With the end of the Lombard domination and the arrival of the Normans , the south of Italy was interested by a profound political renovation. The peninsula, included Sicily, was a unique reign but the town of Benevento was excluded, becoming a kind of island governed by the Papal State even if its territory was totally included in the reign of Naples. This situation lasted 8 centuries until the unification of Italy in 1860. So it is the longest historical period for the town, and it is the period that gave the greatest marks on the urban face both trough the building of churches and convents, such as trough the renewal of housing for example valuable public buildings and mansions.
Madonna delle Grazie
The cathedral of Madonna Delle Grazie was built for a wow made by the citizenship during the 1837 cholera outbreak. It was projected by Vincenzo Coppola, following a neo.-renaissance style. The first stone was put the 10th May 1839 by the papal delegate Gioacchino Pecci, known later as Pope Leone XIII. The edification lasted several years, in fact the basilica was only consecrated in 1901, without the facade with its pronao realised during the twenties of the 20th century. It has undergone several restorations due to the bombings of 1945 that caused the collapse of the crypt and later the earthquake of 1980. In the church there is the wooden polychrome statue of the Madonna Delle Grazie with child, dating the Neapolitan school of XVI century. The cult for the Verge is very ancient .Based on the tradition, it started when Santa Artelide in the VI century bought in Benevento a byzantine icon . The church she built collapsed in the earthquake of 1946 and the icon, later replaced by the current statue, was transported in the old church of San Lorenzo at that time located outside the walls. Here the cult is still present. The ancient San Lorenzo church, which was next to the current basilica where there is now the convent of the friars minor, was destroyed during the bombings of 1943. The magnificent portico of its facade, in ionic style, culminates with a terrace where there are 6 statues: from the left Saint Rocco, Saint Gennaro, Saint Bartolomeo, Saint Francesco, Saint Barbato and Saint Antonio. On the top of the tympanum it is situated the statue of Madonna Delle Grazie that resumes the iconography characterizing the wooden statues of XVI century. Under the colonnade, next to the entrance, there are the statues of two popes, Benedetto XIII(Pope Orsini, previously archbishop of Benevento, who had a great devotion for the Madonna Delle Grazie ) and Leone XIII(who placed the first stone for the new temple)-outside on the left, there is the recent statue of Pope Giovanni Paolo II to remind his visit in Benevento and, particularly his visit to the basilica the 2nd July 1990. The sculpture is by Andrea Martini who made the bronze bas relief of via crucis(way of the cross) and the two angels used as font at the entrance.
Dome and Diocesan Museum
The current cathedral in Benevento is a modern building, rebuilt between 1950 and 1965 after being completely destroyed by the bombing in 1943. From the roman period (XII-XIII) we preserve the facade and the bell tower, fortunately not destroyed during the bombing. There are elements of Pisan feature, (whose style is present in other Apulian Romanesque buildings of the Capitanata). The facade contains many tombstones of the Lombard period and in the last right arch it is located a statue supposed to be a portrait of Manfred of Swebian. The bell tower too, like almost all the monuments in Benevento, contains several statues from roman or burial buildings. Nestled in the eater side of the tower, there is a bas relief of a boar wearing a toga; its presence contributed to the diffusion of the legend that Benevento was founded by Diomedes. The facade was also embellished by a bronze door, unique masterpiece of Romanesque art realized in the second half of the XII century. Dramatically shattered by the bombings in 1943, the reaming parts were reassembled and the restored door was located inside the cathedral whereas in the portal, it was placed a modern copy. The interior contains reaming elements of the former building destroyed by the bombings; among them it is remarkable a medieval statue of Saint Bartolomeo, whose spoils arrived in the town in 838. Recent archaeological excavations, allowed to bring to light, the archaeological stratification below the building and much of it , today can be visited trough the diocesan museum recently created to expose precious finds of this extraordinary building. The diocesan museum is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 p. m and from 4.00 p. m. to 7.00p.m. Entrance free. The visit of the cathedral finished, we can leave from the lateral entrance in the left aisle and we are now in square Orsini on the right. In the middle of the square there is the eighteenth century fountain dedicated to Pope Benedetto XIII, whose statue is placed on the top of the monument. Pope Benedetto XIII was archbishop of Benevento from 1686 to 1730 maintaining the ownership of the dioceses even after his elevation as pope. He was the protagonist of a big renewal not only for the dioceses but also for the social life, Pope Orsini so popularly called, has been a relevant personality during the town history. On the right it overlooks the archbishop palace, also reconstructed after the 1943 bombings. Inside there are the Pacca Provincial library and the Capitolare library, both preserving important remainders; particularly important is a corpus of medieval codes written in lowercase Beneventana script.
