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
Lost Churches of Terracina – Appendix 1 – The frieze of the Cathedral

Lost Churches of Terracina – Appendix 1 – The frieze of the Cathedral

A little digression in our journey in search of the lost churches of Terracina. A Spasso con Sara to discover the frieze of the Cathedral.


It decorates the lintel (the horizontal surface that rests on the columns) of the Cathedral. Some have called it a bestiary, others a succession of fantastic figures. But what is it represented and what message is hidden behind the frieze of the Cathedral of San Cesareo? Let’s try to discover something more.


The left side: what we have lost

The left side of the frieze, still present in a 19th century engraving and in some early 20th century photographs, has been completely lost.

Details from recent restorations allow us, however, to hypothesize what was represented there. A fragmentary inscription on the upper edge of the entablature mentions, in fact, Caesareus, Consul Leontius (one of the protagonists of the Saint’s passion) and Bishop Silvianus, another terracinese martyr, whose remains, together with those of his father Eleuterius and those of his sister Rufina, are kept in the Cathedral. It is therefore highly probable that the missing section of the frieze depicted local saints and martyrs.


Photo from the National Institute of Archaeology and Art History of Rome, Ricci fund. In the photo, taken between 1911 and 1912, you can still see the left side of the frieze of the Cathedral.


The right side: what’s left

The right part of the frieze, that is to say the one behind Palazzo Pironti (formerly Venditti), has been preserved. It consists of a series of figures that, alone or in small groups, stand out against a white background.

Qualitatively and technically speaking, it is unique in the panorama of marble workshops in southern Lazio between the 12th and 13th centuries. The execution technique adopted, all played out on the skilful alternation of stone tesserae and glass paste and on the use of inlays that mark the course of the frames, gives a strong naturalism to the animals (of which extraordinary details are defined, such as teeth, tails and claws) and to the vegetable elements depicted.

Detail of the frieze of the Cathedral of Terracina. Two peacocks and a bird in a cage in the middle. From the detail it is possible to admire the composition scheme and the executive technique adopted (Credits: flickriver.com).


The narration, proceeding from left to right, presents a pistrice, the large fish in whose belly the prophet Jonah remained for three days and three nights, in a kind of prefiguration of the Resurrection of Christ. We then find an eagle with extended wings, the symbol of John, the author of the Apocalypse. Followed by a pair of deer faced on the sides of a tree, an early Christian reference to the soul that foretaste the joys of eternal life. And then a bird in a cage with a pair of peacocks, which Orietta Sartori wanted to interpret as the symbol of monastic life that protects the soul from the temptations of the world. Three demons also appear, two of them armed with swords and spears and flanked by two bulls with a central sacred building with a bell tower and a candelabrum next to it. And then the most famous scene of the entire cycle: knights armed with a spear and banner, faced at the sides of a cross on a small relief (Golgotha?) with a duck at their feet, are followed by a large rowing boat led by a helmsman. The representation is also accompanied by an inscription that perhaps indicates the patrons of the work: the Milites Goffredo di Egidio and Pietro del Presbitero. Finally, two griffins follow at the sides of an ansato vase, two magpies drinking from a cantaros and a basilisk, emblem of the temptation to lust.


Detail of the frieze of the Cathedral of Terracina. Names of the clients of the frieze? (Credits: medioevo.org).


But how to interpret this succession of figures? Di Gioia, already in 1982, pointed out that the animals and figures represented would allude to the eternal struggle between good and evil.


Detail of the frieze of the Cathedral of Terracina. Armed devils and a church with a bell tower on the right (Credits: mapio.net).


The general message of representation

The entire mosaic frieze, also considering the theme of the left section, now lost, would therefore like to provide the following message: the salvation of the soul of man is possible only through Faith, witnessed by the blood shed by the martyrs.


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Lost Churches of Terracina. 2 of 5

Lost Churches of Terracina. 2 of 5

Second appointment A Spasso con Sara to discover the lost churches of Terracina.


Our journey in the Christian and medieval Terracina continues.

As we saw at the beginning of this special series, the first Christian churches of Terracina are born in the area of La Valle, outside the town.

