Cartona is a small but fascinating city in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany, central Italy, situated on a commanding hill, and overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Its cyclopean walls, still in great part preserved, are said to be 3000 years old. It was one of the twelve cities of Etruria and in its vicinity many ruins and Etruscan tombs maybe seen. Cortona took part in all the wars against Rome until 310 B.C. when Fabius Rullianus defeated the Etruscans and took Perugia. Perugia, with other cities including Cortona, then made peace with Rome. Later Cortona was destroyed by the Lombards but was soon rebuilt.
In the fourteenth century it was governed by the Casali and afterwards became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Many famous men were born or lived in Cortona: Brother Elias (Elia Coppi), the famous companion of St. Francis of Assisi, and later Vicar-General of the Franciscan Order; Cardinals Egidio Boni and Silvio Passerini; the painter Luca Signorelli; the architect and painter Pietro Berrettini (Pietro da Cortona). St. Margaret of Cortona (1248-97) was born at Laviano (Alviano) in the Diocese of Chiusi, and became the mistress of a nobleman of the vicinity. On discovering his body after he had met a violent death, she repented and, after a public penance, retired to Cortona, where she took the habit of a Tertiary of St. Francis and devoted her life to works of penance and charity.
There still exist in Cortona religious works due to her zeal. Leo X permitted her veneration at Cortona, and Urban VIII extended the privilege to the Franciscan Order. Benedict XIII canonized her in 1728. Her body rests in a beautiful sarcophagus in the church dedicated to her at Cortona. It is not known whether Cortona was an episcopal see previous to its destruction by the Lombards.
From that time until 1325 it belonged to the Diocese of Arezzo. In that year, at the request of Guglielmo Casali, John XXII raised Cortona to episcopal rank, as a reward for the fidelity of its Guelph populace, Arezzo remaining Ghibelline. The first bishop was Rainerio Ubertini. Other bishops were Luca Grazio, who was a distinguished member of the Council of Florence (1438); Matteo Concini (1560) and Gerolamo Gaddi (1562) were present at the Council of Trent. The cathedral and the other churches of Cortona possess numerous works of art, especially paintings of the school of Luca Signorelli and of Fra Angelico.