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Lost Churches of Terracina. 1 of 5

Lost Churches of Terracina. 1 of 5

A tale between the Middle Ages and the modern and contemporary age. A real walk through time. 5 mini episodes about the lost churches of Terracina (Latina, Italy). A special edition of A Spasso con Sara.

A unique case: a history linked to that of Rome

Terracina is an example of a city with continuity of life. Probably the center of the Ausoni at the end of the sixth century BC, was perhaps already under Roman rule shortly after, being mentioned in the first treaty between Romans and Carthaginians reported by the Greek historian Polibius. It fell into the hands of the Volscians and was regained by the Romans in 406 BC. After a bloody spring and pull with the Volscians, in 329 B.C. the descendants of Romulus founded a colonia maritima there. From that moment, the fate of Anxur-Tarracina was indisputably linked to that of Rome and its history can be largely inscribed within the wider framework of the city.

 

The city of Terracina and its distance from Rome.

 

Christianity in Terracina

And like Rome, also the ancient Terracina was invested, starting from the first century AD, by that phenomenon of universal importance that was Christianity. The new religion, centred on the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, saw in Terracina the birth of an early community, presumably thanks to the Appian Way and the port, which had the merit of connecting the small town of Lazio with Rome (at the time the largest metropolis in the ancient world) and with the most remote corners of his empire.

A stretch of the Appian Way along the northern side of the Aemilian Forum of Terracina.

 

St. Peter’s in Terracina?

It is said that, thanks to the Appian Way, Saint Peter visited Terracina. When he landed in Puglia, the Prince of the Apostles set off on a journey to the city where, according to tradition, he lived for twenty years and found himself martyred.

The Appian Way, as is well known, was built in 312 B.C. and extended until Brindisi, connecting Rome with the south of Italy. And the Regina Viarum (the name by which the Appia was known throughout the world) crossed the heart of the town of Terracina. Consequently, anyone who wanted to reach Rome from the south of Italy, had to pass through our city. Although we do not have material traces that concretely document the stopover of St. Peter at Terracina, we can declare quite plausible the hypothesis of his crossing of the city.

 

The Crucifixion of St. Peter in a famous painting by Caravaggio in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome (Credits: arte.it).

 

The first Christian community in the city

A Christian community certainly existed in Terracina in the sixth century AD. In fact, a letter written by Pope Gregory the Great dates back to that time and, in 590 A.D., was addressed to Peter, bishop of the city, and to his community. The document, very precious, indirectly attests to the existence of an Ecclesia Terracinese (and also of a Jewish) but not that of a cathedral building connected to it.

It is very likely that the first churches of Terracina were located in the western part of its territory, outside the town protected by the walls (the last of which date back to the first decade of the fifth century AD). This area, drained by the Romans through special hydraulic systems and divided by them into many small agricultural plots, housed, in fact, the tombs of San Cesareo and San Silviano, the first martyrs of the city. Not by chance, it has gone down in history with the name of Valley of Saints.

La Valle of Terracina. Scheme of the ancient Roman centuriation and position of the ancient town (in orange).

Religion and Christian rites were practiced in hiding. In fact, it was necessary to wait until 313 A.D., the year of Constantine’s edict of tolerance, so that Christianity could be professed in the light of the sun like the many other new religions that were spreading at that time.

In Terracina, therefore, in the early Christian era (III – IV century AD) the churches as we understand them did not exist! Perhaps the ancient rustic villas of La Valle were used, with a phenomenon very similar to that of the domus ecclesiae of Rome. Those who, in essence, had a large space, made it available to the community for the celebration of Mass.

 

Basement of the large rustic villa in Monticchio ne La Valle di Terracina.

