History of Gallinaro

According to the writing of Livy, Gallinaro was born after the destruction of the city of Cominium in 293 BC, when many inhabitants of this city dispersed into the Valle di Comino, and founded new settlements. Gallinaro is mentioned in one of Cicero’s works “Ad Poetam” – “Coeparius obviam mihi fuit silva Gallinaria Galinaria”. Silva referred to a nearby forest.

Plaster Plaque From Villa Gallio Showing a View of Gallinaro © Tonino Bernardelli

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For many years Gallinaro was ruled by the Abbey of Montecassino. In 1023 Gallinaro was ruled by the Counts of Sora before being seized by the Normans.  In 1067 ownership passed to the fiefdom of the Dukes of Aquino and was inhabited by a population of 370.  In this era a castrum was built on the highest point of the town, which had a commanding 360 degree view of the surrounding area of the Val di Comino.  It is said that Gallinaro communicated with the other local ducal fortifications using signals with smoke and fire.  In 1280 the town passed into the hands of Rinaldo Gaulard of Arpino.  The Church of San Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista was built in 1300 on the site of the old castle.

Gallinaro continued to change hands over the years being ruled by powerful duchies such as those of the Etendard,  Cantelmo,  Borgia,  Navarro,  Cardona and the Gallio families.

There is a plaque in the old town that records two significant events.  The first was  the terrible pestilence of 1656 which wiped out 17 families.  The second was when lightening struck the town during a violent thunderstorm in 1733.  The town developed during the 18th century. The ancient castle was totally incorporated into the church, houses were enlarged and the Sanctuary of San Gerardo was transformed into a Baroque church in around 1713.

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In the late 1800’s the area was plagued by robbers and brigands, and life was hard for many. There were few landowners and much of the terrain was owned by the church.  Thus many people of Gallinaro decided to emigrate in search of a better life.  A number went to America and many to France.

Some became models posing for artists such as Dalou, Falguière and Melin. Adele Apruzzese modeled for Auguste Rodin in his famous sculpture “Eva”. Carmela Bertagna modeled for the artist John Singer Sargent. Carmela Caira, Cesidio Pignatelli and Rosa Arpino modelled for Matisse. Some emigrants found artistic fame such as  – Domenico Bevilacqua, a sculptore, and Carolina Carlesimo, a painter, who used the pseudonym of “Juana Romani”.

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From the time of Napoleon’s rule Gallinaro was to become under the jurisdiction of the municipality of San Donato Val di Comino, until finally in 1948  it became a Comune in its own right.

Several of Gallinaro’s ancient buildings were damage during the earthquake of 1984.

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