Benevento is one of the oldest cities of Italy and has never had continuity solution during its historic development. Over several millennia it has known different civilizations and dominations, it has gone through several historical phases, sometimes more sometimes less important, always preserving some traces , even discreet, of its considerable past. A visit of Benevento is an authentic voyage into the history: from the period of the dinosaurs to the current evolution of the artistic and contemporary western civilization .This route presents the excellences of Benevento: the fundamental places and monuments to know and to enjoy the city. We recommend to make the visit on foot. The tour lasts at least 5 hours, even if, due to the richness of places, we recommend at least a full day.
The structure was built during the period of the emperor Commodo. At the end of the II century A.D., substituting a previous one built probably in wooden structure since there are testimonies of shows in previous centuries. It was brought to light during the twentieth century by demolishing the houses and the structures built on it. The only structure not demolished is the late eighteenth-century church of Santa Maria Della Verità, church put on the top on part of the auditorium. Today the Theater is once again usable even if its current capacity is less than the original. The monument, which has a diameter of about 98 cm, is made in cement bricks and blocks of limestone. The steps are the result of a modern restoration and they develop only for a part, missing the upper ring. The original semicircular auditorium was built by imitating the Colosseum, with three different architectonic orders: the Tuscanic at the bottom, of which there are 25 arcades, the Ionic and the Corint. The scene was stable, composed by a monumental structure of which remain only two big pylons without any marble decoration. Many of the barren materials from the theater, have been reused in several historic buildings of the city center, for example the masks walled in street Capitano Rampone or in square Piano di Corte. Other stone materials, are kept in the Antiquarium located in the current access to the theater, behind the scene. The theatre can be visited every day from nine to one hour before the sunset; the entrance is in Ponzio Telesino square. The ticket fee is 2 euros, reduced 1 euro. Leaving the theatre go towards the dome, passing from street Port’Arsa(meaning burnt door) and street Carlo Torre. We pass trough one of the most popular historic district of the city, called Triggio. Proceeding along street Carlo Torre we reach a Roman arch called Del Sacramento. It is an honorary arch with no plastic decoration, but it is impossible to assume its naming. Based on some hypothesis this arch was the gate for the Roman forum, since street Carlo Torre corresponds, in the topography of the Roman city, to the Cardo Maximus. The area was destroyed by the bombings in 1943. After some not very suitable urban interventions, nowadays the area is used as an archeological park, free visitable. There, it is possible to admire some ruins and remains of the walls from different eras. The park runs along the western side of the dome, dome that can be reached turning right at the end of street Carlo Torre.
Dome and Diocesan Museum
The current dome of Benevento is a modern building, since it was rebuilt between 1950 and 1965, after being completely destroyed by the bombings in 1943. Of the Romanesque period(XII-XIII century) we preserve the facade and the bell tower, that , luckily remained intact during the bombings. They are elements of Pisan art, whose style is visible in other Apulian Romanesque buildings of the Capitanata. The facade has many tombstones of the Lombard period, and in the last right arcade there is a statue considered a portrait of Manfred of Swabia. The bell tower, as almost all the medieval monuments in Benevento, has many statues coming from roman buildings or sepulchral buildings. Nestled in the eastern side of the bell tower, there is also a bas-relief of a boar wearing a toga, presence that contributed to the diffusion of the legend that the city was founded by Diomedes. The facade was adorned with a bronze door, important masterpiece of Romanesque art, dated the second half of XII century. Dramatically crashed during the bombings in 1943, the remaining parts were reassembled and the restored door was placed in the dome, while in the portal it was placed a modern copy. The interior has elements of the previous building destroyed by the bombings, such as a precious medieval statue of Saint Bartholomew, patron of Benevento, whose spoils arrived in Benevento in 838. Recent archeological excavations have brought to the light the archeological stratification below the building, and the majority can be visited, thanks to the diocesan museum, recently opened to show precious remains of this extraordinary historic building. The diocesan museum is opened on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9.00 a.m. to 12.00a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. The entrance is free. The visit of the dome finished, we can leave from the side entrance in the left aisle and get 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 located at the top of the monument. This Pope 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. Our itinerary proceeds along Corso Garibaldi, the main street of the historic center. Its actually aspect dates back to the end of nineteenth century, when it was expanded rebuilding the buildings on the left side going up. Along the street, at the beginning , we pass on the right palace Paolo V, ancient seat of the municipality, and immediately after the church of Saint Anna dating XVIII century. On the left, there is the impressive factory of the old archbishop seminary, dating the beginning of the XVII century, used today as state archives. In the middle of the following little square there is a neo-Egyptian obelisk of the 88 A.D., coming from the temple of Isis wanted by the emperor Domitian. A little more ahead we reach the crossroads with street Trajan. The street is the result of a urban demolition in the years following the end of the second world war in order to create an optical telescope that framed the Trajan arch in the background.