Their presence in the urban fabric is certain only between the 8th and 9th centuries AD. This was the period in which documents presuppose the existence of the Cathedral of San Cesareo, the most important church in the city. To it are then added new churches, born between the 11th and 12th centuries AD. (Romanic age) and the 13th and 14th centuries (Gothic age) A.D., phases in which Terracina was affected by profound historical, political and urban changes.


Detail of the decoration of the pulpit of the Cathedral of San Cesareo of Terracina (Credits: worldtourisminfo.com).


The fulcrum of this second chapter is the area of the Emilian Forum, the ancient square paved by the local magistrate Aulus Aemilius at the end of the 1st century BC.


Detail of the original paving of the Emilian Forum. You can still see the furrows of the bronze letters bearing the signature of the magistrate Aulus Aemilius who paid for the pavement of the square.


The life of this public space did not stop, in fact, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 AD), but continued, under new forms, throughout the Middle Ages.

The landscape of the area changed. Tower houses, Romanic domus and Gothic style invade much of the paved forensic, whose free space narrows. Once the open side towards the sea has disappeared, Piazza San Cesareo – this is the new name taken from the square dominated by the Cathedral – is defined as a place closed in on itself.


The square of the ancient Emilian Forum in an engraving by L. Rossini (Credits: MR Coppola 1984).

S. Maria della Scala

And, in fact, right next to the current seat of the Municipality, there was S. Maria della Scala.


The area once occupied by Le Scalelle.

Located along Via delle Scalelle, from which it clearly derived its name, the church must have existed as early as the thirteenth century AD. The Scalelle flanked the Torre dei Rosa (the Tower next to the Bar del Duomo and home to the Pio Capponi Civic Museum) and, descending to the Vicolo Sottosusto (between Palazzo Braschi on the right and the foundations of the new Municipium on the left), connected the current Piazza Municipio with the area of Posterula.


The Vicolo Sottosusto in an old photograph (Credits: MR Coppola 1984).


A district of S. Maria delle Scalelle is attested by some of the documents of the 16th century. However, nothing remains of it or of the church. The bombardments of 1943-44 and the subsequent construction of the current Municipium have erased all traces of this urban layout.



S. Maria del Tempio

We move just outside the square, near the Vicolo Pertinace.

Here, in Roman times, stood the four-sided arch. Articulated in four large arches straddling the ancient Via Appia, it guaranteed access to the Foro Emiliano from the East.


 Reconstruction of the ancient four-sided arch of the Emilian Forum (V. Grossi 2003).


The area, starting from the medieval age, was occupied by a series of buildings (you can even see the hinge of a door along the jamb of one of the arches) that survived even in modern times and were swept away by the bombardments of 1943-44.

The medieval quarter was that of the Templum (perhaps because of the proximity of the presumed temple of Vicolo Pertinace) and in its heart, exactly at the crossroads between Vicolo Pertinace and the first stretch of the current Salita dell’Annunziata, was located, since the 9th century AD, S. Maria del Tempio. More than a church, it was a chapel, whose existence is still documented at the beginning of the 16th century. At the beginning of the following century it was transformed into a cellar.


The area behind Vicolo Pertinace and the ancient four-sided arch of the Emilian Forum (the remains of which are still visible on the right).


S. Domitilla

Just in front of it was the Church of Santa Domitilla.

A plaque still in situ, walled on one of the sides of the present Piazza Santa Domitilla, reminds us that the original chapel was built in 1619 by Pomponio de Magistris, bishop of the city, in the area of the room where the virgins Domitilla, Euphrosyne and Teodora were burned. The place of worship stood, therefore, close to the Porta Albina, the eastern entrance to the ancient city demolished between 1831 and 1850 (its presence is remembered by the still existing funerary lions that in the Middle Ages were placed in front of the door).


Piazza Santa Domitilla. In evidence is the plaque walled up still in situ that remembers the location of the original church before its destruction and its transfer to the Palazzo della Bonificazione Pontina.


Some works of enlargement and reorganization of the square, however, determined the demolition of the church in the nineteenth century that was rebuilt within the adjacent Palazzo della Bonificazione Pontina.

