The Palazzo Ducale in Atina Italy

photo © Italo Caira

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. 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 Vicalvi. 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 a little shorter than the other. The entrance leads into a inner courtyard.

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.

The Interior of the Palazza Ducale during the Atina Jazz Festival

Interior of the Palazzo Ducale Atina Italy

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.

Also preserved are three 14th century medieval frescoes, two of which were taken from the ruined Church of San Marco. They depict The Martyrdom of St. Dario and Life at Court during the Middle Ages.

The palace now serves as the Town Hall and the Register Office. Some rooms belong to the Museo Archeologico / Archaeology Museum of Atina and contain modern multi-media/interactive units which depict Atina, the Val di Comino and “Frusinate” during the Medieval period.

Museo Archeologico Multi Media Atina © Louise Shapcott

The Roman Statue Pasquino

There are also some Roman remains exhibited in the entrance. Just outside the palace there is a Roman statue – the locals call him Pasquino.  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 AD. It is thought that he owned a villa in the Atina area.

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