Diocese in Campania, Southern Italy. The city is situated on the gulf of the same name, backed by a high rock crowned with an ancient castle. The surrounding country is well cultivated, and a natural harbor promotes the commerce of agricultural products; breeding of horses is carried on to a considerable extent. There are two mineral springs. The entrance to the cathedral, built by Robert Guiscard, is through a great court surrounded by porticos, with columns of granite and porphyry, where several ancient sarcophagi are preserved. The middle doors are of bronze, beautifully decorated. In 1722 the interior was transformed by Peorio.

The beautiful columns were shut up between pilasters of walling, and the pointed arches were ruined. Of the ancient basilica there remains a high marble candelabrum adorned with mosaics; between the choir and the side of the high altar is the chapel of Giovanni da Procida, also adorned with mosaics and containing the tomb of Gregory VII. In the chapel to the right there is a beautiful Pieta, the finest work of Andrea Salerno. Among other treasures of the sacristy is an ivory altar frontal with scenes from the Old and from the New Testament. There is a tradition that the body of St. Matthew, the apostle, is preserved in the crypt under the high altar; the columns of the vault are beautifully incrusted with multi-colored marbles. Among other churches are: the Annunziata; San Giorgio, which may rightly be called a picture gallery (Life of St. Benedict); and S. Domenico, where an arm of St. Thomas Aquinas is preserved. Charitable institutions were, and still are, numerous.

Salerno – Photo © -
Salerno – Photo © –

Salerno was the city of the Salentini. After war with Hannibal (194 B.C.), a Roman colony was established there. In the Social War it was taken by the Samnites. In the eighth century the city was in the power of the Lombard dukes of Benevento; Arichis fortified it and took refuge there, when Charles the Great invaded his duchy. In 840 Siconulfus, brother of the Duke Sicardus who was killed by the partisans of Radelgisus, was proclaimed prince at Salerno, which from that time constituted an independent principality. With the assistance of the Saracens and with the spoils of the churches Siconulfus defended his independence, which was confirmed in 851 by the Emperor Louis II , to whom the prince had sworn allegiance. The chief cities of the principality were Taranto, Cassano, Cosenza, Paestum, Conza, Salerno, Sarno, Cimitile (Nola), Capua, Teano, and Sora. The son of Siconulfus, Sico, was dethroned by his tutor, Petrus, who was succeeded by his son Ademar; the latter, however, was deposed by a conspiracy, tortured, and blinded, while Guaiferius was put in his place (861). In 874 the port of Salerno was so well defended that the Saracens had to abandon the blockade of the city. Guaimarus, son of Guaiferius, struggled (880) against the Saracens and the Byzantines, but on account of his cruelty he was deposed, blinded, and thrown into prison. His son, Guaimarus II, ruled wisely.

Gisulfus became famous through the splendor of his court. He was despoiled by the exiled Prince of Beneventum, Landolfo, but Pandolfo Capo-di-Ferro, Prince of Beneventum, restored Gisulfus (974), who, through gratitude, associated with himself in the principality Pandolfo, son of the liberator, by whom he was succeeded in 978. The latter also was deposed by Mansus III, Duke of Amalfi (981), who was confirmed in the principality by Otho II. The people of Salerno, however, rebelled against him, and gave the throne to Giovanni Lamperto, a descendant of the Dukes of Spoleto. Under his son and successor, Guaimaro III (994-1018), the people of Salerno were helped by about forty Norman warriors to repel the Saracens. Guaimaro IV dreamed of uniting the whole of lower Italy into a single principality; he took Amalfi and Sorrento and warred with Argiro, master of Bari, but was assassinated by the Amalfitans in 1031. It was only with the assistance of the Normans that his son Gisulfus III was able to recover his throne. The cruelty of Gisulfus against the Amalfitans gave to Robert Giuscard, brother-in-law of Gisulfus, a pretext to wage war and to take possession of Salerno, which was bravely defended (1075). Gisulfus ended his days in the pontifical states. Thus the last Lombard principality of Italy came to an end. At the death of Guiscard his states were divided; Salerno was inherited by Roger, who was succeeded (1111) by his son William; at the latter’s death Salerno gave itself to Roger II of Sicily (1127), from whom it was taken by the Emperor Lothair (1137), although the latter was unable to hold it. In 1196 Salerno was again besieged, by land and sea, for having held Constance, wife of Henry IV, a prisoner. For this offense dreadful revenge was taken and Salerno never recovered from the damage done to it in the pillage. The heirs of the first princes of the House of Anjou bore the title of Prince of Salerno; John II invested with it Girolamo Colanna, nephew of Martin V. Charles V suppressed the principality, but the province continued to be called Principality of Salerno.

The medical school of Salerno was famous in medieval history; it was founded neither by Charles the Great nor by the Arabs, the city never having been under the domination of either. Its origin is to be found in the Benedictine monastery of Salerno, established in 794, in which the botanical and the medical works of the ancients were studied. Its fame grew, when about the year 1070 the celebrated Costantino Africano took refuge there. He had studied in the schools of the Arabs in Babylon, at Bagdad, and in Egypt, and was presented by the brother of the caliph of Babylon to Guiscard, who took him as secretary. He gave a new impulse to philosophical and to medical studies by making known in the West the works of the Arabs. Robert I gave laws to the schools of Salerno, which was the first Western school to introduce academic degrees. New regulations were established for it by Frederick II, who ordered that no one should practice medicine without being “licensed” by that school, the fame of which waned after the fifteenth century through the competition of Naples. The school was suppressed in 1811, together with the University of Salerno. Among the famous physicians that it produced were: Garisponto, author of the “Passionarium Salerni”; Cofone (Ars medendi); and Matthaeus Platearius, author of a commentary on the “Antidotarium” of Nicolo Pietro Musandino (thirteenth century). The “Herbarium” of the school of Salerno was disseminated throughout Europe in the twelfth century. In the same century the rules of hygiene of this school were collected and edited in leonine verse; these rules, which even now are not antiquated, were the schools greatest title to praise. The “Anonymus Salernitanus” who continued the history of the princes of Benevento from Erchempertus to 980, Andrea Sabatini a pupil of Raphael, and Andrea da Salerno were natives of this city.

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