Lombards under King Alboin invade Italy and conquer Friuli; Gisulf I, Alboin's nephew, is made the ruler (duke) of Friuli; Paulinus, the incumbent patriarch of Aquileia, flees from Aquileia due to the invasion and finds shelter in Grado where he hides the treasury of his Church as well (narrative account from Paul the Deacon's History of the Lombards).
[om.] Igitur Langobardi, relicta Pannonia, cum uxoribus et natis omnique supellectili Italiam properant possessuri. Habitaverunt autem in Pannoniam annis quadraginta duobus. De qua egressi sunt mense aprili, per indictionem primam, alio die post sanctum pascha, cuius festivitas eo anno iuxta calculi rationem ipsis kalendis aprilibus fuit, cum iam a Domini incarnatione anni quingenti sexaginta octo essent evoluti. <anno 568>a
Igitur cum rex Alboin cum omni suo exercitu vulgique promiscui multitudine ad extremos Italie fines pervenisset, montem qui in eisdem locis prominet ascendit, indeque, prout conspicere potuit, partem Italie contemplatus est. Qui mons propter hanc, ut fertur, causam ex eo tempore mons Regis appellatus est. [om.]
Indeque Alboin cum Venetie fines, que prima est Italie provincia, sine aliquo obstaculo, hoc est civitatis vel potius castri Foroiuliani terminos introisset, perpendere coepit, cui potissimum primam provinciarum quam ceperat committere deberet. Siquidem omnis Italia, que versus meridiem vel potius in eorum extenditur, Tyrreni sive Adriatici maris fluctibus ambitur, ab occiduo vero et aquilone iugis Alpium ita circumcluditur, ut nisi per angustos meatus et per summa iuga montium non possit habere introitum; ab orientali vero parte, qua Pannonię coniungitur, et largius patentemb et plenissimum habet ingressum. Igitur, ut diximus, dum Alboin animum intenderet, quem in his locis ducem constituere deberet, Giusulfum, ut fertur, suum nepotem, virum per omnia idoneum, qui eidem strator erat, quem lingua propria "marpahis" appellant, Foroiulane civitati et tote illius regioni preficere statuit. Qui Gisulfus non prius se regimen eiusdem civitatis et populi susceptorum edixit, nisi ei quas ipse eligere voluisset Langobardorum faras, hoc est generationes vel lineas, tribueret. Factumque est, et annuente sibi rege quas obtaverat Langobardorum precipuas prosapias, ut cum eo habitarent, accepit. Et ita demum doctoris honorem adeptus est. Poposcit quoque a rege generosarum equarum greges, et in hoc quoque liberalitate principis exauditis est.
[om.] Hoc etiam tempore [quo Langobardi Italiam inveserunt], Romanam Ecclesiam vir sanctissimum Benedictus papa regebat.c 1 Aquileiensi quoque civitati eiusque populis beatus Paulus patriarcha preerat. Qui Langobardorum barbariem metuens, ex Aquileia ad Gradus insulam confugiit secumque omnem sue thesaurum Ecclesie deportavit.
a) al. man. b) ex. partem corr. al. man. c) Benedictus papa in marg. add. al. man.
1) The statement is false as the reigning pope at the time was John III (561-574). Paul's error stems from Liber pontificalis which obviously served as a source of information. (Cf. "Benedictus, natione Romanus, de patre Bonifatio, sedit annis IIII mensibus I dies XXVIII. Eodem tempore gens Langobardorum invaserunt omnem Italiam, simulque et famis nimia, ut etiam multitudo castrorum se tradidissent Langobardis ut temperare possent inopiae famis." Liber pontificalis, ed. Louis Duchesne (Paris 1886), p. 308).
[om.] Then the Lombards, having left Pannonia, hastened to take possession of Italz with their wives and children and all their goods. They dwelt in Pannonia forty-two years.3 They came out of it in the month of April in the first indiction 4 on the day after holy Easter, whose festival that year, according to the method of calculation, fell upon the calends (the first) of April, when five hundred and sixty-eight years had already elapsed from the incarnation of our Lord.
Therefore, when king Alboin with his whole army and a multitude of people of all kinds had come to the limits of Italy, he ascended a mountain which stands forth in those places, and from there as far as he could see, he gazed upon a portion of Italy. Therefore this mountain it is said, was called from that time on "King's Mountain." [om.]
