tourism cluster Monza Brianza

After the initial conquest of the territories in Italy, achieved under the leadership of Alboin starting from 568, after his assassination in Verona (572) and after the violent death of the second king, Cleph (574), came a decade of anarchy, in which the dukes only bothered about strengthening their own domains. The Longobard kingdom still had to take shape and become consolidated, in both the North and the South of the peninsula. In the subdivision of the territories of the Longobard domain in the North of Italy, two large areas began to be distinguished, separated by the river Adda: Neustria, to the West of the river and, to the East, Austrasia where - instead of the old metropolis of Aquileia - the leading city was the capital of the Duchy of Friuli, Cividale (Forum Julii).

The Longobards in Italy, second phase

The new interest of the Empire of Byzantium for the fate of the Italian peninsula and its alliance with the Franks convinced the dukes to equip themselves with a more stable organization. A new king was therefore elected, Authari, the son of Cleph. As his first political move, the king sought, but without success, a matrimonial alliance with the Franks. He then turned to an enemy of the Franks, the Duke of the Bavarians, Garibald, requesting and obtaining the hand of his daughter Theodelinda. The marriage - celebrated near Verona in 589 - lasted only a year: Authari died and the dukes - extraordinarily - allowed the young queen to choose a new husband who would be the new king, the Duke of Turin, Agilulf. This was the new beginning of the Longobard history of Italy, and the new driving force of its development would be centred in Monza and Brianza.

Theodelinda, dynastic line

So it was a woman who took the decision on the future leader of the kingdom: this was an unusual step for the dukes to take, perhaps wishing to avoid further tension. On the other hand, we must consider the very high dynastic prestige brought by Theodelinda, who was a Bavarian on her father's side. On the side of her mother - Waldrada - the young queen descended both from the noblest of the Longobard dynasties, the Lethings, and from the royal dynasty of the Gepids. Diversified and certainly important bloodlines for a people who, under the name of Longobards, gathered together a number of Germanic stocks: Saxons, Herules, Gepids, Thuringians, Sarmatians, Jutes and Goths. Theodelinda therefore chose as her husband a noble Thuringian of the Anawas dynasty, Agilulf, Duke of Turin, who was then acclaimed as the new king by the other Longobard dukes.

Consolidation of the Kingdom
Thanks to the action of Agilulf - who was a skilled condottiero - important new territories were conquered in Emilia and Venetia and there were repeated, victorious clashes with the Byzantine and Frankish forces, alternating with brief truces. The king's first action in the year of his election (591) was to conquer Isola Comacina, occupied by the rebel duke of Bergamo, Gaidulf. There followed tensions and agreements with Pope Gregory the Great, with whom Theodelinda had close and profitable relations. The slow assimilation and blending of Germanic customs with Roman customs and traditions also began under Agilulf and Theodelinda.

Theodelinda's heritage

The queen had a strong personality and influence, and determined many phases in the history of the Kingdom, acting in close contact with Pope Gregory the Great who found in Theodelinda a point of reference for the conversion of the Longobards to Catholicism.

Theodelinda wanted to have a palace built in Monza on the pleasant banks of the river Lambro, thus beginning the extraordinary royal tradition of what was at that time a small village (Modoetia). Here the queen also wanted to build an oraculum, a palatine chapel with additional functions as a baptistery, and the first nucleus of Monza Cathedral, as well as a symbol and lasting absolute reference of her political and religious intent to bring her people into the fold of Roman Catholicism. Hence the significant dedication of the Cathedral to Saint John the Baptist. Theodelinda - who, on the death of Agilulf (616), became regent for her son Adaloald - began the Bavarian Dynasty of the Longobard kings, which was continued by her daughter Gundeberga. The Dynasty is credited with having chosen Catholicism as the official religion of the Kingdom. Among the many works undertaken by the queen and her second husband, they granted to the Irish monk St. Colombanus the lands in Bobbio where the preacher built the famous monastery that would later become one of the most prestigious sources of early medieval culture. During her long reign, Theodelinda left a profound and lasting imprint both on great history and on the collective memory and popular religious feeling of the people of Lombardy and, in particular, of the people of Monza and Brianza. But above all she launched the extraordinary cultural and religious synthesis that would result in the first nucleus of the true "European Culture"

Queen Gundeberga

Although the traces she left in history are much slighter than those of her mother, Gundperga too had a significant role in the history of the Longobard Kingdom and in Monza traditions. Above all for the continuity of the policy of the approach to Roman Catholicism. The first husband of Gundeberga was the Duke of Turin, Arioald, who followed the Arian faith. Around the year 625, he ousted the queen's brother, Adaloald, to impose the Arian line in the leadership of the Kingdom. Gundeberga was accused of collusion in a plot and shut up in the castle of Lomello. She was cleared in a trial by ordeal and Arioald called her to Pavia, at the same time establishing good relations with Pope Honorius.

On the death of the king (636), the dukes invited Gundeberga to choose her new husband and the new king, just as they had done with Theodelinda. The queen chose the duke of Brescia, Rothari, of the race of the Jutes and the Arodus dynasty. Though an Arian, Rothari accepted the queen's Catholic position, continuing the military plan of territorial conquests (Liguria and Oderzo in Venetia). Following her mother's example, Gundeberga founded the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Pavia, of which today there remains only the historic memory and some archaeological hypotheses. In 683 Rothari issued the famous edict that bears his name, which was the first codification of the oral traditions of Longobard law, adding elements derived from Roman law: this was the first fundamental written proof of the action that was in course to combine Germanic traditions with classical Roman culture.

The age of Berengar I

Berengar I, of noble Frankish origin, became marquis of Friuli (874), king of Italy in 888 and emperor in 915. He was generous to Monza Cathedral, of which he clearly recognized the greatest prestige. Among his gifts - as well as other items and liturgical Codices - were two gold jewels made between the 9th and the 10th century: the Cross of the Kingdom (a reliquary of gold and precious stones), used by the kings of Italy at their coronation with the Iron Crown, and the Reliquary with the tooth of St. John the Baptist. Another precious gift was the ivory diptych known as the "Diptych of Stilicho", who was a general of the emperor Theodosius. These three fine artistic works can be seen in the Museum and Treasury of the Cathedral.

The age of the Visconti

The Visconti, an old dynasty already present in the 10th century and which counted high prelates in its ranks, emerged strongly at the beginning of the 13th century with the archbishop Ottone. Struggling for supremacy in Milan with the Della Torre dynasty, the Visconti emerged as victors in the decisive Battle of Desio (1277) and, under their rule (which lasted until 1447), they made the Signoria and then the Duchy of Milan one one the most powerful and admired courts in Europe. To reinforce their prestige, the Visconti stressed their dynastic relationship to the royal Longobard lines. 

Boosting of the cult of Theodelinda and of the central role of Monza

From this point of view the Visconti boosted the role of Monza (conquered by Galeazzo I in1325) and the traditions surrounding the cult of Queen Theodelinda, which had never faded. This special commitment justifies the close connection between the time of the Longobards and the Visconti period, creating a singular continuity that should also be considered in the structure of the Route “Longobard Ways across Europe”. The Visconti, in fact, restructured Monza Cathedral (work commissioned by Matteo Visconti), built the Chapel of Theodelinda, ordered the cycle of paintings of the life of the queen (by the Zavattari workshop) and made other prestigious gifts. The Visconti also rebuilt the castle in Monza, rebuilt the walls (both now demolished) and restructured various churches and other buildings.