photo © Italo Caira
The History of Casalattico
The History of Casalattico is long and eventful. The nearby village of Montattico takes its name from an influential Roman, named Titus Pomponius Atticus (109 BC – 32 BC), who owned a rustic villa in the locality known as the Lago. This was situated near to the Pozzi area. Pomponius Atticus was an illustrious Roman financier who had been a governor of the Greek province of Attica, where he became a very wealthy man. He transported back numerous Greek slaves, and even to this day some of the local people of the Montattico area bear strong Greek characteristics, and the common surname of Macari which has Greek origins (ie Makarios). Atticus was a close friend of Cicero, the notable Roman orator writer and statesman who was known to have often visited this area.
An ancient epigraph was discovered near to the Montattico / Monforte area inscribed in both Latin and Greek. It refers to the construction of a road by Caius Pomponius Tigranus that linked Montattico with the town of Atina. In Montattico there was a Roman temple dedicated to Bacchus.
There are several Roman remains to be found in the Casalattico area which include a Roman road and an ancient bridge (1st century AD) spanning the River Melfa, near the Casal delle Mole hamlet of Casalvieri. There are also the remains of several funeral monuments, altars and a temple near the village of San Nazario.
The Volsci and Samnites
Prior to the Romans this was the territory of the Volsci people and then of the Samnites. In the 4th century BC the cult of Mefitis was widespread in the area. Mefitis was an Italic divinity linked to springs and rivers and was invoked for the fertility of females and in agriculture. There was a small shrine near to the present church of San Gennaro in Casalattico.
The history of Casalattico continues: during the Middle Ages there were also settlements in this area, which were known as Monte Casale or Casale Attico which later became known as Montattico and Casalattico. Over the centuries this area was plagued by a succession of devastating raids by the Visogoths, Lombards, Saracens and Hungarian invaders. This resulted in the local people retreating from the valley floor and taking refuge in the higher territory. Thus Casale became a small fortified town with a commanding view of the River Melfa below and its mills. Some remains of the town walls and a semi-circular tower are still visible today.
Two monasteries were founded by the Benedictine’s of the Abbey of Montecassino. The first was the Monastery of San Nazario, which was built in the 9th century on the remains of a Roman temple. The original construction was destroyed during Saracen invasions, however the monastery was soon rebuilt by the monks. It stood on the left bank of the river Melfa, on the site of the present day Church of San Nazario, in the district which bears the same name. It became one of the most important Benedictine monasteries of the Valle di Comino and had a mill together with bulkheads and canals. The monastery was the centre of the agricultural community.
A second monastery was dedicated to Sant’Angelo di Pesco Mascolino which was built in approximately 1085 on a smaller pre-existing sacred building together with a church. They were situated between Casalattico and the nearby town of Casalviieri, The latter was located on the slopes of Monte Attico in the Plauto district, on the left bank of the River Melfa. The Church of the Limata was located on the right bank. However, the monastery fell into decline and was later abandoned. In around 1410, both the Monastery and the Church of the Limata were transformed into a granary. The ruins of these churches can still be seen today.
Casalattico passed into the hands of the Counts of Aquino who built a castle and watchtower (12th century) in the area now known as Montattico. The Counts of Aquino built other defensive structures at the Rocca Malcucchiara (in Villa Latina) and the village of Terelle to guard the entrance to the Cassino valley. These fortifications enabled agricultural settlements to develop and flourish once again in the Comino Valley. In a document of 1305, now held in the Curia Vescovile di Sora, there is mention of the village of Casalattico governed by the Counts of Aquino. It cites the church of San Barbato and its rector, Dominus Petrus Andrea.
On 9th September 1349 a violent earthquake devastated the entire valley. Subsequently the town was rebuilt and was surrounded by fortified walls and guarded by watchtowers.
In 1439 Casalattico became part of the County of Arpino. Between 1464 and 1472 it was ruled by the Papal States. From 1472 it was then ruled by the Della Rovere family following the marriage of Leonardo della Rovere and Giovanna d’Aragona, the daughter of the King of Naples. From 1579 possession was passed to the Boncompagni as part of the duchy of Sora. From 1796 Casalattico became ruled directly by the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily.
The area was notoriously plundered by robbers and brigands who preyed on the local inhabitants and travelers alike. Following Italy’s revolution in 1858 and the unification of Italy in 1861 many of the local population left their villages and hamlets to escape poverty in search of work.
The Second World War
During the Second World War Casalattico and the surrounding towns and hamlets found themselves in the midst of the conflict between the German and Allied Forces along the Gustav Line. The local people had to endure much suffering and deprivation. Many were displaced to neighbouring towns and villages, with the exception of the hamlet of Mortale (now Monforte). On the 5th March 1944 almost the whole community were deported to a concentration camp in Cesano, just north of Rome, near Lake Bracciano.
Following the liberation from the Germans, in a period of desperation and extreme poverty, there was a renewed wave of emigration. Many settled in Ireland and Scotland, selling ice-cream, setting up cafés and fish and chip shops. In fact, the largest Italian community resident in Ireland stems from Casalattico.
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