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The city of Benevento
Latin BENEVENTUM, city, capital and archiepiscopal see
of Benevento provincia, Campania Regione, southern Italy.
The city lies on a ridge between the Calore and Sabato rivers,
northeast of Naples. It originated as Malies, a town of
the Oscans, or Samnites; later known as Maleventum, or Malventum,
it was renamed Beneventum by the Romans. It became an important
town on the Appian Way and was a base for Roman expansion
in southern Italy. In 275 BC, Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, was
defeated at Beneventum in his last battle with the Romans.
After partial destruction by Totila, king of the Ostrogoths,
in AD 452, Benevento in 571 became the capital of an important
Lombard duchy controlling much of southern Italy. It passed
in the 11th century to the Byzantines and then to the papacy,
which ruled it--except for a brief period (1806-15) when
it was governed as a principality by Napoleon's minister
Talleyrand--until it became part of Italy in 1860. In 1266
Charles I of Anjou defeated and killed the Hohenstaufen
Manfred, king of Naples and Sicily, at Benevento.
Although damaged by earthquakes and devastated by Allied
air raids in World War II, the city preserves many historic
buildings. Monuments from classical times include Trajan's
Arch (Porta Aurea; AD 114-117), the ruins of a Roman theatre,
and the Ponte Lebbroso, a bridge over the Sabato River.
The frequently rebuilt cathedral (founded 7th century),
with magnificent bronze doors; the 12th-century cloister
of the Church of Santa Sofia (8th century, rebuilt 1688);
and the castle (1321) are notable medieval buildings.
Benevento is an agricultural centre for wheat, grapes,
olives, and vegetables; its products include almond cakes,
a liqueur called Strega, chocolate, biscuits, and agricultural
machinery. Wine, bricks, and matches are also manufactured.
Pop. (1991 prelim.) mun., 62,683.
Sannio Museum; Trajan's Arch; Rocca dei Rettori called
"the Castle"; Roman theatre.
The Wonders of Benevento
To celebrate the extension of the Appia, the Regina Viarum
the "road to the East", on which subsequently Jesus met
St. Peter (as the Domine, quo vadis? story recounts), and
on which St. Paul traveled as a prisoner on his way to Rome,
the Emperor Trajan had an arch built in 144 A.D. It was
finely decorated with reliefs, and was similar to the one
which Titus built in Rome.
About forty years later, Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius,
built the theatre which was to be extended in the following
decades. Together with what remains of the temples and baths,
with the portico of the Forum and the Obelisk of Isis (as
well as the Ponte Leproso by which the Appia crosses the
River Sabato before entering the city), this Arch, or Porta
Aurea and the theatre, one of the best-preserved in the
South, of which the lower order still remain, are the finest
witnesses which Benevento possesses of its Roman origins.
|Obelisk of Isis
The years passed, and the Middle Ages arrived; the second
period of splendour for the town. In 571 the city became
a Lombard capital, of an independent Duchy, like Spoleto.
It survived the end of the kingdom founded in the North
and endured for more than two centuries. Towers and gateways
remain from this time together with the Fort of the Rector,
on the summit of the hill, commonly known as the Castle
of Manfred. The name, however, is rejected by scholars since
it is completely arbitrary.
||Fort of the Rectors
||Fort of the Rectors
The Church of Santa Sofia also dates back to that period
(it was founded in 762 by the Lombard Arechi who had recently
become Duke). The Church is a Byzantine building with three
apses (and the remains of the early frescoes can still be
seen, featuring the stories of St. John the Baptist and
the Virgin); it was completed in the twelfth century by
a splendid cloister with forty-seven double capitals.
|The Church of Santa Sofia
Since 1929 it has housed the Museum which was first begun
a century earlier, full of eloquent reminders of the past
of the area, from prehistory to our own times. There are
beakers and vases from seven centuries B.C., but also sculptures
from the Temple of Isis, the obelisk from the Temple of
Domitian and the vases from the tomb of Telesia are shown
along with paintings by Solimena and Andrea Vaccaro, as
well as contemporary works by Purificato, Guttuso, Messina,
Greco and others.
More information on the city of Benevento
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