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  • Sassinoro by Pasquale Mastrantuono

Sassinoro is a very small village on a hill near the foot of Mount Rotondo on the border between Campania and Molise and it dominates the splendid countryside of the Tammaro valley and its tributaries. It is an area full of woods and with a rich fauna and Sassinoro is known as “the village of waters and fountains” for the presence of many streams.

It is said that its name derives from a stone on which Honorius III rested, the pope elected in 1216 who was famous for being the guardian of the future emperor Frederick II of Swabia. According to others, the name derives from the presence of Monte Rotondo and is connected to the word “Sassannorum”, or “old stone”.

The latest legend links the name of Sassinoro to a colony of Saxons who settled in the area during the barbarian invasions, after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Sassinoro, in spite of its size, is a small centre that has had great strategic importance for many centuries and its history has ancient origins.

On its territory lived the Samnites, the proud people of warriors who opposed the advance of Rome, and the remains of a settlement were found not far from the current inhabited centre. Then the Romans arrived and during the construction works of the Sanctuary of Santa Lucia, that was built on a pagan temple, several archaeological items were found including a silver coin from the monarchical age and a bronze statue from the 3rd century BC. depicting the goddess Demeter.

It is believed that there was a Roman post station here, or even the ancient city of Sirpio.

The present tpwn was formed after the fall of the Roman Empire with the arrival of the Lombards, when the population took refuge in fortresses built on higher ground. When Alboino, the legendary king of the Lombards, invaded Italy in 568 AD, he was followed by many Germanic populations including a colony of Saxons who decided to settle right in that area. Sassinoro then became part of the Duchy of Benevento, also called Langobardia Minor, which ruled central-southern Italy for centuries.

Walking through the historic centre of Sassinoro you can recognize the ancient medieval village in the shape of an ellipse which was the original nucleus included within the walls that had four doors: Porta della Corte, Porta di Jasimone, Portella and Porta delle Danze.

In the meantime, the church was organized into bishopric dioceses: Sassinoro depended on the bishop of Bojano and in the 9th century Sassinoro was controlled by the Abbey of Santa Sofia in Benevento. The Norman kings took over from the Lombards and Sassinoro was assigned as a fief to the Valletta family who reinforced the original castle.

The thirteenth century was characterized by the power and splendour of the reign of Frederick II of Swabia who organized the kingdom in fiefdoms which he gave to noble families. Sassinoro was part of the Contado del Molise.

With the arrival of the Angevins of Charles of Anjou, called by the church to counter the expansionist aims of the Swabians and who definitively defeated the son of Frederick II in the famous battle of Tagliacozzo, the fiefdom of Sassinoro was given to the De Capua family of the Counts of Altavilla who kept it until 1566 despite the change of rulers.

In fact, the De Capua family enjoyed great prestige at the Angevin court and then also in the Spanish one of the Aragonese who conquered southern Italy in 1442. In 1506 a member of De Capua still ruled Sassinoro when he received the title of Grandato di Spagna from the Spanish court and the family pledged to beautify the town by rebuilding the church of Saint Michael Archangel destroyed by fire.

In 1566, the town was purchased, for the sum of 50,000 ducats, by the noble Scipione Carafa who belonged to a very powerful and Neapolitan family related to Pope Paul IV.

The Carafa of the branch of the Dukes of Montecalvo completed the reconstruction of the church and in 1608, they sold Sassinoro to the Allegretti family for 11,000 ducats.

In the seventeenth century a miracle disrupted the life of Sassinoro and the whole population engaged in the construction of the Sanctuary of Santa Lucia. It is said that in the spring of 1600 a group of young shepherds noticed that part of the sheep disappeared and then reappeared a few moments later. Intrigued, they decided to follow them and ended up in a cave, where they found a beautiful lady full of light and a young boy.

The shepherds ran into the village and told what they had seen and when they returned to the cave they found an image of Santa Lucia and one of San Michele. So in 1622 the construction of the sanctuary began and ended in 1643.

In 1651, Sassinoro became a possession of the Mazzacane di Cerreto Sannita family.

On June 5, 1688 a terrible earthquake caused extensive damage to the town, but with much stubbornness and commitment the town was rebuilt.

In 1776 Sassinoro became the property of the Marquis Mondelli through marriages until 1806 when feudalism was abolished by the arrival in Italy of the French of Napoleon.

The town suffered further heavy damage during another terrible earthquake, July 26, 1805, and was rebuilt once again.

With the unification of Italy, in 1861, it became part of the province of Benevento and the first waves of emigration to the Americas began. A second big wave occurred after the Second World War and Sassinoro is twinned with Ossining in the state of New York in the United States.

Sassinoro is located in one of the Italian areas famous for wines since Roman times and the renowned Falanghina del Sannio DOC is produced here.


Traveller's Guide to Italy