Approximately 15 km from Lecce,
in the Salentina peninsular is where one can find Copertino;
a city which is dominated by its Medieval Castle.
Copertina was probably founded due to the reunification of
inhabitants from Casole, Cigliano, Mallone and Cambrò.
These new citizens, who were probably dispersed in previous
centuries, due to the Goth and Vandal invasions in 560 AD,
gave new life to the new city, which took the name of Cittadella,
then changed to Conventino, Cupertino and finally Copertino.
The origins of the habitation therefore came about after the
Greek-Gothic War (535-553), which abolished the Ostrogoth
Reign in Italy and made Puglia Byzantine property for centuries;
especially its Southern regions. The Byzantine period, however,
did not see Copertino recorded in any historical documentation.
Its existence didn’t appear in records until the Norman
period, in the 11th Century, when Goffredo of Altavilla, son
of Roberto Guiscard, decided to build the Cathedral (1088),
which was later dedicated to the Vergine delle Nevi (Snow
Virgin) of Manfredi (1235), son of Fedrick II of Swabia.
With the fall of the Swabians by Angioini hands (1266), Copertino
was first entrusted to the De Pratis Family, then to the Brienne
of Lecce, who amplified the Swabian castle, and then to the
Enghien. Copertino then passed first , through marriage, to
the Orsini then the Chiaromonte Family, who during the 15th
Century ordered the construction of the City’s defensive
In 1498, Copertino passed hands to the Aragonese and was entrusted
to the Castriota Scanderberg Family from Albania, as thanks
for their help during battles against the French. Under their
rule, Copertino enjoyed a period of major town planning development:
the defensive walls were amplified and fortified and the S.
Chiara Monastery built.
The Castle was also amplified under their domination, on the
wishes of Alfonso Castriota, who entrusted the work to the
architect Evangelista Menga (1540).
In 1557, the City was acquired by Vittoria of Oria through
auction, and the subsequent century saw the progressive exit
of the population from its medieval walls.
In the 18th Century, Copertino, as with many other regions
in Puglia, was hit by earthquakes and famine, further aggravated
through bad governing by the Bourbons which began in 1742.
Its rebirth had to await Bonaparte’s arrival in Italy
during 1799, the Republic of Naples experience (1806), which
were followed by the Carbonari (An association which promoted
independent ideas) clashes (1820) and culminating with the
fall of the Bourbons by the hand of the Garibaldi.
Its citizens became part of the Reign of Italy through plebiscitary
San Giuseppe (St Joseph) was born here and became the patron
of astronauts due to his rare gift of being able to levitate.
A visit to Copertino can begin in its centre, where one can
admire the magnificent Norman-Swabian Castle, later modified
by both the Angioini and Castriota families.
Apart from the already cited Chiesa Matrice, other churches
to visit are: the Casole Church (13th Century), the Dominican
complex, the Monastery and the S. Chiara Church.
Among the civil architecture worth a visit, we can recommend
the following buildings: Prence, Ventura, Pappi and Capozza
with its beautiful portal.
Just outside the City, one can visit the “frantoi ipogei”
which have been used during olive oil production since ancient