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The Story of Termoli

A picturesque terrace on the sea. The ancient town centre of Termoli stands on the top of a cape almost dropping into the sea.It is known as Borgo Vecchio (Old Village) and looks like a small fortified citadel, characterized by tiny squares and alleys; among them we can mention Vico II Castello, one of the narrowest alleys in Europe. No archive source gives evidence of Termoli's origins, becauseof the Turkish sack in 1566. The discovery of some necropolis remains in the areas of Porticone and Difesa Grande is evidence of the presence of a human settlement in this district dating back to the sixth century B.e. It is also known that: "at the beginning of the fifth century, in the area where Termoli lies, there was nothing but the tower of Termula that, at the time, was just an observation tower on the coastline; it gave birth to Termoli's coat of arms".

Cliterniola, Tornola, Termoli....

In 412 AD. some inhabitants from the hinterland of Termoli took refuge on the near promontory in order to escape the Goth invasion. This site was named Tornola, recalling the originai centre which was named Cliterniola. Some of the alleys and squares of the Borgo Antico have kept this name up to the present davo In 568 AD. the Longobards founded the Duchy of Benevento and proclaimed Termoli County Chief town, thanks to its strategie position for the coastal defence. In order to protect the town, walls, a keep and eight battlemented turrets were built. Then Termoli passed from the Longobard rule to the Carolingian one (801-1030 AD.). Later, it became part of the Reign of Two Sicilies, governed first by the Normans and then by the Swabians.

The Swabian Period During the Swabian period the City walls and the' castle were rebuilt and extended and there was an important weekly market held every Monday inside the walls. Both these initiatives are ascribed to Frederick Il. Later, the town-lost its importance because of the alternation of several of its rulers. The inhabited centre of Termoli was comprised within the ancient walls unti11847, when King Ferdinand of Bourbon gave the authorization to build on the outside. He ordered the construction of two streets, orthogonal to each other, Corso Nazionale (North-South direction) and Corso Umberto, marking the beginning of the modern history of Termoli.

The Cathedral Basilica. The Cathedral stands on the highest site of the Borgo Antico, in the place where the most ancient urban settlement was, as evident from some archaeological relics dating back to the Bronze Age. The first construction probably lies on the ruins of an ancient paga n building which, however, has not left any traces. On the contrary, there is clear evidence, represented by the circle of the three apsides and the floor mosaic, of a religious building existing before the present one, a Cathedral dedicated to Saint Mary dating back to the eleventh century. During the twelfth century, two earthquakes seriously damaged the "mosaic" Church thus they decided to build a new temple. The construction of the new church, attributed to Alfano from Termoli, started around the end of the century and was financed by some rich traders from Ravello. The Cathedral is subdivided into three naves by cross-shaped pillars and exhibits a truss cover in the central nave and crossing vaults in the aisles.


The restored church. During the centuries, the cathedral has suffered from natural disasters and sacks which considerably devastated it. In the mid-eighteenth century, its interior was transformed in accordance with the Baroque style which was changed again in the Thirties, when the floor mosaics and the remains of the apsides of the pre-existing building were discovered. The recent restoration works have allowed for the discovery of other parts of the floor mosaic and of a wide cemetery area under the sacristy rooms, whose most ancient layers date back to the ninth century. On 31st December 1761, the bones of Saint Basso, Patron Saint of Termoli, were found in the crypt of the Cathedral, while those of Saint Timothy, a disciple of Saint Paul, were found on 11th May 1945.






The Castle. We are not certain about the origins of the castle. Some of its elements are recognised as typical of the Norman age, some others as Swabian. The building consists of a truncated pyramidal base with four cylindrical turrets on its corners and surmounted by a smaller parallelepiped tower. Its great height leads us to believe that the Castle was used as a sighting post and as a base for controlling the communication routes which connected Apulia, from North to South, and the road going to the inner part of Molise. It also had the double function of a supply and military control stop. This use is confirmed by some fortified elements: the door was defended by a drawbridge, the lower part of the Castle was used as a warehouse for defense, the upper part as storage and dwelling. The slit hollows, designed for bows and arbalests, were adapted to be used with firearms.

The castle... the symbol of the town. During the Spanish domination, the Castle lost its function as a military fortress, thus new windows were opened and the existing slits were widened. We have little information about the following periods. Some sources say that the Castle was restored after the Turks' assault in 1566, as witnessed by the remains of frescoes dating back to the end of the sixteenth century. During the Nineties, a "reclamation" intervention has freed a part of the central keep battlements from previous actions of inappropriate reconstruction, has reconsolidated the whole wall system and has unveiled a section of floor along the Northern wall. This restoration has allowed us to use the Castle in a new way and it is now the site of shows, exhibitions, cultural meetings and tourist visits. The top of the central keep houses the Air Force meteorological service post which is awaiting a new site. It has been a national monument since the beginning of the 20th century.

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