The recurring terms, mostly as synonyms, to indicate Friuli in late Middle-Age documents are ‘Terra del Friuli’ (Land of Friuli), ‘Chiesa Aquileiese’ (Aquileian Church), ‘Universitas Foroiuliensis’ and ‘Patria del Friuli’.
Beyond the properly linguistic aspect, there is another element that has given a relevant contribution to the formation of the Friulian identity in the course of history: it deals with the establishment of the ecclesiastical principality that over its 350 years’ life, from 1077 to 1420, turned from a feudal dominion into an autonomous state with its own laws, own traditions and the consciousness of its own territory. The recurring terms, mostly as synonyms, to indicate Friuli in late Middle-Age documents are ‘Terra del Friuli’ (Land of Friuli), ‘Chiesa Aquileiese’ (Aquileian Church), ‘Universitas Foroiuliensis’ and ‘Patria del Friuli’. The meaning of ‘land’ is of a territorial district with well defined borders, politically and administratively united, a territory ruled by a prince according to the same laws which, in the case of Friuli, were issued by a parliament consisting of representatives of the clergy, the nobility and the city communities. ‘Aquileian Church’ equals to an ecclesiastical principality, while ‘Universitas Foroiuliensis’ stands for the whole of institutions and people the country was made of. The word ‘Patria’, which in the last period of the patriarchal state ended up by nearly replacing the other terms and was fully used even in the cartography of the following centuries, is the arrival point of a long process. First of all it involved the passage from a patrimonial conception of the Aquileian principality, as it could be implied by the imperial donation made to patriarch Sigeard in 1077, to a much closer concept of State to the modern meaning of the term. «In the Friulian state, which still remains a merely medieval creation», Pier Silverio Leicht writes, «some main lines can be perceived that were to occur in the following centuries in those principalities, in which the concept of a unitary state would take its shape». The agreement Venice imposed in 1445 at the end of its conquest of Friuli (1420) put also an end to the right of independence Friuli used to have as a patriarchal state; a sovereign state that was conscious of its unity and autonomy; that also prevented from further developments towards a conception of state in the modern sense of the term. The word ‘Patria’ remained as an unmistakable connotation of Friuli, albeit devoid of the more profound meanings it had been acquiring between the twelfth and fourteenth century.