The church and the convent have undergone a radical restoration after having been totally upset by a nineteenth century adaptation as military barracks. In the sixties the building has regained its primitive function and, where possible, the original characters have been recovered. According to the tradition the convent arose after the passage of Saint Francesco in Benevento during his pilgrimage to the cave of Saint Michele Archangel in Puglia. Even if we do not have any documentary evidences of the visit, according to its stylistic characteristic we can assume that the building dates to the first period of diffusion of Franciscan movement. The church preceded by a colonnade, has a unique nave covered by wooden trusses and the apse belongs to the original structure. Here during the last restoration work, they have emerged some fragments of frescoes such as a Madonna dell’ Umilta by a painter of Giotto’s school dating half of the XIV century, an image of a donor knelling in front of Jesus Christ and a fresco of XV century representing the trinity between the Virgin Mary and Saint Giovanni the Evangelist ; in the lowest part there are the Saints Bartolomeo, Giovanni Battista and Francesco. The monastery is characterized by two gothic cloisters . The first is formed by plundered elements, such as the near cell that serves as base of the bell tower ;here emerged fragments of marble statues dated second half of tenth century and a byzantine fresco dated XI century, representing Saint Costanzo belonging to the homonym church once stood here. From Saint Francesco church we can turn right and take street Isabella Morra, immediately after we get street Arcivescovo Pacca. On the left we can admire the baroque facade of the ancient archbishop’s library formed by an original composition of mixti-linear profile windows. Back on the main street we turn right go towards Paolo V palace that appears on the right.
Palazzo Paolo V
Built at the end of XVI century, Paolo V palace was the seat of municipality and has maintained this function until 1987, when the restoration started . Its result was not properly satisfying giving back to the city a building that is still looking for its own function and identity. Originally the structure was smaller and had a symmetrical facade compared to the majestic entrance portal, with two windows per side. During the twenties of 1900, the building was enlarged by incorporating the deconsecrated church of Saint Caterina, on which two other floors were built to make the facade homogeneous. The inside courtyard has a riche collection of tombstones walled in the entrance hall and in the walls. They remind different episodes linked to the history of the town. Leaving Paolo V palace, just opposite we see the majestic volumes of the former seminary archiepiscopal, founded in the XVII century whose facade dates the end of XIX century, following the enlargement of the main street. Just immediately after here we are in square Papiniano; in the middle there is a neo-Egyptian obelisk coming from the temple of Isis. Continuing along the main street ,after Paolo V palace , always on the right, there is the church of Saint Maria del Carmine, also called Sant’Anna.
The church was originally part of the Carmelite convent , convent located behind. Today the convent is seat of provincial command of finance guard. The church with a unique nave, has been rebuilt after the 1688 earthquake. Inside there is the important painting by the Roman painter Sebastiano Conca, representing the Virgin Mary with the saints Luigi Gonzaga and Maddalena de’ Pazzi. Leaving the church we proceed to walk the course, until the entrance on the right of square Roma. Once here there was the church of Jesus, built by the Jesuits and demolished in 1926, after being damaged during a fire in 1918. The extensive square, product of a layout done during the thirties of the twentieth century, is dominated by the facade of the national boarding school, in neo- renaissance-style dating 1930 too. This so huge factory was the Jesuite college built here at the beginning of the XVII century. When the Jesuits left the city after the unification of Italy, here it was founded the citizen high school that opened in 1861. After the school was moved to a new building in square Risorgimento and here it remained only the boarding school. Continuing along street Orbilio Pupillo, we arrive at street Annunziata and on the left we find the factory of Mosti palace, today town hall.