The arc was erased between 114 and 117 A.D. to celebrate the inauguration of street Traiana, and since then it has become one of the most important manufactured goods of Benevento. Transformed in a city gate during the Lombard period it was called Porta Aurea, (golden door), according to a clear byzantine derivation terminology. In fact for more than 1000 years the arch remained incorporated in the city walls and only during the XIX century there were the first interventions to isolate from the huddled structures, isolation ended only after the second world war. Today, thanks to many restoration projects the arch is in excellent condition with sculptural decoration almost intact. It can be considered, without any doubt, the best preserved Roman arch among the existing ones. The monument has a height of 15,45 metres and a width of 8,60; it is composed by a unique arch. The numerous sculptures illustrate the emperor Trajan’s life and deed. On the facade facing the city, they are recalled various aspects of his civil government, while on the side towards the countryside are narrated some of his military campaigns, made to extend the boundaries of the empire. In the fornix there are two big panels that remind the presence in Benevento of Trajan: the first to promulgate the Institutio Alimentaria a law imposing taxes to landowners to help children in need to find a job; the second visit to inaugurate the Trajan road in the year 109. At the end of 2004 in the nearby desecrated church of Sant’Ilario, dating the Lombard period, it was inaugurated the museum exhibition “The Arch Tales”. In this charming place it has been created a media path that narrates the story of Trajan, as narrated by the reliefs of the arch, such as several aspects of the story of the monument and the life during the time of ancient romans. The museum of Sant’Ilario is open every day, from Monday to Sunday including holidays, from 10.00a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and from 4.00p.m. to 7.00p.m. The full price ticket is 2 euros, reduced one euro. It is possible to buy for 6 euros, reduced 4 euros, a cumulative ticket valid two days, to visit Sant’Ilario, the Museum of Sannio and the Isis collection at Arcos Museum. The visit to the Arch and Sant’Ilario church finished, we come back to Corso Garibaldi passing again through street Traiano. Turning on the left we proceed up to square Santa Sofia. Along the way it is possible to see on the right the baroque Collenea palace, with its spacious and airy courtyard and just immediately after the cathedral of San Bartolomeo, projected by Filippo Raguzzini at the beginning of XVIII century, as requested by the pope Benedetto XIII. The cathedral contains the bones considered the relics of the apostle brought from Lipari to Benevento in 838 by the Lombard prince Sicardo. Just beyond, always on the left there is the eighteenth century Terragnoli palace, whose facade is attributed to Filippo Raguzzini too. Today it is the seat of the provincial library Antonio Mellusi. Continuing, before reaching the square Saina Sofia, we have the city theatre Vittorio Emanuele, built in the half of the nineteenth century on a project by the Neapolitan architect Pasquale Francesconi. Just immediately we reach the square in front of the Lombard church of Santa Sofia.
