"... Nothing in Italy is more ancient than Benevento, that according to the local legends it was founded or from Diomede or from Ausone, a child of Ulisse and Circe. It was without doubt an ancient city ausonica, founded long time before the conquest sannita of this part of Italy. Also nevertheless it is as of a city of the Sannitis that for first we feel to speak of it, and it is then such a mighty fortitude that as in the first and in the second war Sannita, Rome doesn't dare to attach her. In the third war sannitica fell in its hands... "

Edward Hutton, Naples and Campania Revisited, 1958




Benevento is a historic town in the region of Campania, 50 km inland from Naples. It was a base for Roman expansion in southern Italy and an important stop on the Appian Way, the ancient Roman road connecting the west and east coasts. After being sacked in 452, Benevento was ruled by the Lombards (or Longobards) and Byzantines, and finally by the Pope who ruled the town for 800 years.
Benevento, in a beautiful setting in the hills, is a pleasant place to visit, a good break from the heavily touristed areas near Naples and the Amalfi Coast and a chance to experience the feel of a southern Italian town. There's a wide pedestrian street with cafes where you can sit outside, several Roman monuments, churches, a sculpture garden, and a good theater with cultural events.
Visiting Benevento is like a journey through history: the prehistoric and the Egyptian finds at the Museum of Sannio, Traiano’s Arch and the Roman theatre, the Dome and the Chiesa di Santa Sofia of Longobardian times, the undergrounds of the Prefectural Palace that host ARCOS, the contemporary art museum.



The oldest cultural records in Benevento area and its province date back to the Paleolithic Age. Archaeological finds of lake dwellings in Castelvenere area and several finds elsewhere record the prehistoric man's presence in this province. With regard to the origins of the town of Benevento, legend has it that it was founded by the mythical Diomedes, who landed on the Apulian coasts after the fall of Troy.
Certainly, it is known it was inhabited by the Samnites, from both the Irpino and Caudino lineage, due to cultural finds and historical discoveries such as the archaeological area in Cellarulo district, which proves the existence of a permanent settlement at the junction of rivers Sabato and Calore, whose population was committed to the production and trade of wool and clay.
A flourishing centre of the Samnite civilisation, it was reported for the first time in history when the Samnites, skilled and brave warriors, defeated the mighty Roman army in the battle of the "Forche Caudine" (321 BC), thanks to a clever strategic manoeuvre by general Ponzio Telesino.


The Roman Period

arco 100After the "Forche Caudine" battle, the Samnites were in then rum defeated and, by the time of the Third Samnite War (298-290 BC), they were subdued by the Romans. The name of the town, which was originally called Maleventum, was changed into Beneventum by the Romans, with a strained etymological interpretation, in order to celebrate their victory over Pyrrhus, near its walls, in 275 BC.
Thus, after being conquered by the Romans, Benevento experienced not only political and military domination, but also and above all cultural domination. The town was targeted by those travelling, along the Via Appia, from Rome to Apulia, especially Brindisi and, finally, the East; therefore, it soon became a key and strategic political and economic centre. Over the centuries, the Romans made the town beautiful and rich in important buildings which are still visible within the town's walls, proof of its glorious past.
The most remarkable monuments from this period are:Trajan's Arch, the Roman Theatre, the so called "Sacramento" Arch, Leproso Bridge, Valentino Bridge and precious evidence of the temple of Isis.


The Lombard Period

ducato 100The fall of the Roman Empire marked a period of decline also in Benevento, which rose to new glory under the Lombard domination. At the beginning of this domination (571), under Zottone I, Benevento was a duchy; then, following the fall of the Kingdom of Pavia (774), it was turned into a Principality by Arechi II.
Arechi, being passionate about art and culture, built many architectural works like the extension of the town walls after creating the Civitas nova (now the Triggio); St.Sophia's Church, which boasts an unusual half circular and half star-shaped structure and next, the Benedictine monastery with its fine cloister. Another notable feature of the Lombard period is St.llario's Church, located close to Trajan's Arch. Arechi's court became a splendid cultural centre, brightened by the genius of Paolo Diacono.
The "Benevento writing system" started to take on its original features, qualifying the minor Longobardia "scriptoria" that produced magnificent liturgical hagiographic and classical codes, today preserved in the most important libraries in the world.
The economy, too, had a strong vibe thanks to the mint introduced to stamp coins (soldo aureo).The legend of the witches dates back to this period. The Lombardian soldiers used to meet around a tree consecrated to the god Wothan, in a spot full of walnut trees, near Benevento. There, weaving whirling carousels and in a frenzied race, they tried to bite off the sheep skins hung on the branches. The knights' whirling dance turned into the witches' dance in popular fantasy. After the Lombards were converted to Catholicism by Bishop Barbato, the walnut tree was pulled down in order to celebrate the triumphant struggle led by the Bishop Saint against the witches and the infernal powers.


The Pontifical Period

duomo 100The death of Landolf VI (1077), the last Lombard prince, switched Benevento to papal domination, which would extend for many centuries and last until 1860. In this long period, Benevento went through changing fortunes, becoming possession of Federico II and then of Manfredi who, in 1266, while fighting against Charles of Anjou, died and was temporarily buried in "cò del ponte" (Dante, Purgatory, Canto III).
A church fiefdom, Benevento was first ruled by a rector, then by a governor and finally, after the Congress of Vienna, by an Apostolic Delegate. In 1806, it was occupied by the French troops headed by Napoleon who gave it in fiefdom, with the title of Principality, to Charles Maurice del Talleyrand - Perigord, his Foreign Minister, who in turn appointed a governor to rule it.
During the pontifical period, Benevento was cardinal seat, once chaired by the renowned cardinal Vincenzo Maria Orsini, who later became pope Benedict XIII. He loved the town so much that he built many public works.
The following monument date back to the pontifical ruling: Rocca dei Rettori, the Cathedral, Paolo V Palace, St. Bartolomeo's Basilica, Madonna delle Grazie's Church.


The Risorgimento Period

villa 100After the unification of Italy, Benevento was freed from the pontifical domination by the Garibaldi's party, with a bloodless action. It was made Province of Italy by decree signed by Giorgio Pallavicini, on October 25 1860.
After the national government took office, almost all the towns in the new province were devastated by rebel movements against the government troops. The rebels were suppressed by a tough military action that ended up with the fierce massacre of the Pontelandolfo and Casalduni (brigandage) populations by the bersaglieri headed by General Negri.
Among the most important works of the national regime, the following are worth a mention: the monumental Government House, the impressive Guidoni barracks, the beautiful Park, the green heart of Benevento, designed by Alfredo Denhart, former director of the Naples Botanical Gardens.

















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