photo © Tonino Bernadelli
Historical evidence indicates that the first settlement near Settefrati was named Vicus and was founded by an ancient Italic tribe, known as the Samnites. In the nearby area of the Val di Canneto, at the source of the River Melfa, there were several pre-Roman temples. One was dedicated to the goddess Mephitis who was said to have had the power to drive out fevers, particularly those brought on by Malaria. In recent years some votive statuettes of the goddess (dating from the 5th/6th century BC) have been unearthed in this area. This territory went on to be conquered by the Romans in 253 BC. Historically the Val di Canneto and Monte Meta were associated with the mining of limonite/iron ore. It is believed that here there were also deposits of gold, silver and copper.
Santa Felicita and Her Seven Sons
The town of Settefrati was named after the seven sons of Santa Felicita. She is said to have been a rich and pious Christian widow of Rome, who had seven sons named Jannuarius, Felix, Philip, Sylvanus, Alexander, Vitalius and Marcial. She and her sons devoted themselves to charitable work and converted many to the religion of Christianity. However they were reported to the Rome authorities by pagan priests and were arrested and forced to renounce their beliefs. Her sons adhered firmly to their religious beliefs and they were all condemned to death by various modes of torture. Felicita was made to witness the death of each of her sons before finally being put to death herself in 164 AD. Subsequently they all became saints in honor of their martyrdom. In the 5th century Benedictine friars created a shrine in memory of the seven sons of Felicita, and the town’s name was changed to the Latin Septem Frates.
From the beginning of the 4th century up to the 12 century, the territory was owned by the the Abbey of Montecassino and the Abbey of San Vincenzo. Over the centuries Settefrati suffered devasting invasions by the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths and Longobards and, between 881 and 916, there were numerous incursions by the Saracens. Aligerno, the abbot of Monte Cassino began a program of rebirth, through the building of several monasteries and fortifications, with the foundation of new settlements. There is mention of the town Settefrati in a document dating from 983. The Counts of Aquino built a fortress which was positioned at the highest point of the town to protect the townspeople from further attack.
Ownership of the territory then passed to the Dukes of Cantelmo and the Navarro family. In the fifteenth century Settefrati suffered numerous lootings and destruction by the Aragonese militia. During the sixteenth century it was attacked, looted and set on fire by a band of brigands led by Marco Sciarra.
In the fifteenth century Settefrati suffered numerous lootings and destruction by the Aragonese militia. From 1595, it was governed by the Gallio family and formed part of the Duchy of Alvito. During the sixteenth century Settefrati was attacked, looted and set on fire by a band of brigands led by Marco Sciarra. In 1654 a violent earthquake almost completely destroyed the settlement. In 1656 it was temporarily abandoned due to an attack of the plague.
With the invasion of Emperor Napoleon’s French troops came the abolition of feudalism. In 1807 it became part of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples.
After the unification of Italy in 1861, the area experienced the phenomenon of banditry and Settefrati was the refuge of the notorious brigand Domenico Coia, who was better known as Centrillo. He and his band of men had a hideaway in the rocky gorges of Canetto, which was located on the border between several different regions.
After the unification of Italy there were profound transformations within the town, with the enlargement of squares and streets, the construction of new houses and palaces and the creation of new services.
In the late 18th century and again in the middle of the 19th century there were attempts to run ironworks near Settefrati and the mines in the Canetto valley, however in both events the experiment gave poor results. During the late 1800’s many of the poor peasant people from Settefrati began to emigrate in the hope of finding work and a better quality of life. Also a huge earthquake hit this region of Italy in 1915.
In 1943, during WWII, the film director Ludovico Visco took refuge in Settefratti. A few years later in 1949 he returned with Franco Zeffirelli, Antonio Pietrangeli, Suso Cecchi and it was here that they wrote the screenplay for the film “La Corazza D’oro” which was shot by Jean Renoir in 1952.
During the Second World War the town was invaded and occupied by German troops. Subquently the town was bombed by the Allied forces, and the population suffered severe hardship and deprivations. This lead to another wave of emigration after the war, with many people from Settefrati settling in Stamford Connecticut in the USA.
The town once again experienced significant damage during the earthquake of 1984, which had its epicenter in the neighbouring town of San Donato.