The new chapel, of neoclassical shape, disappeared, however, in turn. Deconsecrated after 1950, it was purchased by the Municipality of Terracina in 1986. Today it houses the entrance and the bookshop of the new museum of Terracina.


The old Chapel of Santa Domitilla in the Palazzo della Bonificazione Pontina (today the bookshop and the entrance of the new museum of Terracina).


S. Nicola a Porta Albina

Immediately outside Porta Albina, mentioned above, stood instead San Nicola a Porta Albina, whose presence is attested since the eleventh century AD. The religious building was just outside the door, along the Salita dell’Annunziata.

Still in operation in the fourteenth century AD, disappeared in subsequent centuries. The parish of reference of Borgo dell’Annunziata was, in fact, progressively replaced by the Chiesa dell’Annunziata.


One of the funeral lions placed in front of Porta Albina. Behind it stood the Church of San Nicola a Porta Albina.




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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 Roman Theatre of Terracina (Latina, Italy)

The Roman Theatre of Terracina (Latina, Italy)

The Roman theatre represents, without a doubt, the real archaeological dream of Terracina.
A Spasso con Sara to discover this unique archeological site!


The theatre of Terracina, located along the northern front of the ancient Forum Aemilianum, occupies an area of about 70 meters by 60 in the area of the square Urbano II (nowaday it doesn’t exist anymore). The location in that specific section of the ancient city was dictated by purely practical reasons. At that point, in fact, it was possible to place a large part of the steps on which the spectators sat (cavea) on the natural slope of the ground.


Position of the Roman theatre complex in Terracina (Credits: Google 2018).


The building technique (for experts, opus incertum) places it among the oldest in Lazio region. Its original nucleus is, in fact, datable between 70 and 60 BC.

Roman Theatre of Terracina. The red arrow indicates a wall in opus incertum referring to the first phase of construction.

During the first century AD, the complex was affected by a radical restructuring that enhanced its appearance. Refined and coloured marbles, coming from the most remote corners of the empire, replaced the previous local limestone. The modest white mosaic, which was the floor of the first theatre, was replaced by large slabs of marble, some of which are still preserved. Significant changes also affected the stage building. These works, which began under the reign of Augustus (27 BC -14 AD), were probably completed in the phase of his successors (14 AD, the year of establishment of Tiberius – 68 AD, the year of Nero’s death and the end of the Julius-Claudian dynasty).


 Roman Theatre of Terracina. The first floor of the complex made of white mosaic.

The maintenance of the theatre was constant throughout the Flavian age (second half of the first century AD) and continued until that of the Severi (late second – early third century AD). Some traces, found in the more recent layers, document, however, a violent fire after which the environments, heavily damaged and left without maintenance, were abandoned. The curtains of the curtain fell and a new story began.


You can see…

Archaeological excavations, which have been going on for several years now (the first conference was organized more than 10 years ago), have brought to light a large part of the eastern sector of the theatre and have also traced its western border, obliterated by the presence of modern buildings. During the research, the demolition of a modern house in dilapidated condition and the stratigraphic removal of other buildings, without medieval walls, has allowed the rediscovery of other parts of the complex.

Roman Theatre of Terracina. Image from above and illustrative scheme of the archaeological excavation (The image was shown by Dr. Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).


Climbing along the current Via S. Galba (the small road that runs along the four-sided arch leading to the Foro Emiliano) and continuing along the stairs, looking to the left, you will have a beautiful view from above over the excavation of the theater. There are 14 perfectly preserved rows of steps on which we can imagine the richest citizens of Terracina (the places reserved for the plebs and women are not visible as obliterated by a water preserve already in the eighteenth century and a cobblestone road then traced by the ramp that we walked to get to the top of the excavation). In fact, the places closest to the orchestra were intended for them, the semicircular space, decorated with precious marbles, reserved for musicians and separated from the stage by a long horizontal wall. Beyond this wall, there are a series of septa on which were placed the wooden boards of the stage, the space in which the actors, with expressive masks, staged tragedies and comedies. Behind them, the architecture of the scene was raised, with statues, marbles and columns.

Roman Theatre of Terracina. Explanatory overview of the visible remains.


