The history of the Castle of Fumone has ancient and obscure origins; since early times being an important lookout post and an ancient communication post.
Fumone is elevated at a height of 800 meters above sea level giving it a position of great strategic importance and a geographical prominence over the entire valley of the Sacco including the main road that connected Rome and Naples: the Via Latina.
The name “Fumone” is derived from the ancient technique of communicating using smoke signals announcing the invasion of enemies coming from the south and heading for Rome.
Fumone was once home to the mysterious Italic Hernici people heralding from the high Ciociaria in the city of Anagni, Alatri, Ferentino and Veroli. It was also reported as a place of refuge for King Tarquinius Superbus, banished from Rome and looking for alliances in the region.
The Roman military legions considered Fumone to be of great military importance for the Roman Empire in the war of Sannia when the Samnites were positioned near Sora, seen from the castle, and they could keep them held back and under control.
However, it was during the invasion of Hannibal when Fumone played a key military role due to its strategic location by observing and relaying information about the invading Carthaginian general based in Capua. Both Capua and the Via Latina can be viewed clearly from Fumone’s ramparts up to a distane of 50 km and news of Hannibal’s march towards Rome could be relayed.
The military importance of Fumone continues with the onslaught of the civil wars between Marius and Sulla and Caesar and Pompey. Especially important, Fumone maintained its position as a key look out post and communication centre to coordinate information with the legions across the Empire. During the remaining period of the Roman Empire, the relative peace in the area allowed Fumone to continue to send smoke signals with messages of interest to Rome as well as peacefully watch the area around it for news.
However, things began to change again in the year 455 with the beginning of the barbarian invasions, and Fumone returned to its critical military role of sending warning smoke signals to warn Rome.
In the tenth century, Fumone’s role began to change from a military outpost to being closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church. Some of the first official documents available show the name of Fumone as being a "Donation Ottonian" when in the year 962 the Emperor of Germany, Otto 1 of Saxony, gave to the Holy See and its Pope John XII, the city of Teramo, Rieti, Norcia, Amiterno and Arx Fumonis.
This tenth century donation to Pope John XII reflects the importance of Fumone Castle as a tried and tested fortress because gifts of this nature where only given to a Pope if considered to be worthy enough of their stature.
As an impregnable fortress for 500 years, the Popes of Rome used Fumone as a vanguard toward the south and the papal prison for political prisoners.
In 1116, during the investiture controversy and the struggle between factions in Rome who supported the Emperor Henry V and the Pope Pasquale II, Pietro Corsi the Prefect of Rome, second only in power after the Pope, and who had formed an alliance with the Empire, was imprisoned in Fumone Castle.
In 1121, Fumone Castle again became the place of imprisonment and death of antipope Maurizio Bordino, (with the name Gregory VIII) who was supported by the Emperor Enrico V, in opposition to the Popes Callixtus II and Gelasius II. Finally after seven years was defeated at Sutri and conducted in chains in Fumone by Pope Callixtus II. The body of the antipope was buried in the castle and was never found again.
Many attempts were made to conquer the fortress of Fumone by force, including attempts by the emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI. Their failed sieges of Fumone caused them to vent their anger by devastating neighboring cities and the countryside south of Rome.
Fumone finally succumbed to months long siege by Pope Gregorio IX in the thirteenth century and opened its doors but peacefully and with the payment of a high ransom.
The Popes assigned to the fortress of Fumone a contract of lease for 3 generations (of approximately 50 years) to powerful Roman families due to its strategic importance. The leaseholder (called the "Custodian") was often an important Roman politician who in turn appointed a Lord of Fumone of their choice, usually a military man who would be delegated the role of defending the castle in the absence of the custodian. The Lord would be responsible for the service of signaling smoke, keeping political prisoners sent by the Popes, maintaining military discipline in the fortress, ensuring the maintenance and strengthening of the walls, and to defending the interests of the Church in that vast territory.
The gain of the family guardian that was undertaking the high cost of management, it was not only economic (the fee to pay the nearby cities to Fumone to receive signals), but above all the great prestige enjoyed in Rome at being entrusted with such an important fortress. Such an honor was tangible sign to the people of Rome, and to the rival important aristocratic families the proximity to the pope and his politics.
The most important episodes of Fumone’s history, took place in 1295 and is forever inscribed in history books: the imprisonment of holy Pope Celestine V at Fumone who eventually died there 10 months later due to the hard conditions of his term.
Celestine V (the hermit Peter from Morrone) was elected pope at age 86 after 30 months of fruitless conclaves. His name was chosen because of his holy life, for the fame that he enjoyed as a dispenser of miracles, and especially for political reasons, given the inability of the dominant families of cardinals, the Colonna and the Orsini to reach an agreement. But the choice of the cardinals to bet on him proved to be a mistake.
Celestine V was apparently naive and easily manipulated, but in fact he acted without taking into account the interests of his constituents. Notably of these acts that brought him the dislike of the Roman Curia are moving the papacy from Rome to Naples, creating 10 new cardinals, thus halving the power of existing cardinals, removing the Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Monte Cassino and replacing them with Celestini monks.
The pontificate of Celestine lasted a few months; his pure and holy soul could not accept the compromises with political decisions of the papacy that had to be made in the interests of the church. He eventually renounced his role as Pope and abdicated in 1925. Pope Boniface VIII succeeded him.
The new Pope, soon realized that his election was illegally brought about due to the abdication of Celestine V who is the only pope to have abdicated, and decided to send him to a papal prison of maximum security. Celestine V died on May 19, 1296 performing in the place of his 10 month imprisonment his first miracle after his death.
The Castle of Fumone had always been known for its military importance, but since the imprisonment of Celestine V, it has also become known for its spiritual importance.
During the 1500’s, the castle lost its military importance and without attention and maintenance began to collapse and decay.
So in 1584, Pope Sixtus V decided to preserve the historical memory of the castle as the final resting place of Celestine V and entrusted its upkeep to an aristocratic family in Rome: the Marquises Longhi.
Sixtus V selected the Longhi family because of their close ties to the Church through one of their ancestors, Guglielmo, who was ordained as a cardinal by Pope Celestine V. In addition, Guglielmo took under his protection all Celestine churches, monasteries, and abbeys and especially protected the order of Celestine created by Pietro del Morrone in the mid 1200’s.
Over the centuries, the castle of Fumone was transformed by the Longhi family into their country residence. In addition to the sanctuary, the descendants of Cardinal Guglielmo built the gigantic roof garden and enlarged the main building. Since then, every member of the Longhi family was baptized in the chapel of the castle and educated in the tradition of the Celestine family.
In 1990, the Marquises Fabio and Stefano, the current owners of the Castle of Fumone, have opened the castle to the public and follow in the footsteps of their ancestors to benefit St. Peter Celestine.