Orvieto was annexed by Rome in the third century BC. After the collapse of the Roman Empire its defensible site gained new importance: the episcopal seat was transferred from Bolsena, and the city was held by Goths and by Lombards before its self-governing commune was established in the 10th century, in which consuls governed under a feudal oath of fealty to the bishop. Orvieto’s relationship to the papacy has been a close one; in the tenth century Pope Benedict VII visited the city of Orvieto with his nephew, Filippo Alberici, who later settled there and becameConsul of the city-state in 1016.
Orvieto, sitting on its impregnable rock controlling the road between Florence and Rome where it crossed the Chiana, was a large town: its population numbered about 30,000 at the end of the 13th century. Its municipal institutions already recognized in a papal bull of 1157, from 1201 Orvieto governed itself through a podestà, who was as often as not the bishop, however, acting in concert with a military governor, the “captain of the people”. In the 13th century bitter feuds divided the city, which was at the apogee of its wealth but found itself often at odds with the Papacy, even under interdict. Pope Urban IV stayed at Orvieto in 1262-1264.