Belmonte Castello in the Val di Comino Italy © Louise Shapcott

photo © Tonino Bernardelli

The History of Belmonte Castello

The area was first occupied by the Volsci and the Samnites until it was conquered by the Romans in 293 BC. Archaeological finds of this era include some monumental epigraphs, a bridge in Lagnaro and the the remains of an ancient aqueduct in the district of Campopiano dating from 1 AD.

The village was first known as just Belmonte, the name having originated from the Latin “Bellus Mons”. In 990 the territory was governed by the Prince of Capua and Benevento. It was a stopping point for pilgrims on their way to Rome.  Next it passed into the hands of the Counts of Marsi. In 1140 the area was conquered by the Normans and in 1270 it was given to the Counts of Aquino.

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Tower of Belmonte Castello Italy © Louise Shapcott
Tower of Belmonte Castello Italy © Tonino Bernardelli

Due to its strategic position, Belmonte Castello was equipped with fortifications in the form of a small fortress surrounded by strong protective town walls, with three gates and a tall watchtower. This had excellent views of the important communication route connecting Cassino with Atina and the Val di Comino. Over the centuries the town changed ownership on numerous occasions,  ruled by the feudal lords of Cantelmo, Carafa, Borgia, Navarro, Cordona, Lautato and Gallio. In 1595 it was described as having “good land for livestock, for vines rather than grain, abundant in farms, meat of every kind, soft white wines.  It has good air, is populated and surrounded by strong walls.  The fortress rises in front of  the tower’s door and has 9 rooms – one subterranean, four on the ground floor and four on the first floor.

The castle was devastated several times over the during centuries by battles and earthquakes.

Plaster Plaque of the Palazzo Gallio depicting Belmonte Castello Italy © Tonino Bernardelli

Belmonte Castello was not considered to be a town in its own right, first coming under the jurisdiction of Atina, from 1819 it formed part of the municipality of Terelle.  It finally became a township in its own right in 1851.  Belmonte was once famed for its traditional textile handicrafts.

The town suffered badly during the bombing of the Second World War, being positioned so close to Monte Cassino and the German Gustav Line. It formed part of the German defensive system and was fortified by the Germans with gun emplacements. Minefields were laid along the Sferracavallo road, which led to Atina. This was an important supply route for the Germans.  The local people suffered much under the German occupation and were subjected to great hardship and repeated bombardments by the Allied forces. Sadly, the ancient  castle was virtually destroyed.

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Following the war the local population dropped rapidly as many of its inhabitants decided to emigrated overseas, many settling in America, Scotland and Ireland.

 

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