The church is Lombard and in 2011 it was declared by Unesco world human heritage, in the serial site “ The Lombard in Italy: the places of the power”. The church was founded by the duke Arechi II in 760. It was born as a palatine church, that is the church attached to the ducal palace where the duke and his court take part to the religious services. After, it was annexed to the church a Benedictine monastery that has had a big importance all over the middle age in the political life both of the city and of most part of the southern Italy. The building has undergone several modifications also due to the various earthquakes that destroyed the city. one of the first changes occurred probably in the first half of the XII century, when the Church was modified by adding a front aisle; This amendment changed it from a central plan Church in a longitudinal Church. On that occasion the Romanesque cloister was realized, cloister which is still existing in the back. The earthquake of 1688 resulted in the collapse of the Tower on the Church, causing then the collapse of several parties including the dome. the Church was then restored in the primitive central plan with a new dome and a different facade, which is the current one, of Baroque inspiration. Even the Interior was modernized with a new Baroque decoration, decoration removed during the last restoration in the middle of the twentieth century. During the last renovation the building got a more medieval aspect with a reacquired discussed stellar plant. on this occasion emerged in the apse of the church some frescoes dated the ninth century. Today the Church is considered one of the most original buildings of the high middle ages, especially for its complex plant consisting of a central hexagon on whose vertices there are six Roman columns of bare; the plant joins the pillars and the perimeter walls with an original blend of different shapes and types vaults. On the facade also of varied and original stylistic synthesis, there is a Romanesque portal of the twelfth century. In the lunette it is depicted Christ enthroned between the Virgin Mary and St. Mercury, the character kneeling instead is probably the abbot Giovanni, author of the twelfth-century reconstructions. The church was restored as church building and parish since the 60s. Therefore schedules for the visit are the ordinary ones of a church outside of liturgical celebrations. After the visit of Santa Sofia, leaving on the left there is a gate which gives entrance to the museum of Sannio. The museum occupies the cloister and the old Benedictine monastery as well as the more modern adjacent rooms.
Museum of Sannio
The monastery of Santa Sofia became a museum in 1928.Before, the monastery had had a very long and varied life. After the decline of the Benedictine presence in the sixteenth century, the convent passed to the Lateran Canons; the Lateran Canons have owned the convent up to the suppression of religious orders in 1806 during the French period. In 1834 the monastery was entrusted to the brothers of the Christian Schools, the Lasallian, who used it as their schools until 1907 when they moved to the near De Simone palace. the monastery became an orphanage for boys, hosting craft activities including a carpentry and a printing shop, set up to teach a job to its young guests. In 1928, after the transition of orphanages to the provincial administration, the monastery became property of Benevento province that decided to settle its own museum until then located in Rocca dei Rettori. Thanks to the arrangement of the Director Afredo Zazo it was born the Museum of Sannio, which is today the major city cultural institute. The museum collection mainly focuses on archaeological finds of the classical era present in large amount in the town. After all, its first organization occurred in 1837 after the recommendation of the German archeologist Mommsen and following the cultural horizons of time, being the classic archaeology the main historic interest of that time. After the collection of stones relief and registration of the Roman period, the museum is progressively enriched by additional discoveries and acquisitions; among them the most important were the Egyptian artifacts from the Iseo Beneventano, fortuitously found during an excavation in 1903. Today these relics were transferred to the new Arcos Museum, built a few meters away in the basements of the government building. in addition to the traditional exhibits, the museum contains pre- and proto-historic finds, coming from the province, and also a rich collection of paintings, graphic works and sculptures illustrating the town cultural evolution since the Middle Ages until today. A moment of the visit is to be dedicated to the Romanesque cloister, one of the most beautiful in southern Italy. The current monastery was built between 1142 and 1176 by Giovanni IV, some with fragments of the former of the eighth century, destroyed by the twelfth-century earthquakes. The cloister is quadrangular, with a reentrant corner due to the church and it consists of fifteen four lights and a three lights windows. The architectural style is Moorish, due to the presence in the city during the twelfth century of the Arab workers. On slender, elegant columns, capitals there are dosserets rich in iconography, going from phito-zoomorfic elements to allegories of human figures, animals, imaginary beings according to the aesthetic of the Romanesque period, all represented with dynamic and vital taste. In the south west of the cloister of a chick has represented one of the oldest plastics representation of the nativity of Jesus, which anticipates the classic nativity scene iconography. The Museum can be visited every day, except on Mondays, from 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. the entrance fee is 4 euros, reduced 2 euros. It is possible to buy for 6 euros, reduced 4 euros, the cumulative ticket, valid for two days, to visit in addition to the Museum, the collection of Isis at Arcos Museum and the stories of Arc in Saint Hilary. Leaving the museum through the bookshop we will return to the square, dominated by the round neoclassical fountain, with an obelisk sustained by lions and realized during the early nineteenth century at the time of the French domination(1806-1815). In fact it was in this period, and exactly in 1810 when the square acquired its shape expropriating and knocking down the fence in front of the church of Santa Sofia. Despite its irregularly shape, the square is very harmonious. In the north east of the square there is the bell tower of St. Sofia, here reconstructed in 1703 after the collapse of the former one during the earthquake in 1688. The considerable distance from the church was not accidental, just to avoid that in case of a future crash, it collapsed on the church. Observing the western side we can still read the inscription, in Lombard letter, that recalls of the primitive foundation of the bell tower between 1038 and 1056, during the time of Gregory II. Beside this inscription there are 5 modern emblems, that remind the main periods of Benevento history. The first at the top on the left, recalls the period Sannitico( VIII-IV century B.C.), the second the Roman period(IV century B.C.-VI century A.D.),the third the period of Lombard domination (VI-XI). On the bottom row the papal coat of arms reminds the period of belonging to the church(XI-XIX century) Finally the last, with the Municipal SPQB acronym referring to the post-unification period, since 1860, when the city gets back its autonomy from the church during the Savoy Reign. On the other two sides of the bell tower, there are two marble panels, made in 1936 by the sculptor Michelangelo Parlato, executing the design of the historic Alfredo Zazo; they represent the periods of the greatest importance of the city, during the Sannitico period and when it became Lombard capital of a duchy extended over the most part of southern Italy. Across the square, at the opposite end of the course, it begins Vico Noce, an alley leading to Hortus Conclusus, next stop on our itinerary.
