Cagli is a walled city with an apparent austerity with monumental buildings that stand compact and severe as if responding to the rigorous lesson of San Pier Damiani: the prior of the nearby Abbey of Fonte Avellana who in the 11th century boiled the showy architecture like a pride oculorum.
From the monumental factories and from the squares that rhythm the urban spaces, the gaze is attracted by the verdant Apennines: an admirable backdrop for every glimpse that in autumn, with the colors from the yellow red, it becomes the protagonist of the foliage.
Cagli, which in the 6th century was one of the cornerstones of the Byzantine Pentapoli, it is repeatedly mentioned in Roman itineraries.
In the fourth century, Servius Honored, commenting on Virgil’s Aeneid, also clarified a possible misunderstanding by affirming “Cales civitatis [today’s Calvi] est Campaniae, nam in Flaminia est, quae Cale [Cagli precisely] dicitur”.
Established since the twelfth century, the free municipality di Cagli soon subjugated over 52 castles, rousing the rural nobility and facing the feudal policy of the abbots. Its expansion followed the boundaries of the jurisdiction of the diocese of Cagli which in Greciano (4th century) includes its first bishop.
Partially destroyed by fire, set by the Ghibellines in 1287, the city is moved, from the offshoots of Mount Petrano, and rebuilt from scratch on the plateau incorporating the pre-existing village.
For the refoundation, under the protective wing of Nicholas IV, Arnolfo di Cambio’s urban plan with orthogonal axes was used in 1289. The advanced urban fabric would have provided ideas to Leon Battista Alberti to trace the design of the ideal city.
Of this would be some elements in the famous table attributed to Laurana (close collaborator of Alberti) among which one, in the background, would match the plateau made up of Mount Petrano.
The existing ones are not simple coincidences between the ideal city and Cagli: a city for which the Montefeltro family showed particular attention for a long time.
On the other hand, Franceschini writes, that of the Montefeltro family at its birth in the territories of the Church is “a regional state, an expression of the princely family and of the cities of Urbino and Cagli and their suburbs“.
In fact “in the alliance of February 1376 the cities of Urbino and Cagli they participated in the covenant with the Lord on a foot of equality ”.
Despite the setback set by the fire of 1287, Cagli soon returned to being a thriving center. In fact, in a register of payment of taxes to the Church of 1312, revised following the sharp demographic decline due to famines, Cagli was made up of about 7,200 inhabitants. Moreover, shortly after, in the Constitutiones Aegidianae of 1357, Cagli appears between the nine cities of the Marca (together for today’s Province in Pesaro, Fano
It was above all the manufactures, consisting in particular in the processing of woolen cloths (later also in silk) and in the tanning of the hides, which developed considerably under the Dukes of Urbino supported the economic development of the city.
The devolution of the Duchy of Urbino to the Papal States, in 1631, subjects Cagli to the same economic policy dictated for the Marches: primarily cereal agriculture.
The low yields in the Apennine areas would have led to an unstoppable economic retreat.
It happens that the city slowly comes out from the new paths of art history.
The substantial historical and artistic heritage, which had been defaced by the violent earthquake of 1781, underwent various Napoleonic ‘looting’. The Unification of Italy ignites anti-clerical hearts. The construction of the Fano-Fabriano-Rome railway, the erection of the new Municipal Theater and new public spaces give consistency to progressive vision.
Next to this there is the chapter on the dispossession of the brotherhoods and confiscated monasteries.
The events of the city of Cagli are now diluted within the vast framework of national history.
The destruction of the railway by the Nazi army in 1944 and the loss of the role of great connecting artery of the Flaminia mark a long period of decline for Cagli and the valleys which stops and changes direction, finally, towards the last part of the second Millennium.