This palace belonged to the homonym family arrived in Benevento during the XIV century. They bought this property from the ancient lineage of Benevento Della Vipera, in the first half of XVII century. They had the building enlarged and creating the passage on the road to access to their own garden located on the walls of the city. At the end of XVII century the family got the title of marquis (later not recognized by the Italian heraldry commission ).Extinguished the main lineage , the heirs moved to Rome and the palace was sold to the town of Benevento. In 1885 it was the location for Magistrale high school, founded in 1872; it has remained her for over a century. In the eighties of the twentieth century the high school was progressively moved to street Calandra and the palace was restored to house the town hall, since 1987. After visiting the parts open to visitors, we continue for street Annuziata until reaching the homonymous church that gives the name to the street itself. To note along the way , the considerable quantity of Roman finds and bas reliefs embedded in the walls.
The church was completely rebuilt after the 1688 earthquake, in a baroque style. The interior has a single nave with three chapels on each side. Notable the third on the left, entering the church. It is the chapel of saint Gennaro, made by Filippo Raguzzini. On the top of this chapel there is the marble bust of Benedetto XIII located in 1752. In the choir of this church, in two mix linear frames they are situated two paintings by Giuseppe Castellano , vary active painter in Benevento during the period of Pope Orsini. The two paintings dated 1720 are a very original composition presenting all the patron saints of the town . The reason is not fortuitous. During the XVIII century this church was used as headquarters for the assemblies of the people: a kind of enlarged assembly room, to talk about very important issues. So It was appropriate that to watch over the people, there were the patron saints trough the two paintings. In the first painting we can see the saints whose cult is older. On the top it dominates the Madonna Delle grazie, put beside Michele Archangel whose cult dates back to Lombard period. After there are the two bishops of Benevento saint Barbato and saint Gennaro , below saint Biagio and saint Bartolommeo the latter patron saint of the city. Other patron saints are saint Donato, saint Mercurio and saint Giovenale , patron saints of which the city retains relics. The two Castellano’s paintings with the patron saints were ordered during the period of Pope Orsini, so it is his the choice of the patron saints called to protect the city. Remembering that the cardinal Orsini belonged to the Dominican order, the first two saints we see at the top are saint Domenico and saint Tommaso d’Aquino, the letter belonging to the Dominican order too. In the middle of the painting there is saint Filippo Neri,; for him Orsini ordered a construction of a church. The worship of Orsini for saint Filippo Neri was born in the occasion of 1688 earthquake. The archbishop remained buried under the rubble and he was saved after a few hours. During the period he was trapped, the only thing he could see was the image of saint Filippo, that represented for him a solace waiting for the salvation. The other patron saints we can see on the painting, are saint Andrea from Avellino, saint Antonio from Padova, saint Felice from Cantalice, saint Nicola from Tolentino, saint Ignazio di Loyola , saint Francesco Borgia and saint Francesco Saverio. Completed the visit of Annunziata church, we turn on the right, street Tenente Pellegrini and after a short hill we get to square Guerrazzi, where it rises the magnificent facade of the former convent of Saint Domenico.
San Domenico e Hortus Conclusus
The convent of San Domenico was founded in 1230 by Roffredo Epifanio, Benevento famous jurist, who bought the monastery of Saint Peter for the church of Santa Maria Antiqua with the neighboring property. Three years later also the church arose, however, in its current form is no longer that of the time of its foundation. The facade was restored in 1878, while the interior was renovated in baroque style after the earthquake of 1688. In 1I94, moving an altarpiece with the Madonna of the Rosary placed in the right transept, it emerged a set of frescoes dating back to the early days of the church. It is visible a Madonna with child in gothic style, a work of the fifteenth century with Saint George and the Dragon and finally the images of St. Bartholomew and Our Lady of Loreto in the middle. In the church there are important works of art. Among them we must mention one of the late sixteenth century panel by Donato Piperno with San Vincenzo Ferreri; the eighteenth-century statue of the risen Christ, by Gennaro Cerasuolo; the funerary monument of the Napoleonic general Antonio Manhes by Raffaele Belliazzi and a stele of Carolina Manhes by Giuseppe Vaccà, in a neo-classic style. The adjacent convent was transformed into a courthouse in 1878 maintaining this function until the earthquake of 1980. In 1990 the building was destined as seat of the rectorate of the University of Sannio. two years later in the side garden of the monastery it was set on the contemporary art complex Hortus Conclusus by the famous artist Mimmo Ppalladino. For the visit the access is in Vico Noce , every day from 9.00 a.am. to 1.00 p. m and from 3.00p.m. to 8.00p.m.Hortus Conclusus is an exceptional unique art installation ,realized in 1992 by the internationally famous artist Mimmo Palladino. The artist from Paduli, a village not far from Benevento , has composed in an important open area of the former monastery of Saint Domenico founded during the XIII century, a magical set of archaic morphology sculptures, dominated by a horse with a golden mask, recurrent element in his style. The set of his works originates an evocative space, a museum of a mythical imaginary past, suspended between prehistory and the beginning of human civilization. There are many signs that refer to archeology, reinterpreted with an artistic taste and mythological suggestion.
