Edited by Mauro Bucci

With the expansion of towns, especially in the northern and central Italy, by the year 1100, citizens, artisans, merchants and even jobbers, had conquered their personal freedom. This was not effortless, as the nobles of the time put up resistance, seeing their rights eroded. Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa came to their defence, attacking Milan and other cities in the north, but he was summarily defeated in the famous battle of Legnano in 1176.While many towns, among which Siena, had conquered a number of civil liberties by 1100, this was not the case in the countryside, and therefore not in Castiglione or La Rocca.
La Rocca and its inhabitants were under the Tignoso family, who were the Counts of Tentennano, where they lived in their castle.
In 1207, the Tignoso family, with an act considered to be equivalent to an advanced Constitution for the time known as the Charta Libertatis (Charter of Liberty or of Rights), gave the citizens of La Rocca a series of civil rights that turned them, at the stroke of a pen, from feudal servitude into free men. 

The first lines of this Charter are emblematic, here translated from the Italian translation of the Latin original text:

Since Rome, that once was Mistress and Dominator of all the world, grew much due to these three principles: equality, justice and liberty, without which a country can neither grow nor survive for long, it seemed to me, Guido Medico, son of the defunct Uguccione, son of Tignoso of Tintinnano, in the name of all my brothers and grandsons,seeing the condition of this Rocca and the gentlefolk and faithful who live within, going from good to bad and to bad in worse for iniquity, injustice, servitude, and be reduced to almost nothing, that it was a good thing to provide for the well-being of the aforementioned noble folk and faithful and of the entire territory.
From the moment that I could not see in any way in which to achieve this result unless I transformed into rents the services that the men of these lands have always given and must give to their lords, and establish which and how many services they must give, yearly or periodically, above which the lords dare not to demand from them other than what is their will, I am proposing this, as I said, so that both this and the other side, being happy and satisfied for the defined and established arrangements, should live in equality, justice and liberty, and to the improvement of the Rocca of Tintinnano which, if its population were numerous, would excel among the other Roccas of Italy and, finally, that I should do, for my brothers and grandsons, with their consensus and goodwill, something positive, effective and that pleases them much. 

We can grasp the breadth and power of this vision exuding from the Charter. Guido’s solution, in brief, which certainly came about from his own intelligence, but was also encouraged by the general situation and pressure from the inhabitants of La Rocca, was to abolish feudal servitude (the lords dare not to demand is a very strong statement for the time), to allocate lands and houses to the citizens for their use and transform the services and duties due to the lords into rent paid in money.
This was practically a revolution, from serfs to managers of themselves, the peasants only owed for the rent of the land they cultivated and anything over would belong to them. The more able would get more yield from their land and accumulate more than the others. If you think about it, these are the beginnings of capitalism 600 years before the industrial revolution.
A single piece of information is enough to understand the import of this document, with a brutal comparison: in Russia, the Tsar only gave freedom to the serfs 650 years later in 1861 and this was probably one of the major causes of the Bolshevik revolution.
It is not said explicitly in the Charta Libertatis, but we can read between the lines that citizens, in that moment, from tenants became the owners of their homes.
The document states clearly that they can sell and inherit their houses and plots of land. The sale was subject to the Lord’s approval, and he had the right of first refusal, meaning that he could buy the house at 5% less (12 denarii to each lira) than the price agreed with others. While this may seem a curb, it is the acknowledgement of a right “the house no longer belongs to the Count, and if he wants it he must buy it back!”
The right to inherit was also established, albeit with conditions. Property could be left in heritance only to heirs up to the third degree and who were from La Rocca. If there were no heirs, the property returned to the Lord.
In addition, both buyer and heir were responsible for the yearly tax of 12 denarii payable to the Count.
There was one exception, for those owning a horse. They paid no taxes because in wartime they had to fight as knights in the Count’s army. This shows how the role of nobles is still linked conceptually to its mediaeval past, when they were only concerned with chivalrous tournaments and local warring among themselves. They will soon discover that the world was changing and their times were ebbing away.