The most ancient human trails found are from the Piceni’s era and they were found on Monte Franco, a hill located in the north side of the town. It is a place full of story for the citizens, where the passage of ancient communities is proved by the founding of an extend necropolis, with tombs dated 8th century. This place has been lived for the following years by different cultures, and in different ages, but none of them stabilized permanently here.
THE ROMAN AGE
In the 4th Century Strabone and Plinio il Giovane (the young) wrote about “Pneuentia”, described as one of the most important cities in the Piceno area; during the Roman Republican Age, Trea and Ricina (modern Treia and Macerata) were still developing cities, as the more important Urbs Salvia (modern Urbisaglia), that lately would be the most important Roman city in the area. Even Giulio Cesare ignored the magnificent Pneuentia when he passed by it.
Pneuentia or Pollentia was located along the ancient Roman itinerary, ’Itinerarium Antonini, between Auximum, Septempeda (San Severino Marche) and Firmum (Fermo). In the Imperial Age, the town became just a crossing point for pilgrims going to the sanctuary dedicated to the Goddess Bona, in the area where later the Rambona’s abbey would be built.
Differently from Urbisaglia, that expanded its buildings from the hill to the valley and became an important city, Pollenza only remained on the top of the hill, due to the landscape (as in the north there’s Monte Franco) and to the expansions of the cities of Tolentino and Urbisaglia, in the south.
In the end of the 1st century the town was still independent, even if was under the sphere of influence of Urbisaglia. The name Pollenza got lost in part, or just used for indicate a rural place, a propriety with large extension owned by the Roman nester Flavio Orso. Soon the town would take the name of the nester. There are different toponymical testimonies about this name: the most important, Fondo Orsenano, tells us about the place where Orso’s villa was located, in the north-east, nearby the Saint Valentine’s church, controlling “ Moglie” valley.
In 1201 Pollenza became an independent municipality: a document testify an alliance with Treia and Tolentino in this same year. But its name would be changed (probably in the 879) into Monte Milone, in honor to the Frankish that rebuilt the town after the barbaric invasions and that received it as a feud from the Pope and Emperor Charles the third, for his service.
In 1248 the political situation of Pollenza changed: Monte Milone participated in a confederation, between Cingoli, Tolentino, Matelica, Camerino, San Ginesio and Montecchio and employed its rights on the near communities, including Urbisaglia as well, now under the influence of Monte Milone and Tolentino. Urbisaglia lost its power due to internal fights, and turned into a little village, while Pollenza maintained its identity, transforming itself from a feudal property into a community.
The urban structure was circular, a typical example of a Roman building adjustment, good for structures built on high hills. In the north side there were Santa Maria and San Salvatore’s neighborhoods, while in the south Sant’ Andrea and San Bartolomeo.
The first axis, that corresponds to the current via Roma, broke through the walls and reached the Cassero or Borgo Piazza Vecchia that was considered the main defensive point for the castle.
San Bartolomeo was located just near the current Porta del Colle, S. Andrea in the current Piazza Ricci and Santa Maria where there was a church-hospice, depending by Rambona’s abbey; here, in 996, S. Amico (the most important monk of Rambona’s community) died.In 1285 the Franciscan order received the church and the annexed hospice as a donation and in 1496 the church was consecrated to Saint Anthony, in memory of the help of the saint, that saved the town from the plague.
In this period, Monte Milone’s area was nearly the same as the current one.
Around the fortify centre, nominated Castrum Montis Milonis, there were other 4 castles: Cassero, Castel Gualdo, Gagliano and Castel Franco. It seems like that this last one was the residence of a noble Frankish, S. Amico’s father.
While Monte Milone tried to survive during the difficult centuries during the Middle Age, in the valley, Rambona’s abbey grew up and became an important religious and social place; it was a place of exchanging and commercial activities, attracting many merchants, even from the Orient. There are many Bizantine’s influence in this place, well testified by the decorations on the capitals in the crypt, by the recurrent theme of the Greek cross, by the presence of Saint Flaviano (a typical saint from the oriental cult) and of the Holy Mary, dressed and acting like a Bizantine empress, and finally by the famous ivory diptych, dated 9th century. Those small boards give interesting information about Rambona and, indirectly, about Pollenza: many studies on the diptych showed the Roman origin of the town, and as well all the oriental elements, thanks to the quotation about Saint Flaviano, the abbey’s “date of birth”, the commission and other elements.
