The Rocca dei Rettori (Rectors’ fortress) in Benevento, consisting of two buildings close to one another – a medieval one and the other dating back to the Renaissance -, stands on the valley where the rivers Sabato and Calore flow into one another, in a strategic area of southern Italy halfway between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Adriatic, along the Via Appia, later “Via Sacra of Langobardorum”.
In this valley epochal battles were fought: the one of the Romans against Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, in 257 B.C., or the one sung by Dante Alighieri in his “Divina Commedia” where, in 1266, in the struggle against the French of Charles of Anjou, Manfred of Swabia succumbed and his dream of a new Empire vanished.
The human settlements on the hill are very old: in the eighth century B.C. it housed a necropolis. In the fourth century B.C. the Samnites, settled in central-southern Italy, built a fortress just right here. Under the Romans the hill became “castellum aquae”, a thermal spot, fed by a branch of the aqueduct coming from Serino, recently brought to light by archaeological excavations.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Benevento, conquered by the Lombards in 570 A.D., became the capital of the Duchy and Principality of “southern Longobardia”. At the high point of its splendour, in 875 a fortified tower was built on the “castellum aquae” that is together, with Porta Somma, one of the points of access to the city, defended by high walls, located on the Via Appia.
In 1070, at the end of the Lombard period, with the Treaty of Worms the papal domination of the city started and continued almost uninterruptedly until 3 September 1860. In order to give a prestigious position and an adequate defence to his representatives in the city, called “Papal Rectors” – fiercely contested by a part of the citizens who refused the borders of the Papal State -, on 5 July 1320 Pope John XXII ordered the construction of a Palace at Porta Somma, next to the fortified Tower, modelled on the French fortress of Carcassonne. The building, indeed, was completed only in the eighteenth century, whereas the erection of the bell tower dates back to the nineteenth century.
In the fifteenth century, for more than a decade, during the fight against the D’Angiò for the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, Alfonso of Aragon settled in the Rocca dei Rettori: the barons used to come to Benevento to swear their fealty to him.
In the sixteenth century, at the end of the umpteenth revolt, Rector Andreone of Artusini was killed: Pope Urban VIII ordered to complete the defences of the Fortress, moved Porta Somma out of the Tower, turning it into a prison, and raised new walls. In honour of the pope, a lion was erected on a Roman column that still “watches over” the entrance to the palace. The new works (except for the “lion”) were demolished after the First World War to make space for the Monument of the “Winged Victory” by Publio Morbiducci.
Today the Rocca dei Rettori, which preserves some of its ancient frescoes, such as the baroque “Crucifix”, the Vault of the President’s Hall and the walls of the Secretary’s Hall, is the institutional headquarters of the Province, but also an exhibition spot, a museum for permanent displays (the Section “Excellent Men” and the paintings by Virginia Tomescu Scrocco) and extemporaneous exhibitions. The beautiful garden surrounding the fortress, with stone artifacts from different eras and the installation “Memory is”, dedicated to the victims of the Shoah, offers a suggestive view.
HOW TO REACH THE ROCCA DEI RETTORI
- Telephone: CUP (booking centre) 345 7542984