History of a family: the Orsinis

Starting from the 10th century the Orsini family is one of the most prominent in Italy in the early Middle Ages. It was renowned for wealth and power, was related to emperors and royals, and included among its members 5 popes, 30 cardinals, 62 senators, and over 100 generals, politicians and saints. Some sources say the family was very ancient and possibly originated from a lady in Spoleto whose name was Ursa. However, the first documented historical ancestor is one "Orso di Bubone", in the late 12th century.

Branches of the Family

    In the 13th century the family divided into 3 branches:
  1. Gentile "de filiis Ursi" who became the Lord of Nola, Taranto, Salerno, Sarno etc.
  2. The Orsinis who were lords of Tagliacozzo, Bracciano, Pacentro, Amatrice.
  3. Napoleone, count of Manopello, who had 12 rich fiefdoms. His name is engraved, dated 1316, in a stone in the monastery of the Frati Minori, Guardiagrele. Napoleone Orsini passed the title to his descendants. In 1344 the title passe to Napoleone II, who died in Rome in 1369 and was succeeded by his son Giovanni, who deceased in 1383 leaving the title to his on Napoleone III.

The Orsini in Abruzzo

In 1276 Tommasa, the only daughter of Gualtieri, count of Palearia, Manoppello and other castles, married Subiaco count of Teate. Their only daughter, Maria, married Napoleone Orsini in 1340 and brought to him all the possessions and titles of her mother. Napoleone Orsini acquired in his way large territories in Abruzzo and came to known as the Count of Manoppello, San Valentino and Palearia. From that time the Orsini family had great importance in the history of Abruzzo.

In 1405 the Orsinis lost Manoppello, Turri, Letto, Casale in Contrada, Roccamorice and Manerio, Those feuds were sold to Chieti. The following year they lost also Guardiagrele. Then a period of struggles started and they were able to reestablish their lordship on Manoppello. In 1438 Niccolò Orsini (of Pier Giovanni Paolo, son of Napoleone III Orsini) was the lord of Manoppello. In 1450 Orso Orsini, the last living brother of Giovan Paolo, was Lord of Manoppello, and received from king Alfonso d'Aragona also the Valle Siciliana and San Valentino. The large county of Manoppello included at the time also Rocca Montepiano, Pretoro, Fara Filiorum Petri, Rapino.

In the latter half of the 15th century the Orsinis were considered rebels and deprived of their fiefdoms that were officially transferred to the City of Chieti in 1470. Pardo Orsini could regain possession of his fiefdoms, but they were finally lost again when Charles VIII came down to Italy in 1495. He was left only with the Valle Siciliana and some minor fiefdoms.

In 1523 he also finally renounced the Valle Siciliana and became a supporter of Francis I of France, in the struggle of the latter king with Emperor Charles V. In 1527 Manoppello, for some time again under the Orsinis, returned into the hands of their rivals, the Colonnas. The Orsinis were left with Guardiagrele and a few other fiefdoms. Camillo Pardo Orsini retired to private life in Rome, where he died on 27 March 1553. The Orsini line of Manoppello and Valle Siciliana became extinct with his death.