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St. Caesareus. History of the Patron Saint of Terracina

St. Caesareus. History of the Patron Saint of Terracina

With the beginning of the Triduum in all the parishes of the city, yesterday, Wednesday, 7th November, in Terracina opened the celebrations in honor of St. Caesareus that will end on Monday 12th November (civil feast).
A Spasso con Sara to discover the history of the Patron Saint of the city.

 

Who was Cesareo?

Of African origin, he was born in Carthage around 85 A.D. to a mercenary and a woman of the glorious Gens Iulia, the family clan of Julius Caesar. Caesareus, in fact, would mean “devoted to Caesar”.

When the family converted to Christianity, he devoted his life to the deaconage, the care of the poor and the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus. He left with some of his companions for Rome and sank in Terracina, where he would stop to dedicate himself to his religious mission.

 

St Cesareus and his companions are shipwrecked in Terracina (Credits: www.wikiwand.com).

 

Caesareus, witness of faith in Terracina

According to the tradition, every year in Terracina a magnificent young man sacrificed himself in Apollo. Dressed in shiny weapons, the poor man was forced to throw himself from the cliff of Pisco Montano riding a horse. Founder of this rite, a certain Firmino, a pagan priest driven by the spirit of evil.

Caesareus, having arrived in Terracina, witnessed such a practice and was arrested for having protested vivaciously against this custom. Eight days later, Lussurius, one of the city’s notables, led him to Leonzio, the Consularis Campaniae. After questioning him, he ordered Caesareus to deny his Christian faith and to sacrifice to Apollo. When he arrived in front of the temple, the pagan sanctuary collapsed and killed the priest Firmino. Caesareus was imprisoned again.

After another year in prison, Leontius recalled Caesareus and, struck by the divine glow of the deacon, converted to Christianity. Baptized and, having received the body and blood of Jesus Christ from the presbyter Julian, he died. Julian and Caesarean were captured and, after being closed in a sack, were thrown from the cliff of the Pisco Montano. The notable Lussurius, who had signed their condemnation, died after being bitten by a snake.

 

St. Caesareus. Fresco decorating the vault of the central nave of the Cathedral of Terracina dedicated to him (Credits: terracinablog.altervista.org).

 

Not only Caesareus. The Martyrdom of Eusebius and Felix

The bodies of the martyrs Caesareus and Julian, brought back to shore by the waves of the sea, were recovered by Eusebius who buried them in Agro Varano, a place in the Valley of Terracina. The monk, who remained praying at their tomb for five days, was joined by many Terracinese who, baptized by Felix, converted to Christianity.

 

Finding the body of St. Caesareus on the beach of Terracina (Credits: wikiwand.com).

 

The situation bothered, however, Leontius II, the son of the Roman consul converted by Caesareus. Desiring to take revenge for his father’s death, he had Felix and Eusebius arrested and, after having captured them, ordered them to sacrifice to the gods. Felix and Eusebius confirmed, however, their Christian faith and their bodies, after being beheaded, were thrown into the river. Carried by water, they arrived near La Pineta where Quarto, priest of Capua, found them together with their heads miraculously intact. After recovering the remains, he gave them an adequate burial.

 

San Cesareo alle Prebende, the first church of Terracina

Quarto buried Felix and Eusebius near Caesareus and Julian in an area of the Valley called “Le Prebende”, an integral part of a larger complex known as “agro Varano”. This name was used to indicate the lands of the Varii, or rather the possessions of a wealthy terracinese family which, having converted to Catholicism, offered its own house for the meetings of the Christian community and the celebration of the Eucharist.

The house of Varo, which initially housed the only remains of Caesareus and Julian, soon became a real church, known by the name of S. Maria ad Martyres. However, it was abandoned following the martyrdom of Felix and Eusebius, arrested in that place, while officiating the Christian rites.

 

Lugli reports that in 1879 some excavations were made between the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres and the road. The map, designed by Pio Capponi, shows some mosaics found randomly in a vineyard in the area (Credits: ACS, AA.BB.AA., I vers., Allegati, b.150).

 

This place of worship moved, then, at the bottom of the valley, in the pagus of St Silvianus, where the Christians, as well as a new church, also gave life to a cemetery of their own. The new sanctuary was called San Salvatore and the whole area in general was called Valley of the Saints. Contatore tells us that when the body of Silvianus was discovered, this sanctuary was called San Silviano, while that of Varo, from the Middle Ages was called San Cesareo alle Prebende.

The small church of San Cesareo alle Prebende was destroyed in 1892 by the owner of the land, but a column of white grooved marble was erected, surmounted by an iron cross that the local peasants called the Cross of S. Cesario to remember his burial place.

These events would therefore seem to confirm what has been said in other places: the first Christian places of worship in Terracina are born extra urbem, outside the town centre and, specifically, along the Appian Way and on the tombs of the first martyrs.

 

 

When was Saint Caesareus martyred?

The life and death of the patron saint of Terracina have been handed down from four different stories (passiones) that place the martyrdom of Caesareus in different historical periods.

The most discussed hypotheses are two.

One would place the story of the deacon of Terracina in the Trajan age (98-117 AD), since the saint appears in the Passio of Nereus and Achilleus, both killed under the empire of Trajan. Caesareus is remembered in this story as the one who buried the virgins Flavia Domitilla, Eufrosina and Teodora, martyred at the end of the first century AD.

 

The Emperor Trajan (Credits: capitolivm.it).

 

A second hypothesis is instead supported by Piero Longo who would move the martyrdom of Caesareus during the persecution of Decio and in the context of the Ludi Apollinares. Caesareus would have been sacrificed to Apollo in Terracina on July 13, 250 AD.

 

Caesareus is transferred to Rome

Soon, however, the remains of St. Caesareus took the road to Rome. It is said, in fact, that Galla Placidia was cured by the martyr of Terracina in his church of the Valley. The young woman, possessed by the devil, had been sent by her parents to the tomb of Sant’Isidoro, on the island of Chios, with the hope of a recovery. However, that trip was worthless. Back home, she arrived at Terracina, where Bishop Felix took her to the tomb of St. Caesareus. The deacon appeared to her in a dream and miraculously healed. After hearing the news, the emperor ordered the immediate transfer of the Saint’s remains to Rome and, with the assistance of Pope Damasus, between 375 and 379 A.D., they were placed in the Domus Augustana on the Palatine where the oratory of San Cesareo in Palatium was born.

 

Representation of Galla Placidia (Credits: chiamamicittà.it).

 

The relics of Terracina

The emperor, however, would have left some bones of the saint to the Church of Santa Maria ad Martyres of Terracina. Later they were moved to the Cathedral where two reliquaries are kept. Placed under the protection of the parish priest, they are exposed to popular veneration during the feast of the patron saint.

The silver reliquary arm, would keep two bone portions of the forearm of the saint and is carried in procession during the festivities in his honor.

The urn-shaped reliquary in silver-plated brass, on the other hand, dates back to the 19th century and is attributed to local craftsmen. It contains, according to the most accredited opinion, two bones of the deacon’s forearm, although recent studies would recognize such fragments as the tibia or a tibia and the saint’s femur.

 

I reliquiari di San Cesareo a Terracina (Credits: www.wikiwand.com).

 

As we have seen, the story of St Caesareus does not present, in some cases, precise historical and chronological references. But we don’t care much because in the end Christianity is nothing other than to surrender completely to the faith of God and that of the martyrs and saints who were witnesses to his message of love.

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ART & CULTURE, 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