1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Salerno

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SALERNO (anc. Salernum), a seaport and archiepiscopal see of Campania, Italy, capital of the province of Salerno, on the west coast, 33 m. by rail S.E. of Naples. Pop. (1901), 28,936 (town), 45,313 (commune). The ruins of its old Norman castle stand on an eminence 905 ft. above the sea with a background of graceful limestone hills. The town walls were destroyed in the beginning of the 19th century; the seaward portion has given place to the Corso Garibaldi, the principal promenade. The chief buildings are the theatre, the prefecture, and the cathedral of St Matthew (whose bones were brought from Paestum to Salerno in 954), begun in 1076 by Robert Guiscard and consecrated in 1084 by Gregory VII. In front is a beautiful quadrangular court (112 by 102 ft.), surrounded by arcades formed of twenty-eight ancient pillars mostly of granite from Paestum, and containing twelve sarcophagi of various periods; the middle entrance into the church is closed by remarkable bronze doors of 11th-century Byzantine work. The nave and two aisles end in apses. Two magnificent marble ambones, the larger dating from 1175, a large 11th-century altar frontal in the south aisle, having scenes from the Bible carved on thirty ivory tablets, with 13th-century mosaics in the apse, given by Giovanni da Procida, the promoter of the Sicilian Vespers, and the tomb of Pope Gregory VII., and that of Queen Margaret of Durazzo, mother of King Ladislaus, erected in 1412, deserve to be mentioned. In the crypt is a bronze statue of St Matthew. The cathedral possesses a fine Exultet roll. S. Domenico near it has Norman cloisters, and several of the other churches contain paintings by Andrea Sabbatini da Salerno, one of the best of Raphael’s scholars. A fine port constructed by Giovanni da Procida in 1260 was destroyed when Naples became the capital of the kingdom, and remained blocked with sand, till after the unification of Italy, when it was cleared; but it is now unimportant. The chief industries are silk and cotton-spinning and printing. Good wine is produced in the neighbourhood. A branch railway runs N. up the Irno valley to Mercato S. Severino on the line from Naples to Avellino.

A Roman colony (Salernum) was founded in 194 B.C. to keep the Picentini in check. It was captured by the Samnites in the Social War. It was the point at which the coast road to Paestum diverged from the Via Popillia, rejoining it again E. of Buxentum. In the 4th century the correctores of Lucania and the territory of the Bruttii reside here, but it did not attain its full importance till after the Lombard conquest. Dismantled by order of Charlemagne, it became in the 9th century the capital of an independent principality, the rival of that of Benevento, and was surrounded by strong fortifications. The Lombard princes, who had frequent defended their city against the Saracens, succumbed before Robert Guiscard, who took the castle after an eight months’ siege and made Salerno the capital of his new territory. The removal of the court to Palermo and the sack of the city by the emperor Henry VI. in 1194 put a stop to its development. The medical school of the Civitas Hippocratica (as it called itself on its seals) held a high position in medieval times. Salerno university, founded in 1150, and long one of the great seats of learning in Italy, was closed in 1817.

See A. Avena, Monumenti dell' Italia Meridionale (Naples, 1902), i. 371 sqq.  (T. As.)