A city of art situated in
the Tavoliere (Apulian Table) in Puglia. San Severo was once
capital of the Capitanata, and ancient ward of the Reign of
It is positioned in the province of Foggia and other than
its Baroque beauty, it is also known for the quality wines
Traces of the existence of man have been found throughout
the territory, mainly Palaeolithic, from the Bronze Age, when
Puglia was inhabited by the Ausoni and later the Japigi,
According to legend, the City was founded by the mythological
hero Diomedes who gave it the name of Castrum Drionis or Casteldrione.
Its development began during the High Medieval period after
barbaric invasions and the brief Ostrogoth Reign of Italy
(496-553), which ended after a clash with the Byzantines (535-553).
Puglia then passed under Constantinople dominium and saw the
arrival of Benedictine Monks from the powerful Monte Cassino
Abbey, founded by San Benedetto of Norcia in 529.
It was the monks who erected a church dedicated to Saint Abbot
Severino (V Century) along Via Sacra Langobardorum, future
nucleus of the City which took the name Castellum Sancti Severini
and then San Savero.
The habitation developed quickly and in 1116 it results as
being under the jurisdiction of the Torremaggiore Abbey, from
where Abbot Adenolfo, proclaimed an order act to regulate
judiciary and fiscal administration, which ripped opened social
life of the time. People from various origins (Jews, Longobards,
Greeks, French) testify the already long history of San Savero
and the complex social organisation unveils greatly the richness
of the fortified suburb.
With the advent of the Swabians (1194), San Severo rebelled
against Emperor Federick II, and took the side of the Benedictine
monks; paying for this by the demolishment of the walls, churches
and buildings (1230).
The suburb was then surrendered to the Templar Knights (1295)
who governed it until the cancellation of the order (1307),
when San Severo passed to Sancia, Roberto d’Angiò’s
wife, who then relinquished San Severo to Pietro Pipino, Count
of Vico (1317).
However, the inhabitants were never inclined to this submission
and demonstrated this through numerous popular uprisings until
Roberto d’Angiò made San Severo a Royal City
This privilege ended with the advent of the Aragonese to the
throne of Naples (1442), when Alfonso V of Aragona surrendered
the City to Paolo di Sangro, his faithful cavalier. Alfonso
later instituted the Sheep Customs/Tax, which set a price
for grazing ovines on the Tavoliere (Apulian Table), guaranteeing
secure returns in San Severo for 4 centuries.
With the advent of the Hapsburgs, the City was sold to the
Duke of Termoli (1521), but the inhabitants bought it back
for 42.000 ducats and on 9th May 1522, San Severo was once
again declared a Royal City.
The City prospered until 1579 when it was bought as a fief
by Duke Gian Francesco Sangro, whose family governed the City
until 1806, the year of abolition of feudal rights.
In 1580, San Severo became an Episcopal Seat, but a period
of decline had already begun which culminated on 30th July
1627, when an earthquake destroyed the City. It was subsequently
weakened by an outburst of the Plague during 1656 and 1657.
On 8th February 1799, a Freedom Tree was planted in San Severo,
but the monks repressed the manifestation with their blood.
On 25th February there was a clash between the Spanish and
French, commanded by Generals Duhesme and La Foret. The latter
were victorious and plundered the City.
Beginning with Bourbon (1815) power, the citizens of San Severo
participated in all the Renaissance motions which led to unification
to the Reign of Italy (1861).
The historical centre has a mainly Baroque appearance, gained
after its reconstruction following the 1627 earth tremors.
The main religious monuments are: the Matrix Church (1059),
Santa Maria del Carmine, Saint John the Baptist Collegiate
Church, San Sebastiano, S. Lucia and San Matteo.
To complete the list, we would like to mention Palazzo del
Seminario (Seminary Building) and the Episcopal building.
For the curious among you, just outside the city one can visit
the Tratturo del Re, the ancient transhumance path connecting
Aquila to Foggia.