Monte Milone’s castle has its earth in the highest part of the town, corresponding the actual main square, and was just protected by fences and tower-houses; here rose a square-based tower on which the lord’s house leaned. The lord lived in primordial conditions, even if seems unbelievable. The walls were expanded until reaching the actual town’s accesses, Porta del Colle and Porta Santa Croce, so to make the citizens protect themselves from the attacks that intimidated them every day. In that period was typical to incorporate the adjacent castles to the main castrum (castle), so Castel Gualdo, Castel Gagliano, Castel Franco and Cassero, were absorbed by Monte Milone’s castle, maybe forced, maybe spontaneously, considering the advantage to be stronger against external aggressions.
It is quite impossible to find the rests of this antique castle, due to the center’s stratified overlapping. The tower adjacent to the lord’s house resisted until the 1700, when an earthquake and its antiquity made it collapse. The birth of the adjacent castle was surely caused by the Monte Milone’s one: among them, Castel Franco, the most important but as well the first that disappeared. It rose on the hill (with the same name) in the north; here lived Langobardic or Frankish militaries, aristocrats in that period, and the castle had a lift bridge, connecting it to the underneath hill, and a good defense system; but soon it was destroyed by Monte Milone’s municipality, fearing a competition with the main center or to give another access to the city from north.
Cassero’s castle was located on a little surface, overhanging Monte della Croce. It was built during the 10th or 11th century, and was soon integrated by Monte Milone.
Castel Gualdo was located in Trebbio, where still exist a friar’s convent, and its name is originary Frankish or Teutonic and reminds the Germanic word “wald”, that means woods or forest. Santa Lucia’s little church, nearby Villa Lauri, was part of that; like Milone, Gualdo was a condottiero that received the feud for his military commitment. His control reached the Roman Street. Pietro Manzi tells about the importance of this place, and in different ages, so important to make Monte Milone’s council building a lodging near this place, so to receive the militias and even the magistrate.
How and when this castle disappeared is unknown, but the historians hold to be true that was incorporated to the Castrum Montis Milonis, when this became more powerful and started “inviting” the people from the countryside to submit themselves to the central authority.
Gagliano’s castle location is still unknown. The toponomy tells that maybe was located in a zone between the way that connects Macerata to Pollenza (Murat-Bivio Rotelli) and the highway S.S. 77, in the locality known as “Vaglie”; more precisely along the moat, named Gagliano, which traversed al the feud .This was the lord’s name too.
Castrum Montis Milonis became an important stronghold, thanks to the inclusion of these little feuds, and started to be a warmongering and rebel center, repeatedly punished and penalized for that.It fighted against the Varano’s dukes, the emperor and even the Holy Church, and for that it was intentionally humiliated, ransacked and exposed to every genre of violence by king Enzo, in 1239; Pope Niccolò IV also deprived the town of its right for employing justice.
THE 1300s and the 1400s
In the 14th century, cardinal Albornoz, appointed by the Pope to organize and to govern the Pontifical State, found a difficult political situation: during the end of the 13th century, and the beginning of the 14th century, all the lords and municipalities had been fighting for their supremacy, supported as well by scruple less mercenaries.
To restore order and control, the Pontifical State emanated the Constitutiones Aegidianae, a constitution that contains a mini-codex, administrative right, penal right, procedure right and ecclesiastical police’s right, and a cataloguing of all the castles, single cities, fortresses, earnings, nobles and their goods.
The Marca’s lands were subdivided in five categories: Civitates Maiores, Civitates Magnae, Terrae Mediocres, Terrae Parvae, Terrae Minores; Monte Milone was included among the “mediocres” and in 1366 was imposed to build surrounding walls and to demolish houses, villages, villas where necessary, so to create a repair for men, animals and harvests, in case of attack.
The Cassero’s castle was left outside the walls, as considered a part not well defensible.
