© Jeff Matthews entry Jan
2010; #2, August 2018.
Looking south over
is about 50 miles (80 km) south of Naples in the
province of Salerno in the Campania region. It is about
10 miles (16 km) inland from the long coastal stretch
(off to the right in this photo) of the Bay of Salerno.
The town is at the foot of Montedoro, a peripheral spur
of the Picentini mountains, and lies in the alluvial
plain of the Sele river. The
population is just under 40,000; in terms of area, it is
one of the largest towns in Campania.
Alburni Mounts in background
Demographically, Eboli has shown a steady increase ever
since the unification of Italy in 1861. That means that
it has drawn inhabitants from the surrounding villages,
which have shown a commensurate decrease as those
populations have either moved to larger centers or, as
is the case in many places in the south, left Italy
altogether. (See Ghost Towns.)
Eboli is the "go-to" place for many things in the
Campanian outback. Eye-glasses? Computers? Microwave
ovens? "Oh, gotta go into Eboli for that, my friend." In
English, Eboli is probably best known from the 1945
autobiographical novel by Carlo Levi Cristo si e'
fermato ad Eboli, (Christ Stopped at Eboli) the
author's lament of the enduring poverty in southern
Italy (represented in the title by Eboli.) "Christ
stopped at" is not ambiguous to Italians. It means that
He never entered. Historically, the town is also
connected to Peter of Eboli (See this link), the
12th-century monk and poet. And there are at least six
different versions about the origin of the name, Eboli.
My favorite is that it comes from Ebalo, son of the
nymph Sebeti and Telone, the king of Capri, mentioned by
Virgil in the Aeneid. I am,
admittedly, a fan of specious mythological etymologies.
In any event, the name of the town has no connection to
the Ebola virus. I don't think.
Archaeology has shown that the area of Eboli has been
inhabited since the Copper and Bronze Ages. Before the
Romans, ancient Eboli was a Lucanian
city and carried on extensive commerce with the colonies
of Magna Grecia such as Paestum and Elea (Velia) along the coast as
well as with the southernmost Etruscan
towns. Whatever the etymology, Eburum (as it was
known to the Romans) was mentioned by Pliny the Elder.
Under the Romans, the city had the important status of
municipium. At the fall of the western Roman
Empire, the town was destroyed by Alaric in 410 AD, and
then by the Saracens in the
9th and 10th centuries. Later it was an important part
of the Duchy of Salerno, with
a massive castle built by Robert Guiscard. More
recently, the swamps in the area were drained by the
land reclamation projects under the Fascist government
in the 1920s and '30s (in similar fashion to the
reclamation of the Pontine
swamps south of Rome). Eboli was heavily bombed in
August of 1943 by Allied aircraft (as were other places
on or near the Gulf of Salerno, such as the port city of
Salerno, itself, heavily hit in June of '43 in
preparation for the impending "Operation Avalanche", the
200,000-man Salerno invasion,
which took place along a 25-mile (40 km) front, the
entire stretch of the bay of Salerno in September of
1943. (It was, in fact, the largest sea-borne invasion
in history, superseded only by the later Normandy
invasion in June 1944.) Many sources say Eboli was 80%
destroyed by the bombardments. (Since 2012, Eboli, has a
museum dedicated to Operation Avalanche. It is located
on the premises of the Sant'Antonio monumental complex
at no. 5, via Sant'Antonio.) The town was also hit very
hard by the great Irpinia
earthquake of 1980.
Eboli has a significant museum named The Archaeological
Museum of the Central Sele Valley. It has been in
existence since the year 2000 and is located in the
ex-convent of San Francesco.
photo: Luca Onesti
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2. added August 2018
& the sanctuary of the
Madonna of Avigliano
The "twin towns" of Eboli and
Campagna (not to be confused with
Campania, the name of the Italian region of
which Naples is the capital) are wrapped within
the many folds of the Picintine mountains, the
Picintine Regional Park really, 25 hectares (c.