During the year 838, the Lombard prince from Benevento Sicardo carried out a shipment to Lipari to take possessions of the relics of the apostle Bartolomeo, mysteriously arrived on the island by sea in the half of VI century. When the relics got to Benevento, it was built a majestically church to house them, just next to the cathedral on the east side. This restored after the earthquakes of the XII century, it was damaged again by the earthquake in 1688. While proceeding to its restoration a new earthquake brought it down permanently. At that time cardinal Vincenzo Maria Orsini was archbishop of Benevento , named in 1724 pope as Benedetto XIII. During his pontificate, he gave the necessary money to rebuild a church dedicated to saint Bartolomeo, proclaimed patron saint of the city. The church was built, projected by Filippo Raguzzini one of the most preferred pope’s architect and it was consecrated the 8th may 1729. The church, with an only nave has a precious carved wooden choir .Under the main altar in an urn of red porphyry, there are the relics of the apostle. After having completed the visit we go up Corso Garibaldi on the right, and we go on until palazzo Terragnoli, that is on the right immediately after street Tenente Pellegrini.
it was built in 1767 by the captain and nobleman from Benevento Antonio Terragnoli. It has a rococo style and it has been attributed to different architects even if the author of the project is unknown. During the XX century it was seat of bank of Italy and later of the provincial library that has its seat still here. The rooms on the ground floor are used for temporary exhibition, both documentary and art. Coming back on Corso Garibaldi, we go up on right side. We pass the Comunale teather , built in the second half of the XIX century following a project by the Neapolitan architect Pasquale Francesconi. Immediately after we are in the square surrounding the Lombard church of Santa Sofia. The square passed, on the left it starts street Cardinal di Rende that ends in the small square Vari, where is gorgeous de Simone palace.
Palazzo De Simone
This building is located in a corner of the old town close to the Lombard walls. It is composed of different structures and environments further magnified when the palace at the beginning of 900 was bought by the Lasallian, who founded here their school, revolutionizing the original appearance, by raising one floor and demolishing the Santa Rosa church that stood at the farthest side. After this arrangement during the twenties it was created a precious theater still functioning(known as de Simone theatre ).The building after the earthquake of 1980 was transferred to the municipality that has placed here the seat of the conservatory founded exactly in 1980. Part of the building has been acquired by the university of Sannio. Finished the visit we come back on Corso Garibaldi to complete the last part of our your until Rocca dei Rettori. On the left it is possible to admire the magnificent government palace built between 1895 and 1910 in a neo-classic style , on the left there is the seat of the chamber of commerce. Built in neo-gothic style during the thirties.
Rocca dei Rettori
It is a tower built in 1322 by a fortified residence for the papal legate in Benevento. It was built during the period of the stay of the papacy in Avignon, the castle is similar to the French ones. With the nearby monastery of sum door, attached to the rock it has been the heart of the political during the papal domination after the unification of Italy became the seat of the prefecture, and since 1928 it is the provincial headquarters Administration that owns it. The fortified part was used as a prison, that is why during the Risorgimento it was seen as a symbol of political oppression. After the Unification of Italy the prison were moved to the former convent of San Felice, next stop of our tour. At the beginning they wanted the demolition of the Rocca, but the fortified tower was not demolished and in 1894 became the first headquarters of the provincial museum which then in 1928 he was brought to Santa Sofia. In 1960 part of the fortress was turned into a museum: it hosts the Risorgimento section of the museum of Sannio. After the recent restoration of the section has been expanded to much of the fortress and is also used for temporary exhibitions. The Rocca dei Rettori is seat of Benevento province and for the visit it is necessary to contact the administration staff . To book the visit call 0824/774502. The garden can be visited without reservations. There you can enjoy some contemporary sculptures and it is possible to admire the gorgeous landscape overlooking the valley of the river Sabato.