Reconstructive drawing of a Roman theatre (Credits: digilander.libero.it/sarotheatres/intro.html)


A large portico opened behind the scene (it is the cd porticus post scaenam). Surrounded by columns on four sides, arranged around an open central space, it was the place where spectators could shelter themselves in case of rain or walk during the intervals of the shows. It was directly accessible from the Appian Way and from the piazza del Foro Emiliano, from which it is still visible today.


Roman Theatre of Terracina. The porticus photographed by the Aemilian Forum (now Piazza Municipio). Below, in the photo, a stretch of the ancient Via Appia (decumanus maximus).

 Roman Theatre of Terracina. Remains of the columns of the porticus.

Archaeological Findings

The findings made within the complex have given important emotions to archaeologists and citizens. Togated statues, male portraits, heads of divinities, architectural elements such as frames, columns, capitals and fragments of marble, give an idea of how the building should look in ancient times.


Roman Theatre of Terracina. Fragment of a fresco that decorated the eastern entrance of the theatre (the photograph was shown by Dr Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).


The most significant finds have been found near the scene. Worthy of note are two female marble statues, headless and larger than life. Perhaps, judging by their dress and hair, they are two priestesses of Isis. Famous are the fragments of a monumental male statue more than two metres high and made of ancient yellow (a precious marble). It represented an oriental barbarian, as can be deduced from his clothing: tight trousers, short tunic, belt under the chest and Phrygian cap.


Roman Theatre of Terracina. One of the female acephalous statues at the time of their discovery (the photograph was shown by Dr. Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).


Perhaps you don’t know that…

Inside the theater was found a marble altar dedicated to Jupiter Anxur, the god who has always been attributed the famous shrine of Monte Sant’Angelo that stood on the artificial platform visible from every corner of the city. This is a fundamental discovery. The find is, in fact, the first epigraphic attestation of the existence of the cult of Jupiter Anxur in Terracina, previously known only through literary testimonies.


Roman Theatre of Terracina. The altar with dedication to Jupiter Anxur at the moment of its discovery (The photograph was shown by Dr. Nicoletta Cassieri during the last conference on the excavations).


Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES, 0 comments
Terracina. September 4th, 1943. Story of a massacre.

Terracina. September 4th, 1943. Story of a massacre.

Today, September 4th, marks the anniversary of the first Terracina bombing. The tragic episode cost the lives of 138 people (according to the number of officially ascertained victims) and destroyed most of the houses in the historic center bringing to light several ancient monuments including the Capitolium.


A cursed Day

It’s a sultry day at the end of summer and children play in the streets. Men and women are in the countryside. Fishermen put their nets in place after a day at sea. My grandmother Giovanna is 17 years old and her day runs slowly and quietly out of the door of her house at Vicolo Rappini, near the Spiaggetta.

Women walking near Porta Napoletana (Credits: ugo52.blogspot.com).

I asked her several times to tell me what happened that day, but she often cried. The eyes were wiped dry and the hands were put on the ears. Then I let her stay and we ate an ice cream on the terrace. But a few weeks ago, grandmother began telling me about that ominous day. At first they were just flashes. Sirens, whistles of bombs, a boy engraving her infected heel with a razor, linen, the only memory of my great grandmother Giuseppina, mistaken on the black market for a handful of flour … and then hunger, misery, fear for a future that seemed hopeless. It was the story of the war.

The war arrived in Terracina with all its violence at 16:30 on September 4th, 1943. It was afternoon when two American squadrons bombed it. And that was just the first of a long series of air raids. For 8 consecutive months, Terracina was bombed (the last bombing was that of the Germans on 27th May, 1944). Once, on 21st January 1944, the threat came even from the sea. The Americans, for diversification purposes in the landing at Neptune, carried out with six ships two cannonade from the sea along the entire coast of the city.

Planes flying over the Spiaggetta of Terracina. In the background Monte Sant’Angelo (Credits: agropontino.blogspot.com)


But that cursed 4th September, the people of Terracina were not ready.