When Alboin without any hindrance had thence entered the territories of Venetia, which is the first province of Italy – that is, the limits of the city or rather of the fortress of Forum Iulii (Cividale) – he began to consider to whom he should especially commit the first of the provinces that he had taken. For indeed all Italy (which extends toward the south, or rather toward the southeast), is encompassed by the waves of the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas, yet from the west and north it is so shut in by the range of Alps that there is no entrance to it except through narrow passes and over the lofty summits of the mountains. Yet from the eastern side by which it is joined to Pannonia it has an approach which lies open more broadly and is quite level. When Albion therefore, as we have said, reflected whom he ought to make duke2 in these places, he determined, as is related, to put over the city of Forum Iulii and over its whole district,3 his nephew Gisulf, who was his master of horse – whom they call in their own language "marpahis" – a man suitable in every way. This Gisulf announced that he would not first undertake the government of this city and people unless Alboin would give him the "faras," that is, the families or stocks of the Lombards that he himself wished to choose. And this was done, and with the approval of the king he took to dwell with him the chief families of the Lombards he had desired. And thus finally, he acquired the honor of a leader. He asked also from the king for herds of high-bred mares, and in this also he was heeded by the liberality of his chief.
[om.] At this time [when the Lombards invaded Italy], too, the most holy Benedict as pope governed the Roman Church. Also, the blessed patriarch Paul presided over the city of Aquileia and its people and, fearing the barbarity of the Lombards, fled from Aquileia to the island of Grado and he carried away with him all the treasure of his church.
[The translation, slightly modified by the editor, comes from Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, trans. William Dudley Foulke, ed. Edward Peters (Philadelphia 2003; 1st ed. 1907), pp. 62–67.]
The passage would mark a veritable revolution in Venetian self-fashioning during the subsequent centuries, especially in the context of the centuries-long feud between the Patriarchate of Aquileia and the Patriarchate of Grado over the jurisdictions of the ecclesiastical province of the region Venetia et Histria. As such, numerous chronicles reframed the episode narrated by Paul the Deacon to fit the political agenda of their times. The story of Paulinus's flee from Aquileia to Grado was the keystone moment and it "evolved" several times between the 9th and the 11th century.
The "evolution" can be traced by looking at the oldest surviving Venetian chronicles and narrative accounts. These are (from the oldest to the youngest):
1) The Translation of Saint Mark (Translatio sancti Marci) - a narrative composed in the 9th century and used by John the Deacon in his History of the Venetians (Istoria Veneticorum) [edition: Giorgio Fedalto and Luigi Andrea Berto (eds.), Cronache, Scrittori della Chiesa di Aquileia 12/2, (Città Nuova 2003), pp. 468-84];
2) The poem on the destruction of Aquileia composed between 844 and 855 and traditionally dubbed Carmen de Aquilegia numquam restauranda [edited here];
3) The History of the Venetians - written by John the Deacon in the second half of the 10th century [edition: Luigi Andrea Berto (ed.), Giovanni Diacono, Istoria Veneticorum: Edizione e traduzione, Fonti per la Storia dell’Italia medievale: Storici italiani dal Cinquecento al Millecinquecento ad uso delle scuole 2 (Bologna 1999)];
4) The Chronicle of All the Patriarchs of New Aquileia (Chronica de singulis patriarchis novae Aquileiae) - composed by an anonymous author in the middle of the 11th century [edition: Giorgio Fedalto and Luigi Andrea Berto (eds.), Cronache, Scrittori della Chiesa di Aquileia 12/2, (Città Nuova 2003), pp. 153-65];
5) The Chronicle of Grado (Chronicon Gradense) - a fragment of the Chronicle of Altino (Chronicon Altinate) written in the second half of the 11th century [edition: Giorgio Fedalto and Luigi Andrea Berto (eds.), Cronache, Scrittori della Chiesa di Aquileia 12/2, (Città Nuova 2003), pp. 169-87].
1) "At vero cum Langobardi Italiam introissent, hic inde populi multitudo eorum gladios formidans ad proximas insulas transiit." - Already the author of the Translation of Saint Mark connected Paulinus' flight to the origins of Venice, a story that will be moved back a century, substituting the Lombards for Attila the Hun, in the 9th century.
2) "Impiorum Avarorum [Aquileia] tradita sub manibus, / conculcantur sacerdotes, perimuntur nobiles, / uxores et matres capte trahuntur et virgines. / Catervatim perit omnis illustris nobilitas / archimonio sublato dirutisque menibus, / sola fides Veneticis est data per sacros servata per pontifices" (see the entire poem here) - composed in mid-9th century, the flight from Aquileia is set further back in time, all the way to Attila and the "Avars" (that is, the Huns).
