The legend of the White EagleErmanno Monaldeschi was a talented falconer in his youth, champion of all the tournaments he took part in with his falcons, gyrfalcons, buzzards and goshawks. He personally and skillfully bred and trained them for hunting at his country castle in Melezzole.
One day he was training some falcons, from a precipice when a white eagle appeared from nowhere, flying into him.
Ermanno had never seen eagles in this area before, not even the typical red-brown feathered ones, never mind white. "Good Heavens!" he exclaimed. The eagle was in fact real, and his falcon fell to the ground wounded. The great falconer didn't lose heart and released his companion, the gryfalcon. It was a difficult battle but in the end the eagle disappeared and the gryfalcon, came back to Ermanno's leather glove somewhat ruffled and injured. He had won and was proud.
Soon a small crowd had gathered and some people found the eagle dead in a ravine. It had been killed. It was a short-toed eagle, an Accipitridae similar to the Golden eagle, grey on top, completely white underneath and with a wingspan of 1 metre.
Ermanno had the bird stuffed and put it on show among his trophies in the hall of his magnificent palace in Piazza del Duomo. Here, the white eagle shone against the dark tapestry behind it, almost seeming as if it were about to take flight. It was on display for all guests to see. A well known Orvietan expression derives from this palace (Palazzo Monaldeschi). If anyone sees an elegant and magnificently furnished home they say "This is like the "White Eagle Palace"!
Ermanno then became the seigneur of Orvieto but because of family conflicts the Mondaldeschi family divided into four branches:
1. The eagle
2. The dog
3. The viper
4. The stag
A white eagle is depicted in the Monaldeschi emblem on a blue and yellow banner across the middle.
A crowned Imperial eagle is featured in the Town Hall's coat of arms in one of the four sections. The other three sections contain a goose, a lion similar to the Florentine heraldic emblem with a sword and keys, and a red cross which is a symbol of the Orvietan crusaders.
When Charles of Anjou was crowned king of Naples in 1266 in Saint Andrew's Church, Orvieto, by Pope Clement IV, he gave the town the title of " The Regal City" and he added his golden rake to the coat of arms. This symbol was later made black in order for it to stand out more against the eagle's breast.
After various periods of fratricidal conflicts, Corrado Monaldeschi della Cervara, head of exiled Beffati and in agreement with Pope Nicholas V managed to break into the home of Malcorini, Gentile and Arrigo Monaldeschi della Vipera (seigneurs of the town) on the night of Santa Lucia in 1449. Arrigo Monaldeschi was killed and the white eagle took its last flight in a mass of flames, disappearing without a trace, almost as suddenly as it had appeared. The mission was accomplished.
Ermanno Monaldeschi cried "Good Heavens!" when the eagle appeared and, on the night of Santa Lucia in 1449 the eagle disappeared after seeing the bloodshed of Arrigo, Ermanno's heir.
When a new large hotel was built in front of the Town Hall towards the end of the 1800s in tradition with the magnificent noble palaces of Orvieto, the name "Palazzo dell'Aquila Bianca" Palace of the White Eagle" was obviously the most popular choice.
The hotel later changed its name to "Palace Hotel" after the Universal International Exhibition in Paris in 1900 caused a sensation. Then after restoration work in the 1980s, the name was changed back to "Hotel Aquila Bianca".