HISTORY OF TREVISO

"....We found Treviso...
in our wanders...
full of clear fountains...
laughing with
the joys of love...
which there are fine....
(Fazio degli Uberti)

 

Trevso's origins are lost in the depths of time. One cannot even say, with certainty, where its name comes from. There are those who attribute the name to the Celtic tarvos meaning bull, those to trev which in Gaelic means "village of timber", and those who attribute it more picturesquely to tre-visi meaning three faces: a little figure with three faces remains as if in testimony, in front of the municipal seat of Ca' Sugana.
We do know that Treviso's fluvial origins influenced the changes in its geohistory and determined its landscape (Tessari). In a poetic sense, Treviso is indeed a gift of the Sile and Cagnan rivers.
The first centre of habitation is thought to have been in St. Andrea during the venetian-celtic migration. Here a small emporium was built, beginning as a fluvial port, between the confluences of the Siletto and the Cagnan in Sile rivers.
The latest finds in Treviso's antiquity came to light in the Piazza dei Signori, as described in a monograph written for "Treviso Nostra" by Professor Giuliano Palmieri and edited by Tarvisium.
At the beginning of the summer of 1974, a private company carried out an excavation to a depth of about six metres, most of the material excavated being lost during its removal from the site. A small amount, however, finished up in a garden on the city's edge and from this a good portion was recovered, becoming the object of an exhibition at St. Caterina in 1977. Thousands of ceramic fragments were exhibited, along with a fair number of objects made of bronze, deer horn and carved bone, as well as stone spatulas, plaster (which was used in huts), wood and remains of a paste made from animal bones. Chronologicafly, the materials ranged from the roman to the middle-recent bronze eras. The city's life was thence clearly documented from the 15th century A.D. to the present day.
Returning to the question of Treviso's origins, the first settlement at St. Andrea soon saw its small timber and straw huts expanding onto the other banks of the canals and irrigation ditches. The village grew, quietly but steadily, becoming bigger and assuming the aspect of a town.
The Romans called the town Tarvisium when they reached the Veneto region at the beginning of the second century A.C., but granted the people of their occupied territory latin citizenship only much later. Treviso then became a roman "municipality", subscribing to the tribe of Claudia, a seat of administrative and commercial activity. The territory submitted to the centurions, who were gathered in the city around the "cardine massimo" and the "decumano massimo", identified, with some imagination, as today's via Martiri della LibertÓ (from the piazza Borsa to piazza S. Leonardo) and Calmaggiore - via Indipendenza respectively. The site of the "carubio" is more uncertain, however, logic pointing to the "croxe de via" or "cross-roads", where the Loggia dei Cavalieri is found.

THE BARBARIC INVASIONS

From the year 401, Italy, and the Veneto region, were prey to the barbarians (firstly the Visigoths and Alarico and then the Huns, led by the ferocious Attila) who brought death and destruction, and caused the fall of the Roman Empire, in 476.
After this, the Ostrogoths led by Theodore came, soon followed by the Byzantines and Belisario who occupied Treviso in 540. The Goths, however, unexpectedly arrived a year later, defeating the Byzantines and leaving a certain Badiulla in command of the city's military garrison. Badiulla was nephew to King Ildibaldo, better known as Totila (the victorious one) who later also became King of the Goths, dying in combat at Tagina in 552. Badiulla was mistakenly believed a Trevisan citizen and his image was thus immortalised on a medallion which even today is awarded to worthy citizens by the civil administration.
After a brief return of the Byzantines (553-568) hordes of Longobards arrived form the Pannonia, commanded by King Alboino whose wife Rosmunda later had murdered by an esquire in Verona, in 574. Treviso was saved by Bishop Felice who met Alboino on the banks of the Piave near Lovadina, and secured Alboino's promise not to attack the city. It would also appear that from this meeting a sincere friendship was born: Treviso was certainly always favourably looked upon by the Longobards. It became the seat of a Dukedom, then of a chamberlain whose function was to look after the crown's riches. In 757, Treviso became the location for an important mint where the golden "tremissi" were struck for King Desiderio: the mint continued its activity until the dominion of the Serenissima (Republic of Venice) for whom the "bagattini" coins were struck. But even the reign of the Longobards was destined to fade, despite the marriages of Desiderio's daughters (Ermengarda and Gerberta) to Carolingian princes. In 773, defeated by enemy armies, Desiderio died, forgotten, in a small french monastery. Carlo Magno thus became unopposed lord of the Longobard dominion in Italy in 774, leaving one of his governors in Treviso (where he arrived April 16, 776) who was, unfortunately, killed during an insurrection. This incident renewed fighting and mourning, until the city finally submitted, unwillingly, to the Franks.
It is at this point that the legendary undertakings of the champion Orlando, who arrived following the armies of Carlo Magno, make their mark on Treviso's history. It is said that in an open field near Treviso, despite being heavily outnumbered, he confronted and defeated the 30.000 Saracens who fled within a few hours. In heartfelt gratitude to God for his remarkable victory, Orlando erected on this spot a chapel dedicated to the archangel Michael. This place could also be perhaps where, many centuries later, the hamlet of Sant'Angelo was to grow: a Latin inscribed marble tablet found above one of the side doors inside the old parish church recording this legendary episode seems to confirm this.
With the death of Carlo Magno in 814 and the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, Treviso began to hope for renewed freedom. Unfortunately, it had to suffer other bitter episodes: the invasion of the Hungarians who devastated the city in 898; the dominion of Berengario, Marquis of the Friuli region and later King of Italy (killed in Verona in 924); and, finally, the edicts of emperor Otto I of Saxony, who in 952 decreed the union of the Venezie to the Dukedom of Bavaria.