3) "Aquilegensi quoque civitati eiusque populis beatus Paulus patriarcha preerat. Qui Langobardorum rabiem metuens, ex Aquilegia ad Gradus insulam confugit secumque beatissimi martiris Hermachorae et ceterorum sanctorum corpora, quae ibi humata fuerant, deportavit, et apud eundem Gradensem castrum honore dignissimo condidit." - John the Deacon copies a large part of Paul the Deacon's account verbatim, but adds that Paulinus transferred all the relics of the Aquileian Church, including the body of Saint Hermagoras, to Grado.
4) "Paulus siquidem precessor eius [i.e. Helyae] hostile periculum non ferens, Longobardis advenientibus, cum omni thesauro Ecclesiae Gradus se contulerat, afferens secum corpora sanctorum martyrum Hilari et Taciani et reliquorum." - Differing from both Paul's and John's account, the author simply states that Paulinus fled from the Lombards to Grado, but that he took with him the relics and the bodies of Saint Hilarius an Saint Tatian.
5) "Hisdem autem temporibus Beatus dux Metamaucensium cum quibusdam tribunis et nobilibus ad universalem Romane sedis pontificem nomine Benedictum adgressi sunt iter, at quem cum pervenissent, suppliciter fusis precisbus, quatinus Gradense castrum novam Aquileiam institueret et tocius Venetie et Hystrie metropolim ordinaret deprecabantur. Nomina quoqeu patriarcharum qui post destructionem Aquilegensium urbis sine alicuius apostolici concessione in prefato Gradensi castello sederant refferebant, dicentes: [om.]" - A completely different account, radically changing the story of Paul the Deacon's narrative. Namely, there was not flight from the Lombards - Aquileia was simply destroyed and the patriarchs' center was Grado ever since - and the main protagonist becomes the duke of Malamocco (i.e. the doge of Venice) who formally petitioned the pope to officially recognize Grado as "New Aquileia" and the metropolitan Church of the entire ecclesiastical province of Venetia et Histria. The account continues with the forged charter purportedly issued by Pope Benedict I constituting Grado as "tocius Venetie nec non et Hystrie Gradensem Ecclesiam metropolim" (see the edition of the forged charter here).
The evolutionary path of these reframings of Paul the Deacon's original account was impacted mostly by the feud between the two patriarchates, of Grado and of Aquileia - officially separated only in 607 (see the source here) -, regarding the metropolitan jurisdictions over the ecclesiastical province of Venetia et Histria. On this see:
Roberto Cessi, "Nova Aquileia," Atti del Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti 88/2 (1928-1929): pp. 543-94;
Emanuela Colombi, "Storie di cronache e reliquie: La nascita del patriarcato di Grado nelle prime cronache veneziane," Cristianesimo nella Storia 3 (2010): pp. 779–825.
Peter Štih, "Gradež kot Aquileia nova in Split kot Salona nova? Lokalno zgodovinopisje in oblikovanje krajevne identitete," Zgodovinski časopis, 71/3–4 (2017): 354–67.
The Lombard invasion and conquest of Friuli marks the official end of the integrated Roman region of Venetia et Histria. Although Istria remained outside the sphere of direct Lombard authority, a large part of the former Decima regio was now under Lombard control, with Istria and Venice remaining under the (effete) control of the Eastern Roman Empire.
It must be noted that for Paul the Deacon Paulus's flight to Grado was merely a temporary solution to avoid warfare: according to the same author, the patriarchs continued to reside in Aquileia even after Paulinus's retreat (cf. book 3, chap. 14: "Mortuo vero aput Aquileiam patriarcha Probino, qui Ecclesiam unum rexerat anno, eidem Ecclesiae sacerdos Helias praeficitur"). Thus, the story of the translatio from Aquileia to Grado being solemnly ushered in by the Lombard invasion and finished with Patriarch Paulinus stems from later periods, a product of the centuries-long feud between the patriarchs of Grado and of Aquileia. The two patriarchates officially split only in 607 in the ambit of the Schism of the Three Chapters (see some primary sources on the Schism here) and as a consequence of the regions division between the Lombard (Friuli) and Imperial (Venice and Istria) jurisdictional enclaves.
The images come from the project I libri dei patriarchi, available freely online on the following link: https://www.librideipatriarchi.it/
The editor has subsequently marked the images with red vertical lines simply to denote the parts of the manuscript that are hereby edited.
All images remain under the copyright of their respective institutions.