to the person who rebuilt the castle destroyed by the Goths. One of Uberto's sons, an important element not to be underestimated , was called just Ugo as the most famous ancestor (the grandfather).




(1) See History of the Land of Fratta now Umbertide, Tipografia Tiberina, 1883, page 174.

(2) See Umbertide and Umbertidesi in history, Unione Arti Grafiche, Città di Castello, 1959, page 247.

(3) Testimony of the Bishop of Gubbio, Monsignor Pietro Bottaccioli.

(4) Luigi Bonazzi, History of Perugia, Vol. 11, p. 251, Union of Graphic Arts, Città di Castello. 1960.



“A FREE MAN - Roberto Sciurpa, a passionate civil commitment” - by Federico Sciurpa

- Petruzzi publisher, Città di Castello, June 2012


Stemma di Umbertide.jpg
Roberto Sciurpa tells the story of
Umbertide to school pupils
PDRM6265 - Copia.JPG
The Municipality of Umbertide
Enlargement of the coat of arms of Umbertide
located to the right of the access door
Autore ignoto - La Madonna e S. Erasmo.j
Unknown author. The Madonna and Sant'Erasmo.
Roberto Sciurpa and Petruzz i, in 2007, during the press
of the last volume of the history of Umbertide.
Decreto regio Fratta - Umbertide.JPG
Un uomo libero - Sciurpa.jpg
The cover of the book that his son Federico dedicated to his father Roberto
The royal decree of 29.3.1863
authorizing the name change
The poster communicating the name change
from Fratta to Umbertide
bottom of page