BISCEGLIE

Along the Adriatic coast, encircled by bays with crystal waters is where Bisceglie preserves its architectonic patrimony for more enthusiastic visitors.

The area results as inhabited since ancient times, as testified by finds of pre-historic remains found in the Santa Croce grottos (7 kilometres from the centre) and by the Dolmen della Chianca (16th -15th Century BC), situated approximately 5 kilometres from Bisceglie.
The origin of its name is linked to Latin, Vigiliae, meaning a place which was used to guard the coast. This is because during the Roman era, its coast was an easy landing point for ships coming in from the entire Mediterranean and therefore the area had to be fortified with watchtowers.
The founding of Bisceglie came about during the Longobard era, when the first farming village, also dedicated to fishing, formed along the coast.
Later on, Bisceglie appeared in a document dated 1063, as a small fortified village under the jurisdiction of the Norman Pietro I, who seemingly came into possession of it during 1054.
In 1063, it also became a Episcopal Seat and 11 years later saw the building of the Norman style S. Pietro Cathedral. The following year, the Saint Adoeno Church was built, whilst the whole Norman period and the successive Swabian one, was characterised by great economic development, linked to the marine vocation of Bisceglie, which made pacts with Amalfi and cities on the Dalmatian coast.
In 1222, Emperor Federick II, gave permission for the construction of the Castle and had the Maestra Tower completed, which today is known as the Norman Tower.
During the same century the Angioini arrived in Italy, after having been called by Pope Clemente IV, and joined in the civil fights between the Ghibellines and the Guelfs (Guelphs). In 1266, after defeat of Federick II’s son, Bisceglie passed under French domination, and was given to the Monfort family until 1300, who stepped down after the continuation of the Angioini.
The Falcone Family then dominated the City’s public life, which remained on the side of the Angioini, deserving the title of Fedelissima (Very Loyal).
However, the entire 14th Century was studded with continuous clashes, among which the most famous was surely between Luigi I of Angiò and Carlo III of Durazzo. Both were recognised heirs of Queen Giovanna I of Naples and both were from the Angioina dynasty. The confrontation was at Bisceglie where Luigi met his death and was buried in the San Ludovico Church, which then became known as the San Luigi Church.
In 1443, Alfonso Vth of Aragona expelled the Angioini from Naples after a six month long siege and initiated the conquest of Puglia. He found resistance from some of the faithful Angioini cities, among which Bisceglie can be distinguished.
Once the fief was given over to the Orsini Del Balzo, they rebelled and asked once again for help with their cause from Giovanni d’Angiò from Calabria,. This initiated new conflict until 1462 when King Ferdinand of Aragona and the Del Balzo Orsini Family struck a favourable agreement for the City which returned to the hands of Francesco II Del Balzo Orsini and which saw the building of a new wall and restoration of the City.
His son Pirro, however, continued the fight and lost the fief. The City then became a Marquisate under the dependencies of Francesco. In 1498, Bisceglie was given as a dowry to Alfonso of Aragona on his marriage to Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alessandro VIth.
The clash between the French and Spanish continued until 1513, where the latter prevailed, and who then reigned for about two centuries until the Bourbons accession to the throne in Naples. Bisceglie, apart from the brief Republic ruling of Gioacchino Murat (1808-1815), remained under Bourbon influence until its unification to the Reign of Italy (1860).
There are numerous cultural metas in Bisceglie, beginning with its Cathedral, then moving on to the Churches of Saint Domenico (12th Century), S. Matthew (1090), Saint John of Castro, S. Luigi (‘500) and the Church of S. Margherita (end of 12th Century).
The Swabian castle dominates the historical centre, which is enriched by the presence of numerous noble buildings.

BISCEGLIE
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Puglia (Apulia) region of Italy

 

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