The Dukes Palace or Palazzo Ducale in Atina

On the 9th September 1349 a catastrophic earthquake struck Atina. As a result the town was left in ruins once. Consequently the surviving citizens vowed to rebuild the town with the help of the Cantlemo family.  Plans were soon drawn up to build a new town. It was to be constructed on the original site of the old Roman town and a small medieval town that had been built by the Counts of Aquino.  The plans included the construction of a grand fortress, a Dukes Palace or Palazzo Ducale at the highest point of the new town.  This project was commissioned by Rostaino Cantelmo, Duke of Alvito. Yet it took two full centuries to complete.

Possession of this stronghold passed from the Cantelmo family on to a succession of feudal lords and barons. During the late 1400’s the ownership passed to Diomede Carafa di Maddoloni, who converted it into a military residence.  Later it was passed on to the Borgia’s, the Navarro’s and the Cardona’s.  In 1595 it was bought by the Gallio family. Then in the 18th century it was handed down to the Paniccia family of  Vicaldi. Finally in 1870 it was sold to the town council. For a period it was utilised as a prison.  However in the early 1900’s it was converted into a theatre and conference centre by Giuseppe Visocchi.

The Duke’s Palace is rectangular in shape and is located in Piazza Saturno.  Its grand facade has three mullioned windows, and three oval rose windows positioned at a higher level. The main entrance has a large doorway with a pointed Gothic arch. Above the archway there is a Roman low-relief carving depicting a votive offering which dates from the first Imperial period. Flanking the facade there are two rectangular towers.  One is incomplete and hence somewhat shorter than the other.

photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

The entrance leads to an inner courtyard.

photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

Inside the Dukes Palace

Inside the Dukes Palace on the first floor there is a grand hall. On display here there is a wonderful Roman floor mosaic. It dates from the 2nd century BC and is made of black and white tiles. The intricate mosaic depicts four armed Samnite warriors set between panels of geometrical designs. This mosaic was discovered in 1946 during excavations in Via Virilassi.

Samnite Roman mosaic of Atina Italy
Samnite Roman mosaic of Atina Italy

photo © Giuseppe Massa

Samnite Roman mosaic of Atina Italy

photo © Giuseppe Massa

Samnite Roman mosaic of Atina Italy

photo © Giuseppe Massa

Samnite Roman mosaic of Atina Italy

photo © Giuseppe Massa

Samnite Roman mosaic of Atina Italy

photo © Giuseppe Massa

The Chapel of San Onofrio

On the second floor of the Dukes Palace there is another large hall and the private chapel dedicated to San Onofrio. This contains some 14th century wall frescoes depicting the Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, Christ in Glory and the saints Onofrio, John the Evangelist and Michael the Archangel.

photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina

Also preserved are three 14th century medieval frescoes, two of which are taken from the ruined Church of San Marco. They depict The martyrdom of St. Dario and Life at court during the Medieval period.

Within the Dukes Palace there is a special room with three modern multi-media interactive units depicting Atina and the Val di Comino during the Medieval period.  A section of the palace now houses the Town Hall and the Register Office.

Finally, outside the Dukes Palace there is a Roman statue.  It is said that the head was changed with the proclamation of each new Emperor. The epigraph inscribed on the base records Marco Aurelio Antonio, who was Emperor between 161-180. It is thought that he owned a holiday villa in Atina.

Italian Heart

Photos have been accredited to the photographer / owner.  Images marked * are in the Public Domain. 

Photos marked with  are believed to be in the Public Domain due of their age.

All other photos I have taken myself –  © Louise Shapcott