[Paper:] Emiliano Bultrini (Rome), The power and its symbolism: Nobility, heraldry and topography in Rome between the 12th and 14th centuries

Malta fragment found by excavations in the Exedra of the Crypta Balbi and bearing the arms of Giacomo di Napoleone Orsini.

Malta fragment found by excavations in the Exedra of the Crypta Balbi and bearing the
arms of Giacomo di Napoleone Orsini.

Since the last quarter of the Thirteenth century in Rome began a slow, but steady, use of Heraldry by the urban aristocracy. In particular, the most prominent aristocratic Roman baronial families, such as Colonna Orsini or Savelli, use it everywhere possible. An accomplice of this attitude was, also, influenced by the Angevin court following the French victory at Tagliacozzo. However, if on the one hand, it seems that the aristocracy is not eminent used Heraldry to mark only his lands, on the other hand many iconographic materials, and documentary claims evidence as the barons of Rome used the arms in a unique way. Rome, in fact, unlike any other European city inherited from the classical world, an extension without equal. Surrounded by twenty kilometers of Aurelian Walls it occupied an area of more than 1500 hectares where, however, lived only a few tens of thousands of inhabitants. This urban environment, unique in its kind, allowed the most prominent baronial families to realize, starting from the middle of the 13th, imposing fortified structures, similar to the castles of the countryside they were Lords, able to accommodate hundreds of men at arms. Thanks to the presence of these fortresses, the barons, were able to realize urban areas under their control and demarcated by their coats of arms. The power of a similar political instrument became so obvious that any popular regime, which was opposed to the power of the barons, managed to remove it in and out of the city. This article, thanks to the use of archaeological finds, pictorial Chronicles, documents and paintings, offers the birth, development and conclusion of the use of Heraldry as a tool of social control and topographically into the hands of powerful barons of Rome.

Conference: Heraldry in the Medieval City: The Case of Italy in the European Context (Journées Héraldiques 5), Rome, 5th-7th May 2015


Emiliano Bultrini is a PhD student at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. The main topic of his research is the study of the Roman aristocracy in the middle and late medieval period. His studies, in particular, concern about the use of Heraldry in its political, military and topographic surveys during the period between the 12th and 14th centuries. He graduated from the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” under the supervision of Sandro Carocci and Marco Vendittelli. Between 2010 and 2013 he has collaborated with the “Società Romana di Storia Patria” of Rome on a digitization project of his archives of Roman documents. Currently he is engaged in a PhD in medieval history aimed at rebuilding topographic map of of Rome between the 11th and 14th centuries.


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1 Response

  1. 24/09/2015

    […] Emiliano Bultrini (Rome) : Il potere e le sue simbologie: nobiltà, araldica e topografia a Roma tra… […]

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