Anagni, Lazio | Home to the Sistine Chapel of the 12th Century

Anagni

Welcome to Anagni, in the province of Frosinone, approximately 60km south-east of Rome.

Up until 4 years ago, I had no idea of where Anagni was even on a map!

Introduced to me by a friend and my subsequent research, I knew I had to go.

Booked a  train and headed south to explore the small streets of this medieval town.

Anagni | Historical Background

Anagni

Anagni is certainly a top contender as one of the most interesting art cities of Ciociaria and Lazio.

Located on a sweet, tuffy hill dominating the Valle del Sacco (Valley of Sacco), ancient Anagni was the sacred capital of the Ernici.

It was also one of the five Città Saturnie* created by the god Saturn, according to legend.

*Città Saturnie refer to five cities of the Province of Frosinone united by a common mythical foundation by the god Saturn during the golden age: Alatri, Anagni, Arpino, Atina and Ferentino. The five cities are characterized by imposing encircling polygonal megalithic walls, on which medieval centers have developed.

In 306 BC the town was taken over by the Romans and the ‘Ciociaria’ states lost their independence and became the municipio dell’urbe, in other words, part of the Roman Empire.

In the middle ages, after Anagni passed to the Byzantines of Ravenna, the city became part of the Curia (8th Century). 

Since then, the Papacy would have had privileged relations with Anagni, so much so that the popes would take refuge there, during the struggles against the Byzantine Empire.

Anagni

The Slap of Anagni

Without a doubt the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries, indelibly mark the history of Anagni.

A time when the most important monuments of Anagni were built and the most famous historical events took place, such as the Bonifacio VIII ‘schiaffo’.

Following the death of Boniface VIII, and the subsequent rise of the Avignon Papacy (1309 to 1376), Anagni experienced a profound crisis.

Diminishing political guardianship and trading from the Curia (administrative unit of the Holy See), the city suffered a severe depopulation and fierce disputes between the Lazial nobel families began.

It was not until the 12th and 13th centuries that the “artistic pride” of Anagni, namely the Cathedral of Santa Maria situated in the suggestive Piazza Innocenzo III, was built.

FYI Piazza Innocenzo III, one of the most beautiful squares of Lazio, is where you can admire the gorgeous views and other remarkable medieval buildings of the area.

Anagni

 The Cathedral of Anagni

Admire the magnificent apses of the Cathedral, as you approach.

A true masterpiece of Romanesque-Gothic architecture.

In summer, the beauty of the external beauty of the structure is used as a back drop for the prestigious – Festival del Teatro Medievale e Rinascimentale (late August to early September).

Even the tall bell tower, decorated with mullet and triphors, is a symbol of the town.

It stands detached at a frontal position just a few meters from the austere facade in Romanesque-Campano style (with Lombard influences), typical of southern Lazio.

Inside the Cathedral, the promise of the ancient stonework outside evaporates into a pretty ordinary space.

That is until you start your tour of the Crypt of Saint Magno.

Anagni

Cripta di San Magno in Anagni

The Crypt of Saint Magno was definitely the highlight of my trip!

Built between 1072 and 1104, together with the Cathedral, the Crypt is found under the “eastern” third of the church.

Completely frescoed by Benedictine monks in the 1100s and 1200s, the Crypt of Saint Magno still has its original 1200s unrestored Cosmati flooring! 

You will often hear or read about the Crypt of Anagni:

‘Sistine Chapel of the 12th Century’ 
‘the most extensive and best-preserved medieval pictorial cycles in Europe’!

I blown away by the beauty of the Crypt, while the tour guide explained each work of art.

A true masterpiece of medieval Italian art!

I found a great article for you to read on the history of the Cathedral.

For full details on times and prices check out the official Cathedral Website (only in Italian but English tours available).

Why visit Anagni?

 

Firstly, if you have seen Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, you will appreciate the Sistine Chapel of the 12th Century.

There are many other sites to visit and it is a perfect day trip from Rome. 

Make sure to notice the patina of nobility throughout the buildings of Anagni.

Secondly, the wine!

You must try the first DOCG of the Lazio region, formed by the Cesanese del Piglio areas.

My favourite producer of the area is Corte dei Papi winery.  

Read the article from Winefolly ‘Drink like a true Roman: The wine of Lazio‘.

Corte dei Papi have become good friends of Tourist by Chance.

Corte dei Papi, anagni
Cesanese grape at Corte dei Papi.

Finally, a reason one should take the time to visit all of the small towns in Italy – the food but do not take my word for it.

Even Food and Travel Magazine wrote an article on ‘Italy’s best kept secret Ciociaria Gourmet Traveller.

Try Spaghetti alla Ciociara, made up of a meat sauce, ham, mushrooms and peas!

Simply delicious!

Where to Stay?

I stayed at Città dei Papi Hotel, a 3 star hotel, with good services. 

Being near the A1 motorway, it makes for a good base to explore other surrounding areas.

Fiuggi’s natural thermal spas for example.

How to get there

Anagni – Fiuggi is the name of the local train station.

Your easiest way to reach Anagni from Rome is from Termini Train Station is approximately 1 hour, through Cassino 

Sometime those trains  to Frosinone or Caserta will also stop in Anagni. 

Use the Trenitalia Website for schedule train times and prices. 

From the train station is it possible to catch a bus to the town center (approximately 20-25 minutes).

For full details please see the second page of www.citta-in-arte.it (site in Italian only unfortunately).

Have you ever been to Anagni?

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Authors Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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