Situated half way between
Brindisi and Taranto, Oria can be seen from afar by visitors
with all the uniqueness and beauty of its Castle.
According to the Greek historian Erodoto (484 BC), Oria was
founded by a group of Cretan castaways, who chose its height
above sea level as a defensive element and named the new city
Tradition agrees with this version in citing a population
of Greek origins as founding Oria, but also naming the Messapians
(Strabone, I Century BC) from Illyria.
But the territory of Oria was definitely inhabited since the
Copper Age (18th Century BC), as demonstrated by numerous
Necropolis and handicraft finds.
Still for Strabone, the City was a Messapian City-State, seat
of a great palace and sanctuary in the Monte Papalucio locality
(6th Century BC).
Oria was a high ranking City with enormous walls erected as
protection due to a worsening rapport with the Greek cities
of Taranto and Reggio (6th Century BC), against which they
went to war in 474 BC. The defeat of the Greeks was very difficult
and the fame of the Messapian cavaliers spread throughout
the old world.
As a result of this defeat, Taranto became a democracy.
Growing Roman power then included the territory of Oria, after
the wars with Pirro, King of Epiro who was called to command
the Greek-Messapian League. The defeat at Maleventum (275
BC, when the City was renamed Beneventum by the Romans) opened
the road to the Romans towards Puglia.
However, Oria maintained most of its importance even under
Rome, and continued to mint its own currency. The Romans constructed
country villas and gave the City its first title of Municipium
(88 BC), then that of Foederata, and had the Regina Viarum
route pass through Oria: Via Appia (Appian Way). The continual
passage of goods and people guaranteed fortune and survival
for Oria during the entire Imperial period.
The end of the Roman Empire (476 BC) brought Oria’s
downfall through devastation by the Goths (411) and the Vandals
(455), and during the Greek-Gothic War (535-553) between the
Byzantines and Ostrogoths commanded by Totila.
Oria passed under Byzantine domination in the 6th Century
and soon entered the thresholds of the area of Longobard influences
(7th Century), which pushed through from the North to conquer
Puglia. For this reason, it was often at the centre of clashes
and battles, suffering siege also by the Saracens, who since
the 9th Century had begun to make their presence known in
It was the destruction of Brindisi by the Arabs which decreed
a change of the Episcopal seat to Oria and the subsequent
construction of a temple dedicated to Crisanto and Daria on
the acropolis (886).
Besieged and once again destroyed by the Saracens in 824 and
977, Byzantine Oria was conquered by the unstoppable advancement
of the Normans in the South during 1055 by Count Unfredo of
Under the Normans, the City enjoyed a period of economic development,
during which it had city walls erected and a Castle with square
towers, subsequently amplified by Emperor Federick II of Swabia
The arrival of the Angioini in the South (1266) coincided
for the City with the birth of feudalism and Oria firstly
belonged to the Orsini Del Balzo Family (14th Century), then
the Bonifacio and therefore Barromeo (16th Century) and finally
the Imperiali Family who kept it until the abolition of feudatory
After a brief Republican experience (1806-1815), the City
returned under the Reign of the Two Sicilies until 1861 when
by plebiscitary vote, it entered as part of the Reign of Italy.
On 21st of September 1897, Oria suffered devastation as some
monuments and the Castle were badly damaged.
In 1933, Counts Martini Carissimo acquired and restored the
Castle, which today is the seat of an art collection which
take their names.
Places of Interest:
Oria radiates a unique fascination for both its geographical
position, beauty and quantity of the monuments it guards.
Beginning with the Castle, built on the first nucleus of the
Messapian acropolis, where a Roman Castrum was situated and
where during the Byzantine era, the nucleus of the present
day building was erected.
To enter Oria, one has to pass through one of its three portals:
Porta Ebrei or Taranto, Porta Manfredi or Spagnole.
The Castle dominates the suburb, which still has its Medieval
walls, situated on three different hills which snake through
narrow and characteristic streets dotted with buildings and
churches rich in history and fascination.
The Cathedral, rebuilt in a Baroque style after the 1743 earthquake,
conserves paintings and traces of the remote past of Oria:
Messapian remains, a Roman cistern and tombs of monks and
Close to the Basilica, one can visit the Palomba Tower or
Carnara, which seems to have been the last existing bulwark
from the ancient Messapian City.
Close to the centre and Basilica, one can enjoy a visit to
Palazzo Vescovile and Palazzo Martini.
Among the churches of artistic interest, we would like to
highlight: San Francesco of Assisi (who passed by here to
preach), S. Francesco of Paola (1580), S. Maria of the Temple
(12th Century), S. John the Baptist and S. Domenico (1572).
Not to be missed, just outside the habitation, is a visit
to the S. Maria of Gallana (High Medieval) Church along Via
Appia Antica (Ancient Appian Way) and the Madonna of the Scala