Kingdom of the Lombards  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Kingdom of the Lombards or Lombard Kingdom (Regnum Langobardorum in Latin Langbardland in old German) was an early medieval state, with its capital in Pavia, established by the Lombards on the Italian Peninsula between 568-569 (invasion of Italy) and 774 (fall of the kingdom at the hands of the Franks led by Charlemagne). Effective control by the rulers of both the major areas that constituted the kingdom, Langobardia major in northern-central Italy (divided itself into a western part, Neustria, and an eastern part, Austria) and Langobardia Minor in the south, was not constant during the two centuries of life of the kingdom; from an initial phase of strong autonomy for the many duchies that constituted it, it developed over time an ever greater authority of the sovereign, even if the dukes' drive for autonomy was never fully harnessed and its Lombard character gradually evaporated and evolved into the Kingdom of Italy. The Lombards gradually adopted Roman titles, names, and traditions, and partially converted to orthodoxy (7th century), though not without a long series of religious and ethnic conflicts. By the time Paul the Deacon was writing in the 8th century, the Lombard language, dress and even hairstyles had all disappeared.


The Lombard kingdom in the arts


The persistent injury historiography on the "dark ages" has long cast shadows on the Lombard kingdom, averting the interest of writers from that period. Few literary works have so been set in Italy between the 6th and 8th centuries; between them, relevant exceptions are those of Giulio Cesare Croce and Alessandro Manzoni. More recently the Friulian writer Marco Salvador has devoted a trilogy fiction to the Lombard kingdom.


The figure of Bertoldo/Berthold, a humble and clever farmer from Retorbido, who lived during the reign of Alboin (568-572), inspired many oral traditions throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period; in them found inspiration the 17th scholar Giulio Cesare Croce in his Le sottilissime astutie di Bertoldo ("the smart craftiness of Berthold") (1606), which in 1608 added the following Le piacevoli et ridicolose simplicità di Bertoldino ("The pleasant and ridiculous simplicity of Little Berthold"), about son of Berthold. In 1620 the abbot Adriano Banchieri, poet and composer, produced a further follow-up: Novella di Cacasenno, figliuolo del semplice Bertoldino ("News of Cacasenno, son of simple Little Berthold"). Since then, the three works are usually published in one volume under the title of Bertoldo, Bertoldino e Cacasenno.


[[File:Francesco Hayez 040.jpg|thumb|100px|right|Alessandro Manzoni in a portrait by Francesco Hayez]] Set during the extreme end of the Lombard kingdom, the Manzonian tragedy Adelchi tells the story of the last king of the Lombards, Desiderius and his children Ermengarde (whose real name was Desiderata) and Adalgis: the first the divorced wife of Charlemagne, and the second the last defender of the Lombard kingdom against the Frankish invasion. Manzoni used the Lombard kingdom as the scene, adjusting its interpretation of the characters (real centers of the work) and portrayed the Lombards as having a role in paving the way to the Italian national unity and independence, while reproducing a then dominant image of a barbaric period after the classical splendor.


Three films were inspired by stories of Croce and Banchieri and set in the initial period of the Lombard kingdom (very freely played):

By far the most famous is the last of the three films, which boasted a cast composed of, among others, Ugo Tognazzi (Berthold), Maurizio Nichetti (Little Berthold), Alberto Sordi (fra Cipolla) and Lello Arena (king Alboin).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kingdom of the Lombards" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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