Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Corneto

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CORNETO, a town of Italy with about 4000 inhabitants, in the province of Rome and district of Civita Vecchia, on the River Marta, two miles from the railway between Civita Vecchia and Leghorn. Dating probably from about the 8th century, and fortified in the 14th or 15th, it still presents a distinctly mediæval aspect. Among its more interesting buildings are the now ruinous cathedral of St Maria di Castello, of the 12th century, the mansion of the Cardinal Vitelleschi, now used as a hotel, and the palazzo communale with, its fresco-paintings. During the great Guelf and Ghibelline struggle Corneto adhered enthusiastically to the Papal cause, and it was the first place in Italy that had the honour of welcoming back Gregory XI. from Avignon. Its interest to the archæologist and the traveller depends on its connection with a much earlier age; it occupies the western extremity of Montarozzi, a volcanic spur of the Ciminian Hills, which served as a necropolis ior the old Etruscan city of Tarquinii, and the neighbourhood is rich in various kinds of Etruscan remains. The most interesting of these are the painted tombs, which, though referred to in a Latin poem of the 15th century, and the object of a commission by Innocent VIII., were practically lost sight of till the present century. The largest, indeed, known as the Grotta del Cardinale, was discovered in 1669, but the discovery was again forgotten till 1780. General attention was drawn to the district by Mr Byres in 1842, and investigations have since been prosecuted by Prince Lucien Bonaparte, Signor Avvolta, Baron Stackelberg, Kestner, and other archæologists. The subjects represented on the walls are of very miscellaneous character, and, according to the best authorities, the tombs belong to very different epochs. That known as the Grotta Querciola contains a banqueting-scene and a boar-hunt; the Grotta del Morto, a picture of a dead man attended by mourners; the Delle Bighe, a chariot race; and the Del Barone, warlike games, horsemen, and similar subjects. These were all known before 1840, and several of them have become greatly decayed; but the loss has so far been made good by more recent discoveries. Among these may be mentioned the Tomba Baietti, adorned with figures of gymnasts, dancers, and horsemen; the Del Cacciatore, with a variety of well-designed hunting scenes; and the Del Letto Funebre, with charioteers, pugilists, and other figures.

The first extant treatise on the tombs of Corneto is a manuscript of the year 1756, by an Augustinian monk, Padre Jeannicola Forlivesi. See J. Byres, Hypogœi, or The Sepulchral Caverns of Tarquinia, 1842; Dennis, The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria; and especially the Bollettino and Annali dell' Institute di Corresp. Arch. di Roma, which, in the earlier volumes, are full of details of the Corneto discoveries and continue to give information as occasion serves.