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Anversa degli Abruzzi: the history



The origin of the name of Anversa degli Abruzzi has been much debated. According to the most probable hypothesis, the name of the village derives from the Latin "ad amnem versus" convoluted, "verso il fiume” (toward the river), where the river referred to is, of course, the Sagittarius. Over time, the expression, indicating the geographic position of the town, has undergone a natural simplification, which led to the fall of the original preposition "ad" (to).
A second hypothesis, which explains the origin of the name, however, puts Anversa degli Abruzzi in connection with another place of the same name present in the nearby countryside and was founded by the Normans. This hypothesis would be based on the Norman domination that the little village of Abruzzo suffered during the Middle Ages.

There is no doubts about the specification "degli Abruzzi", which was added only recently, in 1927.

The history of Anversa begins a long time ago, sometime in the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the necropolis were found in the area. In the pre-Roman period, between the ninth and the fourth century BC, in the area that is today the historical center stood a fortified center of the Peligno people with burial in St. Carlo – Fonte Curzio and in Coccitelle. The necropolis testifies to the sparse structure of the villages, which were in direct contact with the cultivated fields. In particular, the necropolis of Coccitelle is located on a hill, now planted with olive trees. The zone name sums up the long experience of the farmers in discovering human remains buried.

In the next Italic-Roman period, between the third and first centuries BC, two small villages are located at St. Mary delle Fornaci (at the base of the current town) and on the Colle Arenale - Source of the Biancone, with necropolis to the Cava di Rena.

In the Dark Ages, from the eighth - ninth century AD, the area was influenced by the presence of Monte Cassino and Volturnesi Benedictine monks with their "cells" from S. Cesidio in Bonaria to the Valley Donica of Castrovalva, S. Maria Flaturno in Anverso (now S. Maria ad Nives) and S. Mercury in Flaturno towards Casale di Cocullo.

The first official testimony of Anversa dates back only to 1150, in the Library of the Norman barons, compiled as a result of the census of fiefdoms and feudal lords of the kingdom, ordered by King Roger and updated in 1168. Here, the castellum Aversa curiam is listed with many other estates, including Castro (Castrovalva), belonging to Count Simone di Sangro, one of the most powerful of the Kingdom of Sicily and member of the important family of Norman Avaleri. 
Already at that time the castle appears be the site of the curia, or court for criminal and civil cases and was required to provide to the king, if needed, three soldiers on horseback and several well-armed infantry. Castrovalva, however, was obliged to provide only two soldiers.

Most of the fiefdoms that Count Simon had were later inherited by Raynaldo de Aversa, from the same family di Sangro, who, having chosen the village as his residence, added the noble toponym of Anversa. He married, then, the sister of the powerful Thomas, Count of Celano. During the revolt of Thomas against Emperor Frederick II, Raynaldo took the side of his brother-in-law. This was how defeated Thomas and Raynaldo as well lost all their estates which were confiscated in the royal demesne. Only after the death of Frederick II in 1250, the sons Rinaldo, Teodino and Berardo were returned the possession of the property of Pateni and Anversa and it was the eldest son Rinaldo, who assumed the title of Count of Anversa.
Upon the death of Rinaldo, Anversa was inherited by his son Gentile, who was noted for his merits acquired at the Angevin court, as a Knight of the Realm. Upon his death in 1307, Anversa was passed to his descendants, who continued to own it until 1431.

Between 1431 and 1435, the fiefdom of Anversa came under the rule of the powerful Caldora Giacomo and his son Antonio, who held it until 1463, when, rebelling first against the king Alfonso and then Ferdinand I of Aragon so he was deprived of all his estates, that returned to the royal domain, this time that of the Aragonese.

Anversa was sold, along with Campo di Giove, Cansano and Villalago, to Nicolò di Procida, a butler of the house of Aragon, under whom the Church of St. Marcello was enriched with the beautiful portal.
The fiefdom, with ups and downs, would remain so until the abolition of feudalism (1806). It passed to his son Gian Francesco, who in 1493 sold it to the Magnifico Giovan Vincenzo Belprato.

