Amalfi history

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Amalfi is a continuous call for tourists coming from all over the world, thristed of light and beauty, the place of an everlasting spring. In this heavenly nook, history and legend are weaved, and they create an inseparable whole. According to the tradition, Hercules, strength pagan god, loved a nymph called Amalfi, but his love was short: she died and Hercules buried her in the most beautiful place of the world, and to immortalize her, he gave it her name. According to the history, it was founded after Constantino’s death; its origins came from Roman families.

The first news are about 533, during the Greek-Gothic war, with the victory of Narsete against Teia, Amalfi is under the rule of Bizantine Empire and it starts to be a part of Naples dukedom.

In the VI century it’s a diocese. The bishop absolved religious services and he provided to town’s defense. Some aristocratic, landowners, deprived the bishop of his politic power. In 836 Sicardo, duke of Benevento, raided Amalfi, deporting the inhabitants to Salerno.

In 839, Sicardo was killed, the Amalfitans rose, conquering a power and an autonomy that remained until the end of the XI century. Amalfi became Republic in 850. Very often Amalfi united itself with Saracens and Ludovico II against Byzantines, that wanted restore the sovereignty of the Eastern Empire.

Anyway, the alliance with Saracens was unstable and not lasting. In 915, after a very cruel battle, Saracens were defeated and definitely sent away from Reggio Calabria. For all the X century and the beginning of the XI century, the Amalfitans had a commercial increase and a very reliable economic welfare, taking a very important seat in the Mediterranean, the same seat that Pisa and Genoa had later.

The richness of Amalfi was so big that Guglielmo Appulo wrote that only this town was so rich of gold, silver and every kind of fabrics and it was visited by Arabians, Sicilians, Africans and Indians.

That because they had by Amalfitans the most ancient codifications, in the famous ” Tabula Amalphitana “, that was the most accredited code of all the sailor nations of that time.

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It controlled the relations between ship’s master and sailor, between sailors and traders. The same Flavio Gioia’s legend, probably lived at the beginning of the XIV century, gives to Amalfi the credit to have perfected the compass for the navigation and given materials about the first medieval nautical papers. Ruler in spices field, in scents, in silk and precious carpets, in the X century Amalfi coined the Golden Coin, the golden and silver Tara, that were used in Greek Empire, in Afric and in Longobardo principate. Amalfi’s development was so high thanks to its independence.

In 1039 Guaimario V, prince of Salerno, took possession of Amalfi’s dukedom, with the dominion of Salerno on Amalfi. Pressed by Salerno, the Amalfitans governed by Sergio IV, asked to Roberto il Guiscardo, in 1073, to help them. Salerno capitulated but Amalfitans were conquered by Normans. After Norman king’s death, in 1085, Amalfi tried to be free out of Normans power. In 1135 Amalfi suffered an horrible sack by Pisani, traitors, called for helping against Normans. It’s from now that begins Amalfi’s decadence.

In 1343 a terrible sea-quake, described by Petrarca, hit the coast, the most part of the town was destroyed ( probably with it also the Ducal Palace, mentioned in a document as Palatium Amalphitanum ), the fortifications were submerged, the shipyards, nautical equipments. Five years later, the famous plague of 1348, described by Boccaccio, completed the destruction among people.

Amalfi and all coast’s towns, that were beautiful places, populated and fortified, rich of beautiful places, decorated by frescoes, marbles, columns, fountains, began modest towns, without richness, coming back to the traditional economy: fishing, local handicrafts, agriculture. Only at the end of nineteenth century, tourism gave to Amalfi a very big increase, that now is the economic epicenter of all the coast that from Amalfi takes its name.

Positano – Photo © Marisa Haralson
Positano – Photo © Marisa Haralson

At the outset of Amalfi, you can see S.franceso tower, said Tumulo ( Tumulus ) and the Convento dei Padri Minori Conventuali whose building is traditionally attributed to S.Francesco. After Monastery’s suppression in 1087, you can see only the cloister that presents a lot of ogive arches. A very simple cornice complets the cloister: among the arches many little windows. Near the cloister there’s S.Antonio church, with a aisle-less, a marmoreal altar and cinerary ruins in the sacristy.

In the crypt you can see very interesting frescoes of thirteenth century. Here lie Father Domenico Girardelli da Muro’s mortal remains, that was the teacher of the blessed Bonaventura da Potenza whose mortal remains lie in S.Francesco

On the mountain you can see the ex-monastery of Benedictines dedicated to S.Lorenzodel Piano and built by the doge Mansone III in 980 for the unmarried and virtuous women of the town.

In 1840 it was transformed in a cemetery. Here lie the mortal remains of the historic Amalfitan Matteo Camera. In the monastery, today the seat of the municipality, you can see the text of the nautical system of Amalfi, the famous Tabula Civitatis Malphae. These tables are about the navigation: the freight’s price, captain and sailor’s duty, the indemnity of the assurances of naval trades, etc.

Hotel Santa Caterina
Hotel Santa Caterina

And also some news about the social security as the society’s duty to take care of the sailor or member, ill or wounded. From here you can see the Madonna of Pompei church, built in eighteenth century. The portal is decorated with stucco works of baroque and it introduces a aisle-less decorated with stucco works. Very interesting is the tiled floor with majolica of eighteenth century.

