1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aquila (city)

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AQUILA, a city of the Abruzzi, Italy, the capital of the province of Aquila, and the seat of an archbishop, 2360 ft. above sea-level, 50 m. directly N.E. of Rome, and 145 m. by rail. Pop. (1901) town, 18,494; commune, 21,261. It lies on a hill in the wide valley of the Aterno, surrounded by mountains on all sides, the Gran Sasso d’Italia being conspicuous on the north-east. It is a favourite summer resort of the Italians, but is cold and windy in winter. In the highest part of the town is the massive citadel, erected by the Spanish viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo in 1534. The church of S. Bernardino di Siena (1472) has a fine Renaissance façade by Nicolò Filotesio (commonly called Cola dell’ Amatrice), and contains the monumental tomb of the saint, decorated with beautiful sculptures, and executed by Silvestro Ariscola in 1480. The church of S. Maria di Collemaggio, just outside the town, has a very fine Romanesque façade of simple design (1270-1280) in red and white marble, with three finely decorated portals and a rose-window above each. The two side doors are also fine. The interior contains the mausoleum of Pope Celestine V. (d. 1296) erected in 1517. Many smaller churches in the town have similar façades (S. Giusta, S. Silvestro, &c.). The town also contains some fine palaces: the municipality has a museum, with a collection of Roman inscriptions and some illuminated service books. The Palazzi Dragonetti and Persichetti contain private collections of pictures. Outside the town is the Fontana delle novantanove cannelle, a fountain with ninety-nine jets distributed along three walls, constructed in 1272. Aquila has some trade in lace and saffron, and possesses other smaller industries. It was a university town in the middle ages, but most of its chairs have now been suppressed.

Aquila was founded by Conrad, son of the emperor Frederick II., about 1250, as a bulwark against the power of the papacy. It was destroyed by Manfred in 1259, but soon rebuilt by Charles I. of Anjou. Its walls were completed in 1316; and it maintained itself as an almost independent republic until it was subdued in 1521 by the Spaniards, who had become masters of the kingdom of Naples in 1503. It was twice sacked by the French in 1799.

See V. Bindi, Monumenti storici ed artistici degli Abruzzi (Naples, 1889), pp. 771 seq.