The Belprato were the Lords of Anversa until 1631. They were succeeded by Gio Berardino, Gio Vincenzo II, Gio Berardino II, D. Carlo and Virginia, upon whose death the dynasty died out and the fiefdom passed to her husband Thomas of Capua, Prince Bocca do Romana whose family who held it until 1715. A house of patrons and humanists, Belprato, who dwelt in Anversa, built the Church of St. Maria delle Grazie enlarged and embellished the Church of S. Maria della Neve, along with the adjacent monastery which they donated to the Dominicans; built buildings of unusual size which overlooked the Cavuto, which was called "The Houses of the Lombards" embellished the palace, founded the Accademia degli Addormentato, a haven for artists and writers who had Anversa as their meeting point.

Between 1585 and 1588, in the large chapel attached to the palace of the count, the wedding was celebrated of D. Constanza, daughter of Gio Berardino II and Virginia Orsini, with the scholar Neapolitan Giambattista Manso, Marquis of Villa Irpina and Lord of Bisaccia, friend and patron of scholars, including Torquato Tasso, who, for this wedding, composed a sonnet ("In a beautiful meadow, among the beautiful flowers and herbs ").
In 1608, the Manso published some dialogues including one called The Anversa, which, as revised, was reprinted in 1620 under the title The Belprato.

In the Renaissance period of Belprato - Orsini and then, Di Capua, Anversa was the seat of skilled potters (gentili, Di Cola, Ranalli, Pompeii and Marcelli), which gave rise to the production of fine glazed ceramics in relief. Later, Anversian ceramists devoted themselves to simple ceramic household, the production of bricks (pinciarie) with shops in S. St. Mary delle Fornaci and S. Vittoria.

In 1656, Anversa was decimated by the plague, which from Naples had spread rapidly throughout central Italy.

In 1706, Anversa suffered further damage due to the earthquake, called "earthquake of the Majella". The castle was almost completely destroyed, so that in the Land Land Registry of Anversa dated 1754, it is described as "diruto e di veruna rendita".

In 1715, Anversa passed to, for a short time, the Prince of Scalea and finally to the Recupito family, the Marquis' of Raiano and Counts of Anversa, and residents of Naples, who kept it until the end of feudalism in 1806.
The relationship between the Anversani administrators and the Recupito were poor because of the alleged annual payment of unduely heavy taxes so much so that in October 1799, with the wind of the French Revolution, the Anversani rebelled, refusing to pay the taxes. The uprising, which caused a sensation that it was noted in the diary (1798 to 1825) of the Napoletean university professor Carlo De Nicola, who very close to the court:
"Friday, October 4, 1799. In a place in Abruzzo, on the feud of the Marquis of Roiano, for the collection of the taxes, the population has picked up their arms, and said it does not recognize the superior power and that they want to govern themselves; the place is called Anversa. "

In 1817, under the reforms of the rule of King Ferdinand I, Castrovalva, because there were less than 1000 inhabitants, it was united with Anversa from 1 January of the same year.

In 1904, the flour mill located in the area of the spring of the Cavuto and operated by the water derived from the river Sagittarius, was transformed by the company formed by the owner D. Filomena Ricciardi, the widow Gatta, and the engineer Andrea Gentileschi, into a hydroelectric plant. On October 16th, 1905, in Anversa and Castrovalva, they lit electric lighting, only 23 years after the U.S. city of Philadelphia.

In 1905, Gabriele D'Annunzio places one of his famous literary works in Anversa, “La fiaccola sotto il moggio”, which he calls "the perfect combination of my tragedies."

In 1915, the village of Anversa was again hit by another earthquake, that of the Marsi, which caused a lot of damage, as well as the deaths of two victims. The coffered wooden ceiling in the Church of St. Marcello, the vaulted ceiling of the nave of St. Maria delle Grazie, the roof of St. Maria della Neve and the adjoining monastery all fell.

The Square of Anversa in a period picture

Over the years, Anversa degli Abruzzi has been abandoned by its inhabitants. With the closing of the many activities of the past that are ultimately no longer viable, the town has become less populated, becoming a small village with a few people.

Today, Anversa degli Abruzzi is an independent municipality of the Province of L'Aquila and has become a member of the selection of the "most beautiful villages in Italy". With its charm, its monuments and its nature, the village attracts many visitors every year, amazing them with a feeling of "fear and wild pleasure" (in the words spoken by Anne Macdonnel in 1908).

This article has been translated from Italian Language by Ashton Walters and A&M Translation and Writing.