Benevento is a town and comune of Campania, Italy, capital of the province of Benevento, 50 km northeast of Naples. It is situated on a hill 130 m (300 ft) above sea-level at the confluence of the Calore and Sabato. It is also the seat of a Catholic archbishop.
Benevento occupies the site of the ancient Beneventum, originally Maleventum or more correctly Maloeis (derived from the Greek word for apple malon). The Romans' theory that it meant "the site of bad events", from Mal(um) + eventum. In the imperial period it was supposed to have been founded by Diomedes after the Trojan War.
Benevento: HistoryBenevento in antiquity
The site was the chief town of the Samnites, who took refuge here after their defeat by the Roman Republic in 314 BC. It appears not to have fallen into Roman hands until Pyrrhus's absence in Sicily, but served as a base of operations in the last campaign against Pyrrhus, who gave up his campaign in Italy after the inconclusive Battle of Beneventum (275 BC).
A Latin colony was planted here in 268 BC, and it was then that the name was changed for the sake of superstition (male = bad, bene = good), and probably then that the Via Appia was extended from Capua to Beneventum. It remained in the hands of the Romans during both the Punic and the Social Wars, and was a fortress of importance to them. After the Social War it became a municipium and under Augustus a colony.
The position is naturally strong, being protected by the two rivers, and the medieval fortifications, which are nearly 2 miles in length, probably follow the ancient line, which was razed to the ground by Totila.
Being a meeting point of six main roads, Beneventum was much visited by travellers. The Arch of Trajan erected in 114 is one of the best-preserved Roman structures in the Campania. It repeats the formula of the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, with reliefs of Trajan's life and exploits of his reign. Some of the sculptures are in the British Museum.
Duchy of Benevento
Not long after it had been sacked by Totila and its walls razed (545), Benevento became the seat of a powerful Lombard duchy. The circumstances of the creation of duchy of Benevento are disputed. According to some scholars, [attribution needed] Lombards were present in southern Italy well before the complete conquest of the Po Valley: the duchy would have been founded in 576 by some soldiers led by a Zotto, autonomously from the Lombard king.
Zotto's successor was Arechi I (died in 640), from the Duchy of Friuli, who captured Capua and Crotone, sacked the Byzantine Amalfi but was unable to capture Naples. After his reign the Eastern Roman Empire had left in southern Italy only Naples, Amalfi, Gaeta, Sorrento, the tip of Calabria and the maritime cities of Apulia.
In the following decades, Benevento conquered some territories to the Roman-Byzantine duchy, but the main enemies was now the northern Lombard reign itself. King Liutprand intervened in several times imposing a candidate of his own to the duchy's succession; his successor Ratchis declared the duchies of Spoleto and Benevento foreign countries where it was forbidden to travel without a royal permission.
With the collapse of the Lombard kingdom in 773, Duke Arechi II was elevated to Prince under the new empire of the Franks, in compensation for having some of his territory transferred back to the Papal States. Benevento was acclaimed by a chronicler as a "second Pavia" Ticinum geminum after the Lombard capital was lost. The unit of this principality was short-lived: in 851, Salerno broke off under Siconulf and, by the end of that century, Capua was independent as well.
The so-called Langobardia minor was unified for the last time by Duke Pandolfo Testa di Ferro, who expanded his extensive control in the Mezzogiorno from his base in Benevento and Capua. Before his death (March 981), he had gained from Emperor Otto I the title of Duke of Spoleto also. However, both Benevento and Salerno rebelled to his son and heir, Pandulf II.
The first decades of the 11th century saw two more German-descended rulers to southern Italy: Henry II, conquered in 1022 both Capua and Benevento, but returned after the failed siege of Troia. Similar results obtained Conrad II in 1038. In these years the three states (Benevento, Capua, and Salerno) were often engaged in local wars and disputes that favoured the rise of the Normans from mercenaries to ruler of the whole southern Italy. The greatest of them was Robert Guiscard, who captured Benevento in 1053 after the Emperor Henry III had first authorised its conquest in 1047 when Pandulf III and Landulf VI shut the gates to him. These princes were later expelled from the city and then recalled after the pope failed to defend it from Guiscard. The city was a papal city until after 1801.
Benevento passed to the Papacy peacefully when the emperor Henry III ceded it to Leo IX, in exchange for the Bishopric of Bamberg (1077). Landulf II, Archbishop of Benevento, promoted reform, but also allied with the Normans. He was deposed for two years. Benevento was the cornerstone of the Papacy's temporal powers in southern Italy. The Papacy ruled it by appointed rectors, seated in a magnificent palace, and the principality continued to be a papal possession until 1806, when Napoleon granted it to his minister Talleyrand with the title of Sovereign Prince. Talleyrand was never to settle down and actually rule his new principality; in 1815 Benevento was returned to the papacy. It was united to Italy in 1860.
