Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews    entry Jan 2010;  #2,  August 2018.

There are 2 entries on this page:
1. the original entry on Eboli, directly below,
2. The Twin Towns of Eboli and Campagna
& the Madonna of Avigliano


1. E
boli


Looking south over Eboli to the          
  Alburni Mounts in background
         
Eboli 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.

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.


top photo: Luca Onesti 

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2  added August 2018                            The Twin Towns
& 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:

The 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 this:


The courtyard of the church
both photos by Eugenio Mucio

The 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.
The origins 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 acres).

The Madonna in the elderberry tree is but one of a rich repertoire of legends in these hills. A few others:

  Perhaps 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.
A legendary 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.
Both 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. 
The 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.
The church 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.
In Campagna 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.
...and so forth


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