Pontecorvo was originally a settlement at a strategic point of the river Liri, where a port was created. The origin of its name comes from an existing “curved bridge” straddling the river Liri. During the long domination of the Abbey of Montecassino, ‘curvus’ has been interpreted as ‘corvus’ (raven), in honour of the creature beloved by the Benedictine tradition.
Currently the Liri appears as a modest river and it is difficult to think of the impressive flow rates of the past or to the magnificent lake that Liri fathered some 200,000 years ago.
In Roman times there were villas, like that of Caecina Suetria family. The rustic villas were active until the fourth century AD when the Saracen raids began.
Pontecorvo, the medieval town, was then founded on the hill in a castle in 860 when the steward of Aquino, Rodoaldo, built a castle to control the river crossing. Rodoaldo tried to form an alliance with the emperor’s relative who ousted him, killed his children and forced him to become a monk in Montecassino.
The monastery of Monte Cassino became more important between the tenth and eleventh centuries and, in 1105, the abbots took possession of the castle. It seems that the monks paid out about 300 pounds of gold, in addition to 120 for the mediator who was also assured feudal investiture. The Benedictine rule lasted for about four centuries, but was interrupted by the occupation of other lords and the rebellions of the Pontecorvesi.
In 1463 began the long period of papal domination in Pontecorvo that created a paradoxical situation: isolated from the power of the church, it was completely surrounded by only the Kingdom of Naples. The papal domination brought about a remarkable economic development, and in the sixteenth century, Alexander VI, Pope Borgia, elevated Pontecorvo to town status and gave it to his son Giovanni.
In this period, the order of Malta was established with a hospital and the church of San Giovanni in Gaudo, supported by a large estate.
After the Unification of Italy a massive emigration began. During World War II it was bombed with severe damage to the civilian housing, the cathedral and the city in general.