Following the fall of the Roman Empire came the Dark Ages when the Val di Comino suffered repeated invasions and looting by the Barbarians. Firstly by the Visigoths in 421 and followed by the Ostrogoths. Atina’s troubled history continued throughout the Medieval era. In 589 AD the town was laid waste and many of its citizens massacred during an attack led by Zottone the Duke of Benevento. In 702 AD it was taken by the Lombards. During the 9th and 10th centuries there followed incursions by the Saracens and by the Hungarians in 938. Possession of the town of Atina passed to the Dukes of Capua, and subsequently to the Counts of Benevento and Marsi. From the year 1000 onward the town flourished with new Medieval settlements built on the hilltops of Santo Stefano, and Colle delle Torre, both of which were protected by strong fortified walls and watch towers. The remains of the castrum of Santo Stefano can still be seen today. There was another small settlement and church built in Santa Maria, the present site of the town’s main cemetery.
In 1140 the Normans conquered the whole of the Val di Comino and introduced the feudal system of ownership.In 1231 a severe earthquake caused considerable damage to the church of Santa Maria. In 1248 Atina was reigned by the Counts of Aquino.
photo © Giulio Pagano
photo – Archivio Biblioteca di Atina
photo © Giulio Pagano
The Earthquake of 1349 and the Dukes Palace
On the morning of the 9th September 1349 a catastrophic earthquake hit the Val di Comino which left Atina once again in ruins. The following year the remaining citizens were afflicted by a terrible pestilence. Those that survived vowed to rebuild the town with the help of the Cantlemo family on the original site of the old Roman town. A Dukes Palace was built by Rostaino Cantelmo, Duke of Alvito, at the highest point of the new town.
Porta Santa Maria
The new town was defended by strong fortified walls. There were three gateways leading into the town. Below is the only one which can still be seen today. It is named Porta Santa Maria.
After the Cantelmo’s the possession of Atina passed on to several feudal lords and barons, to the Carafa family, then on to the Borgia’s, Navarro’s and Cardona’s. In 1595, the year in which the valley was bought by the Gallio family, Atina was described as being “full of people” with its natives being “suitable and affectionate” and who took pleasure in the “hunting of hawks and goshawks, even breeding enough to sell to others“. “….. lived in this city or land, people of literature and manner“.
Also there was considerable building work carried out outside the town walls with the construction of new churches and palaces, improvements to roads and the construction a bridge over the River Melfa.
Today there is still much to indicate the town’s importance in Medieval times. The elegant 14th century Cantelmo’s Palazzo Ducale which ow houses the Town Hall of Atina. This has a the Chapel of San Onofrio and some interesting frescoes depicting life at court during the Middle Ages.
Photos have been accredited to the photographer / owner. Images marked * are in the public domain.
All other photos I have taken myself – © Louise Shapcott