Manfred of Sicily lost his life in 1266 in battle with Charles of Anjou not far from the town (see Battle of Benevento).
Benevento: Main sightsAncient remains
The importance of Benevento in classical times is vouched for by the many remains of antiquity which it possesses, of which the most famous is the triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan by the senate and people of Rome in 114, with important reliefs relating to its history. Enclosed in the walls, this construction marked the entrance in Benevento of the Via Traiana, the road built by the Spanish emperor to shorten the path from Rome to Brindisi. The reliefs show the civil and military deeds of Trajan.
There are other considerable remains from ancient era:
The well-preserved ancient theatre, next to the Cathedral and the Port'Arsas. This grandious building was erected by Hadrian, and later expanded by Caracalla. It had a diameter of 90 meters and could house up to 10,000 spectators. It is currently used for theatral, dance and opera spectacles.
A large cryptoporticus 60 m long, known as the ruins of Santi Quaranta, and probably an emporium. According to Meomartini, the portion preserved is only a fraction of the whole, which once measured 520 m in length).
A brick arch called Arco del Sacramento.
The Ponte Leproso, a bridge on the Via Appia over the Sabato river, below the city center.
Thermae along the road to Avellino.
The Bue Apis, popularly known as A ufara ("buffalo"). It is a basement in the shape of an ox or bull coming from the Temple of Isis.
Many inscriptions and ancient fragments may be seen built into the old houses. In 1903 the foundations of the Temple of Isis were discovered close to the Arch of Trajan, and many fragments of fine sculptures in both the Egyptian and the Greco-Roman style belonging to it were found. They had apparently been used as the foundation of a portion of the city wall, reconstructed in 663 under the fear of an attack by the Byzantine emperor Constans II, the temple having been destroyed by order of the bishop, St Barbatus, to provide the necessary material (A. Meomartini, 0. Marucchi and L. Savignoni in Notizie degli Scavi, 1904, 107 sqq.).
The church of Santa Sofia is a circular Lombard edifice of about 760, now modernized, of small proportions: it can be enclosed within a circle of 23.5 m of diameter. It is one of the most important examples of European architecture of the High Middle Ages. The plant was very original for the times: it consists of a central hexagon with, at each vertex, columns taken from the temple of Isis; these are connected by arches which support the cupola. The inner hexagon is in turn enclosed in a decagonal ring with eight white limestone pilasters and two columns next to the entrance. The church has a fine cloister of the 12th century, constructed in part of fragments of earlier buildings. The church interior was once totally frescoed by Byzantine artists: fragments of these paintings, portraying the Histories of Christ, can be still seen in the two side apses.
Santa Sofia was almost destroyed by the earthquake of 1688, and rebuilt in Baroque forms by commission of the then cardinal Orsini of Benevento (later Pope Benedict XIII). The original forms were hidden, and were recovered only after the discussed restoration of 1951.
The cloiser give access to the Samnium Museum, with notable sections of remains from Ancient age and Middle Ages. These include an obelisk, one of the two that once decorated the Temple of Isis. The other one can be still seen in the city, in the central Piazza Papiniano.
The Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta, with its fine arcaded façade and incomplete square campanile (begun in 1279) dates from the 9th century. It was rebuilt in 1114. The façade was inspired by the Pisane Gothic style. Its bronze doors, adorned with bas-reliefs, are notable example of Romanesque art which may belong to the beginning of the 13th century. The interior is in the form of a basilica, the double aisles carried on ancient columns. There are ambones resting on columns supported by lions, and decorated with reliefs and coloured marble mosaic, and a candelabrum of 1311. A marble statue of the apostle San Bartolomeo, by Nicola da Monteforte, is also from the 14th century.
The massive bell tower was built in 1269 by the archbishop Romano Capodiferro.
Rocca dei Rettori
The castle of Benevento, best known as Rocca dei Rettori or Rocca di Manfredi, stands at the highest point of the town, commanding the valley of the rivers Sabato and Calore, and the two main ancient roads Via Appia and Via Traiana. The site had been already used by the Samnites, who had constructed here a set of defensive terraces, and the Romans, with a thermal plant (Castellum aquae), whose remains can be still seen in the castle garden. The Benedictines had here a monastery. It received the current name in the Middle Ages, when it became the seat of the Papal governors, the Rettori.
The castle is in fact made by two distinct edifices: the Torrione ("Big Tower"), which was built by the Lombards starting from 871, and the Palazzo dei Governatori, built by the Popes from 1320.
Sant'Ilario, not far from the Arch of Traian along the first trait of the Via Traiana, is a very ancient, small building dating from the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 7th century.
The Palazzo di Paolo V (16th century).
The church of San Salvatore, dating from the High Middle Ages.
The Gothic church of San Francesco alla Dogana.
The Baroque churches of Annunziata, San Bartolomeo and San Filippo.