My grandmother and her brothers told me that the siren announcing the approach of aircraft loaded with bombs had been ringing since the beginning of the war. Those deadly airplanes, which the children, without even knowing what they were doing, reproduced by running in the street with their arms outstretched, had often “caressed” Terracina, but had never struck her. And in a sense the people of Terracina were almost tired of hearing that sound and having to escape to the shelters as a precaution. Many people had become accustomed to this practice and thought they had nothing to fear.

What could the war from Terracina want? Very few German soldiers were in the city. There were no major military objectives.

And so, as happened almost every day, that afternoon the siren also rang. And it was a moment, just a handful of seconds and the American bombers appeared from behind Monte Sant’Angelo, preceded by a strong bang that anticipated that wind of death. The four engines opened their bellies and unloaded all their load onto the charming town in Lazio. The bombs, which someone described in his stories as similar to large cylinders, fell everywhere, destroying, without distinction, men, buildings, animals, exterminating and tearing apart anything they encountered along the way. At the same time as the fall of the bombs, there were machine guns, responsible for the death of many unfortunate people.

It all lasted a few minutes. It was a quick, but extremely painful step. Huge chasms opened up along the main streets. Cadavers everywhere. Unexploded bombs lay here and there. Tradition has it that some brave people from Terrachins defused them. Many are the victims. The butcher and his apprentice, surprised while working in the small shop near Via del Rio. The daughter of Perugini, owner of an activity in Piazza della Repubblica. And then the children, who intrigued by that sound, had come out to watch those monsters that would soon kill them.


The first bombing of Terracina took place on September 4, 1943 and cost the lives of 138 people (Credits: anxurtime.it).


A senseless massacre

It was then discovered that the bombing, an integral part of a series of missions aimed at convincing Italy to conclude the armistice, was a useless bloodbath. Terracina was in fact hit after the armistice of Cassibile, whose signature, for various reasons, was kept hidden until September 8th, 1943. The American command did not stop its war actions on the secondary Italian cities, among which Terracina, a strategic objective because it had a port.

First page of the newspaper Corriere della Sera. It is announced that the armistice was signed on 8 September 1943. As you known, the armistice was signed a few days earlier, but was officially announced only September 8 (Credits: lacooltura.com).


It is shocking to know, as the historian Bianchini reports, that part of the population was completely unaware of what had happened. The women who returned from Frasso, at the end of a day spent picking grapes, walked and sang. Monte Leano had hidden the sight and sound of that terrible moment. And so, once they learned the misfortune of people fleeing to the countryside, they immediately rushed to the city to trace their loved ones.


The Storia di Terracina written by Arturo Bianchini (Credits: abebooks.it).


The power of hope: the history of the a “miracle”

And in this context of death, there are a number of folk tales, including the Pentolaccia.

In Terracina Alta, in the old town centre, there were many houses built directly on Roman antiquities. Some of them were even excavated inside the ancient city walls.

In one of these houses lived a lady who that afternoon was preparing a pot of legumes for the evening dinner. When the preparation was finished, he placed the pot on the window sill of the house. Suddenly the siren rang and then the woman ran with her family to take cover. Back at the end of the bombing, the house was no longer there, but the pot had remained miraculously still there, on the windowsill, just as it had left it.

True or not, little interests us. That pot is the symbol of a daily life that wanted at all costs to survive the violence and barbarity of war, a war that still represents a painful plague in the souls of those who experienced it over their skin.


The pot that the woman left to cool on the windowsill of her house during that famous September 4, 1943. The house was destroyed, but the pot still remained there. The house is located more or less in Via Anxur 100.

The back of some of the houses (including the house of the history of the pot) dug into the walls of Terracina. As you can see, nothing remained after the bombing.

An indelible memory

Years later we continue to remember that sad afternoon with some ceremonies that generally include a tribute to the monument of the fallen in Piazza Garibaldi. The city of Terracina was awarded the Gold Medal of Civil Merit. This year the commemoration in Garibaldi Square will take place in today’s day at 10:45 a.m.


The monument in memory of the victims of the Second World War created by Duilio Cambellotti and located in Piazza Garibaldi (credits: www.artefascista.it – photo by Gianni Porcellini).



Posted by Sara Pandozzi in ON THIS DAY, 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