The beginning of the 5th century was the start of a tortuous period of barbarian invasions for Milan. In 402 A.D. King Alaric and the Visigoths attacked the city, which resisted and was able to push them back. This event convinced the emperor to leave Milan for Ravenna, which then became the new capital of the Empire.
An age of decadence began which worsened when Attila, King of the Huns, sacked and devastated the city in 452 A.D.
The city was later occupied by Odoacer and the Eruli in 476 A.D. and by Theodoric and the Ostrogoths in 489 A.D.
In 539 A.D. the Ostrogoths, led by Witiges, returned and took siege to the city; after two years they forced its surrender, almost completely destroying it in the process.
With the southward migration of the Lombards in the mid-6th century, the aristocracy and majority of the clergy took refuge in Genoa. The city’s impoverishment increased following the prevalence of Pavia as the capital of Lombards.
Curiosity: Although famous for panettone, Lombardy is also the birthplace of the colomba, a traditional Easter cake. Its origins date back to 572 A.D. during the Siege of Pavia by the Lombard King Alboin. A delegation of virgins served the king a dove-shaped cake on the banks of the Ticino. Legend has it that it Alboin was so pleased with the cake that he called off the siege on the city. In modern times, it was the confectionary of Angelo Motta that enriched the cake with candied fruit, almonds and sugar glaze.
Milan’s domination under the Franks led by Charlemagne, starting in 774 A.D. did nothing to improve the city’s fortune. Milan became a county seat.
The vassal order became diffuse, along with feudalism. Dukes were replaced with Counts. Bishops were granted Ecclesiastic Immunity with the right to judge residents in their territory and exemption from taxes.
When the Carolingian Empire disintegrated with the deposing of Charles III in 887, political power was held by Counts (who then became Marquis) and Bishops. Despite the limits of feudal power, especially in the countryside, there was economic progress in the city, which expanded trade to France and Germany.