Churches come into the city

Churches only entered the city in the Carolingian age (VIII-IX century A.D.). At that time, in fact, Pope Leo IV (847-855 AD) donated a series of liturgical objects and furnishings to the Cathedral of Terracina. Its donation presupposes the presence, at least from the ninth century AD, of a cathedral building, which used, in part, the remains of the ancient Tempio Maggiore of the Aemilian Forum. Shortly after, the original city parishes connected to the first churches were also born, on which the subsequent urban development depended.

 

The Cathedral of Terracina.

A new phase began in the Romanic period (XI – XII century A.D.), marked by the birth of new churches. The city, characterized by a strong increase in population, expanded with five new villages leaning against its walls and each with its own parish church.

The subsequent Gothic period (13th-14th centuries AD) also saw the construction of new Christian buildings of worship. Two important convents were also built, that of San Francesco, on the hill of the same name, and that of San Domenico, inspired by the Cistercian tradition of the nearby Abbey of Fossanova.

 

The last transformation: the modern age

In modern times, after a first partial abandonment of the religious building heritage of the city (XVI – XVII century AD), it was recovered thanks to Pius VI Braschi, whose name is inextricably linked to that of Terracina, chosen as the physical end of the great work of draining of the Pontine Marshes promoted by him. And so, as part of a more general plan for the reorganization and revision of the city, some of its ancient churches disappeared, others were renovated, others were built from scratch.

 

The pope Pius VI (Credits: www.museivaticani.va).

 

 

But now I’m stopping here! For further details and to discover the names, location and traces of the lost churches of Terracina, I invite you to follow me in the next episodes of #aspassoconsara

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in CHURCHES & HOLY SITES, 0 comments
The Vicolo Rappini. History of fishermen’s houses in Terracina.

The Vicolo Rappini. History of fishermen’s houses in Terracina.

With pride, we from Terrace say that we are “Sang De Pesce”. The expression, for those who are not from Terracina, my country of origin a few miles from Rome, proudly reaffirms the maritime origin of our people. Our blood comes from the sea and the sea flows in our veins.

Precisely for this reason, today I want to tell you something more about our blue sea, which, with its whims (evil tiemp) and its goodness, is the clock of the life of the people of  Terracina, including those who, for various reasons, live far from the sea. Because as Baricco says, “the sea calls… It never stops, it goes inside you, you’ve got it on us”.

 

Terracina (Credits: Andrea Moretti).

 

History of a city on the sea

The ancient Tarracina – this is the name with which the Romans renamed the volsca city of Anxur after conquering it in the fifth century BC – contrary to what one might think, was first born as an agricultural city. Some archaeological remains, mostly large polygonal terracing walls, testify to the presence of farms that were founded in Roman times in the plain of La Valle. Thanks to the strong economic development reached, it was possible to realize in the time numerous and great works in the city, whose most ancient nucleus (Terracina Alta) is risen, still today, on a sloping slope of the Sant’ Angelo Mount, to the confluence of numerous canals and streams and in the only point of the southern Lazio in which the mountainous chain of the Lepini – Ausoni touches the sea.

Terracing of a Roman villa in “La Valle” di Terracina (Credits: www.fotografia.iccd.beniculturali.it).

 

Terracina. The side of Mount Sant’Angelo, on which the ancient city lies, is highlighted.

At the end of the Republican period, but especially in the Imperial Age, the city “doubled” expanding into the lower part. A new public square (the so-called Severian Forum) and an amphitheatre were erected. New thermal baths were built and a coastal variant of the ancient Via Appia was built, made possible by the cut of the cliff of Pisco Montano in 112 AD. A large port basin was also built, the most important in Lazio after that of Ostia. This is the moment from which we can say that our maritime vocation officially began.

Plant of the ancient port of Terracina (Credits: terrapontina.it).

 

A more intense development of the role of Terracina on the sea, however, took place only towards the end of the eighteenth century with Pope Pius VI Braschi (1775-1796), promoter of a great work of reclamation of the Pontine Marshes, the area of swamps and marshes at the gates of the town. The pontiff visited the city several times and restored the port that, abandoned by the end of the Roman Empire and condemned to oblivion throughout the Middle Ages, had become silted up. He also called from Torre del Greco and other places in the South, many families of fishermen who, having moved to Terracina, gave a strong impetus to fishing.