During the following periods, different noble families governed the town, like Buonaccorsi’s, Lazzarini’s (14th cent.), Varano’s and Malatesta’s (15th cent.), but with the arrival of Francesco Sforza, determinated to conquest all the region, the town was obliged to make its own walls stronger, so to have a better defense. During the middle of the century, a workforce from Lombardy came to the region, and helped every town to rebuild all the buildings destroyed by Francesco Sforza’s fury. In 1443 Zerpellone, Francesco Sforza’ captain, quartering in Monte Milone, discovered that the town was supporting the Pontifical State: consequently, they took a brutal decision for punishing the town, ransacking it, burning it and destroying it.
In 1447 Sforza’s govern concluded, leaving deep wounds to the buildings and to the people. Monte Milone restituted itself to the Pontifical State, that slowly reorganized the territory, firstly rebuilding the destroyed walls. The walls were built in “a shoe” structure, with twelve towers and two access doors.
The 500’s was a prosperity century, when the population became really active, thanks to the many economic and artisanal activities. In this century, the famous Pollenza’s tradition on the creation of ceramics was born, and it was considered one of the best productions in the Marche’s region. The most antique testify is from 1509: Gerolamo di Ancona, a potter, requested to the Council the authorization and a loan for opening a workshop.
Other potters moved here, thanks to the municipality’s subsidy, so to make this art developing. For this reason, many beautiful Pollenza’s palaces were created: Poor Clare’s cloister, with the annexed Saint Joseph’s church, Scolastici and Narducci’s palace and Cento’s palace. The first one is located in via Roma, and was built thanks to the generosity of Giovanni Greco, who donated his own house and all his goods to the nuns, with the condition of hosting foreign nuns, and of consecrating the church to Saint Joseph. The nuns that before lived in a little church inside Saint Biagio’s church, receive their own new cloister on the 30th of august 1556.
THE 1600s AND THE 1700s
In the 1600s the General Council allowed constructions on the city walls; some towers became private houses, but even that didn’t change the original middle aged structure: little and narrow streets, with flanked little houses.
With the 16th century, started the town renovation that involved the entire center and for first, the main square: in the area of the ancient Prior’s palace the Town Hall was built (1775) as the clock tower (1785), realized by the architect Alessandro Rossi.
The ceramic industry became more and more important, reaching the most important eulogy in 1787, when F. Verdenelli became the most famous and valued potter among the nobles.
Verdenelli worked near Porta del Colle, in via Vaseria, and he also received the “exclusive right” from the Pontifical State for being the only producer of fine majolica, white, colored and painted with glaze colors, in 25 miles and for a 10-years’ time. The century ended with the arrival of the Napoleonic troops.
Between 1797 and 1799, Pollenza was occupied by Napoleon, who made it the capital of the territory.
Between 1799 and 1807, Pollenza was back to the Pontifical State and lately was included in the Italic Reign, between 1807 and 1813. From 1814 to 1815 was part of Naples’ reign. All these events ended on the 2nd and 3rd of May 1815, with the famous Cantagallo’s battle, with Murat’s retirement and the definitive return under the Pontifical State’s control.
The citizens wanted revolution and renovation, and for this reason the structure of the town was changed: the walls were reinforced, demolishing the towers and rebuilding the ancient access doors, Porta del Colle and Porta della Croce and building another access, Porta Nuova, a connection between the square and outside the walls. The main square became rectangular, following the Enlightenment idea: the Immaculate Conception’s church was built (1821) aligned to the town Hall’s facade, while Saint Joseph’s church, firstly annexed to the Augustinians’ cloister, was demolished (1827).
In 1873, Ireneo Aleandri started the project of the Town Theatre. The architect, from San Severino Marche, is famous for other theatres’ projects, like Ascoli’s, Spoleto’s and Macerata’s Sferisterio, but didn’t finish this theatre, as he didn’t accept the mayor’s proposal to add more boxes in the theatre. He was substituted by the architect Virgilio Vespignani. Even Saint Biagio’s church was renewed, in 1834, De Mattia transformed it in a sort of neoclassical temple. In 1862 Monte Milone changed its name into Pollenza.
In the 1900s, the town was still changing its appearance: in 1907 Saint Andrew’s church in Piazza Ricci was demolished and the main square was finally regulated, by building Spilimbergo’s palace, symmetrical to the front palace, where the theatre is situated. Finally, in 1931, Saint Anthony and Saint Francis’ church facade was renewed, as a project of the architect Cesare Bazzani.