In the North of Basilicata, half way between Irsina and Avigliano,
on top of a cliff at the foot of which runs the Bradano river
and its tributary stream, Fiumarella, is where the ancient
centre of Acheruntia is situated
in a wonderful panoramic position.
There are archaeological testimonies dating back to Neolithic
times which have been found in the Serra Altura, whilst on
Mount La Guardia, remains of habitations date back to the
Iron Age. Prehistoric finds show that the territory of Acerenza
was inhabited from the beginning of time by our ancestors.
It is certain that Acerenza already existed during the VI
century BC, and was probably founded long before the Osci
civilisation by the name of Akere. It was then later known
by the Greeks as Acherontis. A tomb and a statue depicting
Hercules were found on the territory.
The Romans conquered it during 318 BC, led by the Consul Giunio
Bubulco. Acerenza became a military fort the following century
in support to the wars against King Pirro of Epiro.
Acheruntia was re-conquered by Rome, led by the Consul Levino
during 210 BC. It then entered as a permanent part of the
Republic of Rome, firstly becoming a colony then a town (I
During the V century it became an Episcopal Seat.
Following the fall of Rome, Acerenza was occupied by Totila,
King of the Ostrogoths from 541 to 552, after a victorious
battle against the Byzantine army, who then occupied all of
Little remains from the Eastern Roman Empire, and already
during the VII century, the village of Acerenza became part
of the Longobard dominium. The latter had the Castle built
and re-adjusted numerous times and made Acerenza the capital
of a gastaldato (a royal demesne with civil, martial and judicial
powers) under the Principality of Salerno.
During the VIII century, a cathedral was constructed under
the wishes of Bishop Leone II.
The Byzantines re-conquered it during 978, but only kept it
for a few decades. Midway through the XI century, Acerenza
was already Norman property under Robert Guiscard, who entrusted
the village to Count Umfredo, who was later succeeded by Asclettino.
A new cathedral was built during the same century.
Acerenza merged into the Swabian Empire at the end of the
XII century and was administered by Galvano Lancia, uncle
to Prince Manfred.
Under the Angioinians (XII century), Acerenza acquired further
importance for its strategic geographic position between Rome
and the Orient. Village nobles were represented by the following
families: Sanseverino, Durazzo, Ruffo, Barnota and Morra.
During 1456 it was gravely damaged by an earthquake, killing
more than 1000 citizens.
During the ‘500s, under Spanish domination, important
restoration work of the Cathedral and Bell Tower was carried
During successive centuries, Acerenza was administered by
the Ferrillo, Orsini, Pinelli, Pignatelli-Belmonte and Lancillotti
families, then finally acquired by the Panni Family for 21.500
After the Republican and Renaissance experiences, Acerenza
merged into the Reign of Italy during 1861.
A visit to the City
Acerenza is a Medieval village, which wholly preserves its
evocative power. One enters through what remains of the San
Canio Doorway, which opens up along the Medieval town-walls.
Whilst walking up to the summit, one can admire richly decorated
18th century buildings (Saluzzi, Caramuta). On arrival at
the top of the hill, a majestic vision of the most interesting
cathedrals in all of Basilicata awaits the visitor: S. Canio
or the Assunta (XI century).
Other interesting churches to visit are: San Laverio, the
Annunziata and San Vincenzo, close to the completely restructured
Outside the historical centre, one can visit the Sant’Antonio
Convent, seat of a museum which exhibits carved wooden works.
Places of Interest
The Romanesque Assunta and San Canio Cathedral (XI century);
the Annunziata Church (‘200); the San Laviero or Purgatorio
Church; the cylindrical Belmonte Castle Towers; - the Sant’Antonio
Convent (1570), the Piani of Maddalena and the Casa Contadina