Palazzo dei Papi (Popes’ Palace) is among the most important buildings of Viterbo.
In 1275 Pope Alexander IV moved the Papal Curia from Rome to Viterbo. The Eternal city was becoming too violent and unstable. The bishop’s palace was chosen to be transformed in the papal residence.
For a quarter of a century Viterbo was home to the Popes.
Five Popes’ elections were hosted in the palace included the longest one in the History of the Catholic Church that lasted almost three years.
When Pope Clement IV died the Cardinals started a fight that ended only when the city’s magistrates locked them into the palace, fed them only with bread and water and removed the roof of the palace! This was also the first Conclave for the Roman Catholic Church. The hall where the conclave took place became the most famous of the palace and it is now called the Sala del Conclave.
In 1281 the election of Pope Martin IV was taken very badly by the populations. The election was decided by King Charles of Anjou; the fact that a foreign king could maneuver a Pope’s election was seen as an outrage. The Pope had to leave the city and immediately excommunicated it.