Near the sea there’s Flavio Gioia square with a monument for compass’ inventor. From here you can see the remains of the arsenal in which were built the big galleys with 116 oars, the biggest of X – XI century. What you can see today, it’s just a part because it was destroyed by the sea storm in 1343.  In the Duomo square you can see the baroque fountain said of S. Andrea or Popolo built in 1760. In front of the fountain you can see the cathedral.

It’s composed by two basilicas: the lower is dedicated to the Assunta and then to the Crocefisso, about the VI century, it has a aisle-less because the left nave is a part of the Paradise cloister and the right is just a storage; the high basilica, dedicated to S. Andrea has the transept and the crypt, it’s about 839 when it was violated by the prince Longobardo of Salerno, Sicardo.

As said, the cathedral has S. Andrea’s name for a miracle: it was 27 of June in 1544 when to the horizon appeared Kaie-ad-din’s ships, knew as seas’ scourge.

All the Amalfitans, full of fear, began to pray invoking S. Andrea’s help. Suddenly all the coast was hit by a terrible storm and all the pirate ships were forced to go away. So the Amalfitans consecrated 27 of June as a holiday. During this day the bishop takes away the ampoule in which there’s the Manna.

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To Proto’s family there’s a part of an old galley, picked up after the storm, on which are craved putts, fauns and dragons. The miracle is also remembered in a painting of the Amalfitan painter Ottavio Eliani and it’s on the high altar. The cathedral was built in the IX century, it was extended in 990 when the doge Mansone III, obtained by Pope Giovanni XV the promotion and the elevation of this Episcopal church to metropolitan dignity. It was rebuilt in 1203, adapted in 1526, 1556 and 1691 and still rebuilt in 1701-1731 for the archbishop Michele Bologna.

After the ruin of the front on December 24th 1861, the atrium and the front too, were rebuilt by Enrico Alvino with Domenico Morelli, here a mosaic represents Christ on the throne among the symbol of the Evangelists. It’s about 1875 in a Norman and Campania’s style. On the left there’s the bell-tower built between XII and XIII century. It was restored in 1768 and in 1934 was removed all the baroque style. About the end of XII century are the base zone and the two orders, the first with mullioned windows decorated by yellow tufa and the second by windows with three lights decorated by grey tufa.

The belfry has a central main body with 4 little towers covered by a roof with yellow and black tiles and everyone has three mono windows. Wonderful are the plaited arches supported by columns with stellar and flowered style. So, an imposing staircase with 57 steps, gives access to the covered atrium and supported by 26 columns. On the right you can see cardinal’s bust of Pietro Capuano, the Assumption of Domenico Morelli and Paolo Vietri. There are also 4 frescoes about S. Andrea and the miraculous fishing made by Paolo Vietri. Very important is the bronze door with silver overhanging, built in Costantinopoli in 1066 by Simone of Siria payed by the Amalfitan Pantaleone of Mauro Comite. It’s divided in 24 panels with 4 pictures: Christ, the Madonna, S. Andrea and S. Pietro. Inside a baroque style, it’s built in Latin cross style with 3 naves divided by 20 pillars and columns.

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The coffer ceiling is golden with 4 big paintings by Andrea d’Aste, they represents S. Andrea’s flagellation, Manna’s miracle, the Crucifixion and the Saint on the cross. On the high altar S. Andrea’s crucifixion and on both sides two amboni decorated by mosaics about XII century. In the chapel, on the left, an old baptismal basin of red porphyry coming from Paestum, at the end of the right nave there’s the bishop Andrea d’Acento’s sepulcher.

From the left nave, a staircase leads to the crypt. On staircase’s walls there’s a painting about the Madonna col Bambino and S.S. Giovanni and Andrea and the Pieta’ . The crypt is divided by 2 naves. On the altar the bronze statue of S. Andrea given by Philip III of Spain and marble statues of S. Lorenzo and S. Stefano by Pietro Bernini. Under the altar are reserved S. Andrea’s relics, removed in 1208 by the Cardinal Pietro Capuano, back from the Holy Land. Saint’s bones issue an extraordinary substance, the Manna.

An old pilgrim, back from the Holy Land, discovered this supernatural fact on November 24th 1304. From then, relics were put in a way for picking up the Manna by a little tube during a miraculous mission. From the Cathedral you can go to Crocefisso Church and from here to Paradise cloister. Here many mosaics, friezes about XI and XII century, 2 roman sarcophagi with bas-relieves about Peleo and Teti’s wedding and Prosperina’s rape, a sarcophagus about the Decurion Ottavio Rufo, a statue symbolizing the Justice, sarcophagi with the Madonna col Bambino and the apostles, a bas-relief with the Madonna col Bambino and S.S. Andrea and Battista.

Behind the Cathedral there’s S. Maria Maggiore Church about X century. In Franconcello zone “ad Falconcellum” there’s S. Pietro’s Benedectine Monastery about X century. In 1815 it was changed in a hotel. Important are S. Maria Addolorata Church, S.S. Filippo and Giacomo Church.

Where to stay in Amalfi

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