The Savelli (de Sabellis in documents) were a rich and influential Roman aristocratic family who rose to prominence in the 13th century and became extinct in the main line with Giulio Savelli (1626-1712).
The family, who held the lordship of Palombara Sabina, took their name from the rocca (castle) of Sabellum, near Albano, which had belonged to the counts of Tusculum before it passed to the Savelli. Early modern genealogies of the Savelli, such as the unpublished manuscript "eulogistic treatise" compiled by Onofrio Panvinio, drew connections to Pope Benedict II, a possible but undocumentable connection, and even to the cognomen Sabellius of Antiquity.
They provided at least two popes: Cencio Savelli, Pope Honorius III (1216-1227) and Giacomo Savelli, Honorius IV (1285-1287). His father, Luca Savelli, was a Roman senator and sacked the Lateran in 1234. Luca's decision to side for Emperor Frederick II against Honorius III's successor, Gregory, gained the family large possessions in the Lazio. Honorius' brother, Pandolfo Savelli, was the podestà of Viterbo in 1275.
Later members include the condottieri Silvio and Antonello Savelli. Savelli Cardinals include Giovanni Battista Savelli (1471 in pectore, 1480); Giacomo Savelli (1539); Silvio Savelli (1596); Giulio Savelli (1615); Fabrizio Savelli (1647); Paolo Savelli (1664); and Domenico Savelli (1853). The last member of the family left in Rome was Giulio Savelli, who died in 1712. A collateral line, the Giannuzzi Savelli ('Giannuzzi' adopted later on) represent descendants of Antonio Savelli of Rignano who moved to the Kingdom of Naples in 1421 to fight as a condottiero. The title principe di Cerenzia has been held in that family since Ercole Giannuzzi Savelli dei baroni di Pietramala inherited it in 1769 from his mother Ippolita Rota, last of her house. The republican patriot Luigi Giannuzzi Savelli dei principi di Cerenzia was shot 3 April 1799 by orders of Cardinal Ruffo, and the feudal lands of Prince Tommaso Giannuzzi Savelli of Cerenzia were confiscated: Cerenzia, Casino (Castelsilano) Montespinello (Spinello) Belvedere Malapezza, and Zinga.
By the 17th century, the Savelli had fallen on lean times. Castel Gandolfo had been relinquished under terms of Pope Clement VIII's "bull of the barons" to the Papal treasury in return for a mere 150,000 scudi in 1596, and in 1650 Albano, with its princely title, was turned over to Giambattista, the only son of Camillo Pamphili.
In brackets the year of the beginning and end of his pontificate:
In parenthesis the year of nomination as a cardinal: