Benevento is a city closely bounded to the Christian Religion both for cultural reasons and for political reasons, having been an integral part of the Papal States for eight centuries. In its history there were lots of opportunities to meet personalities of first order, then ascended to the papal throne or elevated to the altars. It is important to remember that one of the first bishops of the city was Saint Gennaro, who was martyred in Pozzuoli in 305. However the city, gave the birth to three Popes: Felice IV, Vittore III and Gregorio VIII. In addition to Saint Gennaro, another bishop of the city also became a saint: Saint Barbato who, in VII century, operated in the conversions of the Lombards to Christianity. The city also houses important relics and throughout its long history , it has seen the presence and work of several saints and blessed. The proposed itinerary is just a small glimpse of the “ city of saints”.
Madonna delle Grazie
The Basilica of Madonna delle Grazie was built for a vow made by the citizens during the cholera epidemic of 1837. The project was made by the architect Vincenzo Coppola according to a neo-Renaissance style. The first stone was laid on 20th May 1839 by the papal delegate Gioacchino Pecci, future Pope Leo XIII. The construction lasted for several decades so that the Basilica was consecrated only in 1901 although it still lacked of the façade with the portico, which was built in the twenties of the twentieth century. There were several restorations, both for the bombings in 1943 , that brought down the dome, and for the earthquake in 1980. The church houses the statue of polychrome wood of the Madonna delle Grazie col Bambino ( The lady of Grace with the son) , of the sixteenth century Neapolitan school. The cult of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento is very old. Traditionally it starts with a Byzantine icon brought to Benevento from Saint Artelaide in the sixth century. The church she wanted to be built, collapsed in the earthquake of 1456 and the board, then replaced with the current statue, was brought to the ancient Church of San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence), which at that time was outside the walls of the city. Here the cult continued until now. The ancient church of San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence), which stood beside the current Basilica, where is now located the convent of Friars Minor, was destroyed by the bombing in 1943. the beautiful portico of Ionic façade ends with a terrace on which are placed six statues: from left, Saint Rocco, Saint Gennaro, Saint Bartolomeo, Saint Francesco, Saint Barbato and Saint Antonio. On the top of the gable there is the statue of the Madonna delle Grazie ( The Lady of Graces) , which incorporates the iconography of the wooden statue of the sixteenth century. Under the porch, beside the entrance, there are the statues of the two Pope Benedict XIII ( Pope Orsini, former Archbishop of Benevento and who had a great devotion to Our Lady of Graces and Leo XIII ( who laid the first stone for the new temple). Outside, on the left, there is the recent statue of Pope John Paul II to commemorate his coming in Benevento, and the visit to this Basilica on 2nd July 1990. The sculpture is by Andrea Martini, also author of the bronze relieves of the Stations of the Cross and of the two angels which are used as holy water at the entrance. From the basilica we proceed along avenue San Lorenzo, and at the crossroads we go straight on the main Street Garibaldi to reach the Square Cardinal Pacca, a large space that was once occupied by the great monastery of St. Peter , demolished and destroyed by bombing in 1943.
Arc of San Gennaro
According to a tradition, not scientifically founded, the birthplace of San Gennaro was under this arch that has its name today. The structure has a mysterious appearance and unclear typological recognition. It is certainly a building piece of medieval origin, dating back to the early eleventh century. Under the arch there is a shrine with a panel depicting Saint Gennaro kneeling at the feet of the Madonna with the Child. The area has now been abandoned. After taking a look at the site, you can take street San Gaetano, cross the archaeological park of Sacramento, which can also take two minutes to be visited, then you came out in street Carlo Torre, next to the Cathedral. Proceeding to the left, turning right you finally find the entrance to the Cathedral.
Inside the Cathedral , just to the left there is an ancient sarcophagus of the late Roman Period where the Archbishop Orsini placed the relics of several saints after their reconnaissance. They were previously placed under the main altar. The current Cathedral of Benevento is a modern property as it has been rebuilt between 1950 and 1965 after bombing of 1943 completely destroyed the previous monumental complex. It is preserved the façade and the bell tower from Romanesque Period ( XII- XIII century) they , fortunately, were not destroyed by the bombing. There are some elements of Pisan inspiration, whose style can also be found in other Apulian-Romanesque buildings of Capitanata. The façade contains many tombstones also from the Lombard period and in the last arch on the right a statue considered a portrait of Manfredi of Swabia is located . The bell tower also, as almost all the medieval monuments in Benevento, has different Statues deriving from Roman or burial buildings. Nestled in the eastern side of the tower, is also a robed boar relief that has contributed to spread the legend that the city was found by Diomedes. The façade was also embellished with a bronze door , absolute masterpiece of Romanesque art created in the second half of the twelfth century. Dramatically shattered by bombing in 1943, the remaining pieces were reassembled and the restored door was placed inside the Cathedral while at the portal was placed a modern copy. The interior contains several scattered surviving elements of the previous building destroyed by bombing , including a precious medieval Statue of Saint Bartolomeo , patron of Benevento, whose remains arrived in the city in the year 838. Recent archaeological excavations have allowed us to bring to light archaeological layers below the building and much of it is open today at the Diocesan Museum, recently set to expose precious finds of this extraordinary historic building. The Diocesan Museum is open on the following days: Tuesday, Wednesday , Friday and Saturday from 09:00 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 19:00. the admission is free. In the Cathedral of Benevento on 10th August 1910 Friar Pio from Pietralcina, proclaimed saint on 16th June 2002 received the priestly ordination. To remember who is surely the most famous saint of Benevento, was placed in the Cathedral a priestly ordination statue of Padre Pio by the sculptor Giuseppe di Marzo. Completed the visit of the Cathedral you can go outside from the entrance on the left aisle and you are in front of the square Orsini on the right . In the centre of it stands the eighteenth century fountain dedicated to Pope Benedict XIII, whose statue is placed on the top of the monument. Pope Benedict XIII was archbishop of Benevento from 1686 to 1730.He preserved the ownership of the Dioceses even after his elevation as a Pope. He was protagonist of a great restoration of the dioceses and also of the social life; Pope Orsini, as called by the citizens in Benevento, was a personage of very great importance for the history of the city. On the right there is the Archbishop’s Palace, that like the Cathedral, was rebuilt after the bombing in 1943. Inside you find the Provincial Library “Pacca” and the main Library, which preserve important founds, in particular a rich corpus of medieval codes written in the famous lower case Beneventana. The itinerary can continue along the main street Garibald, which is the main road spine of the town. The artery tooks its current appearance at the end of the nineteenth century , when it was expanded by reconstructing the buildings located on the left side going up. Along the course , in the first section , passing on the right, you find the Palace Paolo V old town hall built in the late seventeenth century, and just ahead , the Church of Saint Anna of the eighteenth century. On the left, opposite, there is the imposing building of the former archdiocesan seminary, of the seventeenth century, now used as the State Archives. In the next square, in the centre, is placed since 1872, a neo Egyptian Obelisk of 88 A.D., coming from the temple of Isis wanted by the Emperor Diomiziano. A little further you get the intersection with Trajan Street. The road is the result of a planning gutting of the years immediately following the end of the Second World War, just to create an optical telescope that could frame the Trajan’s Arch in the background.
Palace Rotondi Andreotti Leo
Along Trajan Street and before reaching the Arch, on the left there is the imposing façade of the building Rotondi Andreotti Leo, dating back to the seventeenth century, the façade of which is attributed to the Neapolitan architect Giovan Battista Nauclerio. In this building , on 24th July 1880, Saint Giuseppe Moscati was born. The father was a native of the province of Avellino and reached Benevento in 1877 as a president of the Court. Giuseppe was born in this house, the seventh of nine children. Later the family moved first to Ancona and then to Naples, where the young Giuseppe grew and studied up to become a doctor at the age of 23. Deeply religious in the spirit, he devoted himself selflessly to care for the sick, often without compensation and helping them financially when he could. He died at only 47 years, in 1927. on 16th November 1975 , he was declared blessed by Pope Paul VI, and on 25th October 1987 was proclaimed saint by Pope John Paul II.
In the year 838, the Lombard prince of Benevento Sicardo, made an expedition to Lipari to get the relics of the apostle Bartholomew, mysteriously arrived on the island by sea in the mid-sixth century. When the relics arrived in Benevento, a magnificent Basilica was built, to house the relics, just next to the Cathedral, on the eastern side. This Basilica, restored after the earthquakes of the twelfth century, was damaged again by the earthquake of 1688, while they proceeded to its restoration, a new earthquake in 1702 blown it down .At that time, Cardinal Vincenzo Maria Orsini was Archbishop of Benevento, he became Pope in 1724 with the name of Benedict XIII. During his pontificate he gave the amounts necessary to rebuild a Basilica dedicated to Saint Bartholomew, proclaimed Patron Saint of the city. The Church was built in the place where now we can find it, on the project of Filippo Raguzzini, one of the preferred architects by the Pope who consecrated it on 8th May 1729. The Church, with a single nave, is embellished with a fine carved wooden choir. Under the main altar, in an urn of red porphyry, are preserved the relics of the Apostle. After having completed the visit of the Basilica, you can go up the main street Garibaldi, coming out on the right, you proceed up to street Tenente Pellegrino, which starts turning right. On the left there is the majesty façade of the former convent of San Domenico. Continuing on the right, passing the former monastery of San Vittorino, finally, at the end of the street, you will get the square where stands the Ancient Church of the Annunziata.
The church was completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1688, in Baroque style. The interior is a single nave with three chapels on each side. It is important to notice , in particular, the third one on the right, when you go into. It is the chapel of Saint Gennaro, built by Filippo Raguzzini. At the top, in this chapel, the marble bust of Benedict XIII was placed in 1752. In the choir of this church, in two mix linear frames, are placed two large paintings of Giuseppe Castellano, a very active painter in Benevento in the period of Orsini. The two paintings, dated 1720, are a very original compositions with all the patron saints of the city. The reason of these two paintings is not accidental. This church was often used in the eighteenth century as a meeting people point , a sort of enlarged assembly room, to discuss issues of great interest in the city. It was therefore appropriate to ensure that there were the patron saints of Benevento to watch the people through these two paintings. In the first of two paintings we can see the patron saints whose cult has a greater antiquity. At the top ( the Virgin) our Lady of Graces dominates, next to her the Archangel Michael, whose cult dates back the Lombard period. Then there are two Bishops of Benevento, Saint Barbato and Saint Gennaro, then San Biagio and San Bartolomeo who is the patron saint of the city. Other Patron Saints are saint Donato, Saint Mercurio and Saint Giovenale, other saints of which the city preserved some relics. The two paintings of Castellano with the patron saints were commissioned at the time of Orsini , and so, we must attribute to him the choice of new saints to protect the city of Benevento. Remembering that Cardinal Orsini belonged to Dominican Order, the first two saints we see at the top are Saint Domenico and Saint Thomas Aquinas, belonging to the Domenican Order too. We must also remember, that the postulator of the cause of beatification of Aquinas was a Samnita, Guglielmo da Tocco. In the middle of the painting we find Saint Filippo Neri , whom Orsini made a church be built too. The cult to San Filippo by Orsini derived from the earthquake of 1688. the Archbishop remained buried under the rubble and was released after several hours. In that interval the only thing he could see was a picture of Saint Filippo who was then so comforting while waiting for salvation. The other patron saints of Benevento , as seen on the canvas, are Saint Andrea from Avellino, Saint Anthony from Padua, saint Felice from Cantalice, saint Nicholas from Tolentino, saint Ignatius from Loyola, san Francis Borgia and Saint Francis Saverio.