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
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.