62 acres) of protected greenery with a WWF Oasis
on top. (The park is the green area in the image
on the right). The park is in the mountains
about 25 km due east of the city of Salerno. The
Picentines are part of the Campanian Apennines
and are close to other Apennine sections such as
the Lattari mountains (near Vesuvius) and the
Partenio mountains (near Avellino). The area is,
of course, has a great deal of natural beauty to
offer, but also a vast array of cultural and
historical points of interest. For example, this:
sanctuary of the Madonna of Avigliano, on the
trail up to the WWW Oasis of Mt. Polveracchio.
Polveracchio is a mountain peak at 1,790 meters
(c. 5400 feet) between Campagna and Acerno. And
courtyard of the church
photos by Eugenio Mucio
Sanctuary of the Madonna of Avigliano is a
religious structure in the town of Campagna.
(Avigliano is named for the original Avigliano in
Basilicata). It is on province road 31/b
Campagna-S.Maria di Avigliano.
of the building are unknown, but the legends are
as good as they get! The original town of
Avigliano is in the province of Potenza in the
Basilicata region. The cult of the Madonna of
Avigliano, according to the tradition, took hold
in Avigliano because of the devotion of veterans
returning from the crusades. A shrine is said to
have existed in the XII century in Avigliano.
Merchants from Campagna (near Eboli) visited the
Avigliano shrine in 1249 and prayed at the statue
of the Madonna. When they got back up to Campagna,
they found that very same statue in an elderberry
tree! They returned it, of course, but the statue
found its way miraculously back to Campagna, at
which point they local folks decided to keep it
and build a chapel on the spot. The current
complex that one see today goes back to 1377. It
was built at the behest of countess Isabella del
Balzo d'Apia incorporating a preexisting church.
It then became a Franciscan monastery and was
expanded around 1440. Some works within the church
are dated to 1570s and the frescoes to the 1575.
The entire complex today includes church,
monastery and garden of about 4 hectares (10
the most famous is about the "Villa of the
Baronessa." It's not that old, as legends go. It
takes place in the early years of the 1900s. It's
about a strange noblewoman always dressed in black
and given to magic and the esoteric arts. The
woman had a son born misshapen and retarded, and
she walled him up away in one wing of the villa.
She had the complicity of her husband, a cold and
distant man who was always away on business. The
poor child, little more than 12 years of age, died
alone, an agonizing death. More than one local
person is said to have heard his cries for many
days before he died. The baroness went mad and
threw herself to her death. A short time later,
the husband, too, died in unexplained
circumstances. This unnerving tale has had an
effect on many who have visited the villa, still
there today in the center of Eboli. Some witnesses
claim to have seen objects fly across the room,
lights that turn on and off, even apparitions of
the woman herself, distraught at her misdeeds. No
one lives there today. No one wants to.
The Madonna in
the elderberry tree is but one of a rich
repertoire of legends in these hills. A few
reconstruction of the history of Eboli claims that
city was founded by the mythical king Oebalus,
king of Sparta. He is in classical literature as
the son of Cynortas.
In the town
of Campagna they still have a peculiar tradition
called "The Flood". In August, the open the dikes
of the Tenza river such that water comes rushing
through the streets of town. Once upon a time it
was a good way to give the town a good cleaning.
Today, it serves to amuse people from the local
area and even tourists from farther afield.
communities still maintain the traditions of huge
bon-fires of stacked wood set alight as acts of
propitiation at the end of the old year and
beginning of the new.
Dominican monastery of St. Bartholomew was home
for a while to Giordano Bruno the celebrated monk,
who today still represents the freedom of the
intellect in the face of tyranny. There is an item here about him.
of Santa Maria la Nova in Campagna contains a
pillar known as the Column of St. Antonino. The
saint was tied to the column by the devil,
himself, and tormented. The saint resisted and
thus drove away the devil. That column has been
used for centuries in acts of home-grown exorcism
by believers in spite of attempts by the official
Roman Catholic authorities to suppress it.
at the end of July they hold an open house for
gluttons! You can wander from one entrance to the
other among the ancient villas in the historic
center of town and sample local food and drink
right there at the door-step.