Less than one hour from Rome, in the heart of Ciociaria, Anagni is one of the most important towns in central Italy. At Anagni, in fact, there were great events that have marked the history of Italy and, even more, the history and life of the Popes. It is no a coincidence that Anagni is called the “Town of the Popes” having given birth to four pontiffs, Innocent III, Alexander IV, Gregory IX and Boniface VIII.
This great past has best expressed itself in the great works of art of which Anagni can rightfully boast. The town, in fact, is a rich maze of streets and alleys that converge in the splendor of the beautiful and central Piazza Innocenzo III which overlooks the Cathedral, dedicated to St. Mary (photos 1 and 2).
The Cathedral, dating back to the eleventh century, externally presents itself in an austere Romanesque style (photo 3), with a beautiful 30 meters high bell tower enriched by openings, a single lancet window on the first floor, a mullioned window and three mullioned windows on the upper floors (photo 4).
The interior of the Cathedral has three naves with spectacular Cosmatesque floors, so named because they were made by the famous Roman family of the Cosmati, great marble makers of that time (photo 5).
The armchairs of the church are made of transparent plastic, an apparently inexplicable choice but which has the simple purpose of making the beautiful floor better admire.
In addition to the Cathedral it is possible to visit the adjoining museum with the “Chapter House” (photo 6) and a library with ancient literary works, including a precious Justinian Code (photo 7).
The museum itinerary also includes a visit to a series of chapels, the Chapel of the Savior (photo 8) and the Chapel Caetani (photo 9).
Next to the Crypt there is the Oratory of St. Thomas Becket (photo 10), with an important cycle of frescoes still unobtrusively preserved.
The most important part of the entire visit, however, is the Crypt of St. Magnus (photos 11 and 12), an absolute masterpiece of Italian art, so that it deserves the name of “Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages“.
It was built for the preservation of the saints’ relics and is made up of three naves and three apses. The splendid frescoes are the work of three shops of anonymous artists of Anagni.
Not far from the Cathedral it is possible to visit the Palace of Boniface VIII which houses the homonymous museum (photo 13).
It is very interesting the “Hall of the Geese” (photo 14), with a double vaulted ceiling and a wall with a large fresco that gives its name to the room, composed of polychrome rhomboidal squares that contain figures of birds generically described as geese.
The real symbol of the Palace is the “the Hall of the Slap” (photo 15) in which one of the most famous historical events of the Middle Ages took place, the “Slap of Anagni“. In the episode, which occurred in 1303, there was a real showdown between the temporal power of the Church, supported by Boniface VIII, and the power of Philip IV, King of France. It is said that during the negotiations between the Church and the French delegates, Sciarra Colonna, who headed the French mercenary troops, slapped Pope Boniface VIII.
Where to eat
At Anagni there are many bars where you can stop for a quick lunch.
In Piazza Innocenzo III, for example, there are three restaurants where you can have lunch in front of the beautiful Cathedral.
My choice fell on the Vittorio Emanuele Restaurant which, although without peaks of excellence, has the advantage of offering a lunch at reasonable prices. My review on Trip Advisor is here.
The official website of the Anagni Cathedral is here (only in italian).
The official site of the Palace of Boniface VIII is here where opening hours and ticket prices are also available.