San Leo Castle history

San Leo Castle

The first settlement of San Leo dates back to the VIII century B.C. with the population of the “Umbro-Sabelli”. Then came the Etrurians followed by the Gauls and finally by the Romans.

The name Montefeltro dates back to the Roman time, the name San Leo appears only in the tenth century after a San Leone Dalmata who had lived there at the end of the third century.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476) because of its military importance San Leo is contended by Goths and Greeks (535-553), Longobards and Francs (749-772). Later San Leo passes under the papal rule and, thanks to the Carolingian donations, it becomes the center of a wide diocese whose territory begins to be named Montefeltro.

In 962 Berengario II retires there after the defeat of Pavia and makes it the capital of Italy. In 963 Montefeltro surrenders to Ottone I, the German emperor.

In 1155 Frederich I Barbarossa gives the town to Montefeltrano I Carpegna, giving birth to the noble house of Montefeltro.

In 1213 Saint Francis of Assisi pays a visit to the town. His figure is today on the arms-of coat of the Town of San Leo.

In 1281 the town, under invitation of Pope Martino IV, send the Montefeltros away. In 1248 the population rebels against the Papal States and declares the town a Free City. They maintain the independence until 1286. From then on they will be ruled by the Montefeltro first and by the Malatesta until 1441.

The town is kept then in 1502-1503 by Valentino, in 1508 by Francesco Maria della Rovere, in 1516 by Lorenzo de Medici and in 1527 again by Francesco della Rovere. With the end of the dinasty of della Rovere (1631) the territory of Montefeltro goes for good under the Papal States and the fortress of San Leo is turned into a political prison.

In 1797 it is included in the Cisalpine Republic.

San Leo Castle

During the Napoleonic period ( stretching till 1815 except for a short period of independence from 1799 to 1801), the town and the fortress take their ancient military function.

In 1860 the town is again under the Church. After the reunification of Italy the prison is kept in use until 1906.

From 1916 to 1940 the fortress is left deserted. During the World War II it is used for military aims.

Since the post-war period and till present San Leo has developed as a touristic area.

Where to stay in San Leo

Hotels, B&Bs and farm stays: search and make reservations here.