 

Pope Pius VI bless the people of Terracina from the window of Palazzo Braschi in Terracina. Painting by Philipp Hackert (Credits: h24notizie.com).

 

The Vicolo Rappini and the fishermen’s houses in Terracina

Newcomers needed accommodation. So it was that they were transformed into houses a set of existing building complexes, mostly warehouses, located in Borgo Pio, the triangular-shaped neighborhood near the sea, in the heart of the modern city.

In this group of houses should also be included those of the Vicolo Rappini that are a precious testimony in the history of urban planning Terracina, being the only surviving example of social historical housing of the Borgo Pio.
The Vicolo Rappini was so called because it was originally inserted in the land properties barns and houses of Gaetano Rappini, hydraulic expert and director of the reclamations wanted by Pius VI Braschi. The buildings that open along the road, historically known as “New Houses”, were renovated between 1840 and 1860. After the destruction of the Second World War, they were healed and returned to be inhabited by fishermen.

The Vicolo Rappini today

 

The Pilgrim Houses: lost twins of the houses of the Vicolo Rappini

The Vicolo Rappini was not the only area of the lower town that welcomed the new fishermen of the Bourbon Kingdom. Alongside the “New Houses”, there were also the so-called Pilgrim Houses in Terracina, today no longer visible except in some postcards and historical photographs as they were demolished in 1927.

The appearance of the area of the Pilgrim Houses, which stood in a corner of Piazza della Repubblica in the garden of the current Villa Salvini, must have resembled that of the set of houses of Vicolo Rappini. Comparing the words of the historian Arturo Bianchini with what my grandmother told me, born at number 24 of the houses of the Vicolo, I can say that the articulation and internal organization of the houses of the two districts was very similar.

These were houses with narrow entrances and narrow spaces, without toilets (for any physiological needs there was the beach, much closer to the town than today). The houses were on two floors, the highest of which was accessible via an external staircase. There was no drinking water/electricity. The apartment buildings could use the water from the springs that flowed near Porta Napoletana.
Most of the life took place outside the house which, with only one bed and a small kitchen area, was just a support.

The Pilgrim Houses rested directly on the Appia Traianea and, once knocked down, brought to light their precious floor, which is currently the only visible urban stretch of the Trajan variant of the ancient road.

 Tract of the Appia Traianea inside Villa Salvini.

An irresistible charm

The residential complex of Vicolo Rappini has gone down in history for another reason. As a plaque placed next to one of the houses overlooking the road recounts, in the mid-1950s Pier Paolo Pasolini stayed for a few months in Terracina, remaining deeply fascinated by the “New Houses” and above all by the fishermen who loved to reach the port every morning at dawn.

And Pasolini loved the scent of our sea so much that he became the protagonist of the story Terracina, discovered at the bottom of Pasolini by a group of young people from the Arturo Bianchini Institute of Terracina, led by Prof. Iudicone. Terracina, which initially had to be included in the collection Ragazzi di vita, but then was published in various cuts in the daily Taranto La Voce del Popolo, è la storia di due giovani, Luciano, alterego di Pasolini, e Marcello, entrambi innamorati del mare. And it is precisely the passion of the sea that drives them to steal two bicycles with which they reach Terracina.

Pasolini in Terracina (Credits: anxurtime.it).

And after arriving at Terracina, the boys go to visit their uncle Zocculitte, who lived in Vicolo Rappini. The story of his house and his life is a valuable document for the reconstruction of the days of the fishermen of the time and their homes in the alley.

This is the story of our sea, our origin, our blood. An artistic heritage and invaluable values, all to be preserved, all to be discovered. Keep following me and find out step by step, day by day. See you soon #aspassoconsara .

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ART & CULTURE, 0 comments