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 a magical set of archaic morphology sculptures in an important open area of the former monastery of San Domenico,, founded during the XIII century, ,set 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 trough an artistic taste and mythological suggestion. Free entrance, every day from 9.00a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and from 3.00p.m. to 8.00p.m. Travelling through Vico Noce again, we come back to Corso Garibaldi,. Turning right, after few meters we are near the government palace. It was built between 1895 and 1910, and designed in the neoclassical style by the architect Pietro Paolo Quaglia and completed by Nicola Breglia. Its underground recovered during a restoration at the beginning of the XXI century , has been used as a museum. In a section they were placed the remains of the temple of Isis from the Sannio Museum.
The Arcos Museum is located in the basement of the Government Palace of Benevento. renovated and turned into a museum in 2005, originally it hosted contemporary art exhibitions and continues to do so. Since 2014,on the right there are sculptures from the temple of Isis, found in Benevento in 1903 and owned by the Museum of Sannio. In 1903, came to light, a remarkable collection of sculptures belonging to Iseo , so important to be considered the greatest discovery of Egyptian art occurred outside Egypt. The findings come from a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess, temple built by the Emperor Domitian in the year 88 A.D. its shape and location remain still unknown. Among the exhibits there is a neoegyptian obelisk, whose twin is in Papiniano square, along Corso Garibaldi. Always from the same temple, comes the Bue Apis , which in the seventeenth century was placed at the beginning of Viale san Lorenzo. The museum is open to visitors every day except on Mondays. From Tuesday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. ; on Saturdays and Sundays from 9.00a.m. to 1.00. p. m. and from 3.00p.m. to 6.00 p.m. the ticket fee is 2 euros, reduced 1 euro. It is possible to buy for 6 euros, reduced 4 euros, the cumulative ticket, valid for two days, to visit in addition to the Arcos Museum , the Museum of Sannio and the stories of Arc in Saint Ilario. leaving the Arcos Museum, the visitor route continues on the right to the nearby Rocca dei Rettori, medieval building, today property of the Provincial Administration that has its headquarters here.
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 Porta Somma , attached to the Rocca 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 was transferred 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 transferred 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 After the visit we head towards the last op of this journey: the headquarters of the Superintendency of Benevento. Leaving the Rocca , turn right and continue eastbound. Cross Piazza Castello with its war memorial erected in 1929 by the sculptor Publio Morbiducci and by the architect Italo Mancini. Important is the winged victory in bronze, on the top of the monument. Just immediately it starts Viale degli Atlantici, bordered on the right by the town park, a pleasant urban park on the model of English gardens. It was planted in 1879 by the famous botanist of Naples Alfredo Denhart. Past the town park, we come to the complex of San. Felice that houses the headquarters of the Superintendence.
The complex of San Felice was founded in the early seventeenth century as a Capuchin monastery. Then it was abandoned and converted into a prison until the eighties of 1900. After, it has been used as headquarters for the Superintendence. Here there are some Roman tombstones recently found in Benevento area; important is the fossil of a baby dinosaur, found in Pietraroja(mountain village in the province of Benevento bordering with Molise) in 1980.