Vallata - brevi cenni storici -

    An outline of Vallata's history    


The translation by prof. Cerullo Pompea.


          The first "irpini" colonizers reaching in our zone, a well based strategic point holding fertile grounds rich in waters, wold have occupied the high part of the hill. 
          They would have settled down initially in natural coves made by the magma's arenaceous rock, which in some places was argillaceous, and subsequently built, in front of the coves, a space for all purpose and intention of a more or less big size depending on the family's needs and availabilities.
          It had also a small opening serving as window for the letting trough of light and air and finally it had a door which served for defence against dangers.
          How many of these houses still exist with its internal extensions into large coves and for which today are used as, wine cellars in which to  store excellent wines, as lumber.
          Rooms and so on, and that once these same coves were peolpe and animals' living quarters and a safe shelter in case of attack?
          The elder remember that these coves, on different levels, went across the hill far and wide and from what many people say a few of these crossed from on place to the other and that today's via xx settembre used to go straight through into the opposite street, via Umberto I.
          It is obvious that the "oppidum" with its town walls and doors has been built next, maybe ouring the "longobarda" rulling and hence its origins in our town, from what our ancestors say. This way of seeing the facts surprises us eventhough it may come from local written documents or great historians, because, with unforgivable notice of the "sannito-irpino" matrix that gave place not only to the main and most important centres but also the less important ones whose historical events have not been fully discovered yet.
          It is therefore evident that by taking it too easy it has not been considered, to its full heaning, the heart of those traditions and customs, which had been wonderfully rich, whith its own culture and characteristics its own original and peculiar language, its libertarian and democratic (courage) spirit which had been, pernaps in certain  historical moments, a little humiliated by prevalent outside forces, but, however, never cancelled by later dominions such as the romans' or else. 
          The "sannito-irpino" population as has always kept throghut the centiures, fortunately still does, its folk-lore that distinguishes itsef from any other up to this day, i allow my self to insist upon this idea, not  for sef-sufficiency purpose or country boldness for which i am allergic to whole heartedly, but because i am simply trying to read history from the very beginning with its graft with the human context.
          The best ever reading material to seek advice from. An inexhaustible source to turn to whenever one likes to do so, for this matter i am always more conviled that every (population) people has its own history to re- not so much for its characters- through each one of the person who have been and still are the vital force of a social strcture, the true milestone that traces the path of the history of man, the most authentic and valid source from which to seek reliable accounts of the past, the true meaning on which to build a future. 


The historically ascertained Gateways(city doors) were three:
1) Porta Rivellino (the term "rivellino", in old times, generally indicated the bastions erected as protections to the doors of the fortresses that were made of scarpato base and crowned battlemented terraces. Such a door had the characteristics). 2) Porta del Tiglio (named after a lime-tree) and 3)Porta di Mezzo (because it stood between the other two).

A) In the north Porta Rivellino (dialect:Urlino), also called Porta del torello, which still exists even if literally disfigured by the new buildings, besides which stoods, from what Pavese says, a smoll chapel dedicated to St.Leonard,but of which there is no evidence. Near such a door there is though a place that was once an old chapel, that of St. Catherine'd. A 1749 manuscript of Domenico Antonio Mirabelli, priest, as Saponara sustains, reads that near this door was found other rusty arrows relics and evidence of a bloody fight taken place in the past: probably the 1199 battle. The name of P.del Torello comes from the fact that a long way back, Mirabelli specifies, the Vallatesi practiced their blows on a small bull (toro-torello) made out of soft wood. This was the most popular sport among the "vallatesi", with regular competition and classifications. This sport included crowded audiences, even from nearby towns, enjoying and encouraging their favourite team. Today the "valletesi" aren't good rivals of their ancestors because while following the fashion's myth of national and international sport in a rather exasperating way, they do little and nothing to give good examples' as to how to behave except for the rare and isolated good willers who prefer to support and urge the practice of various sports amongst the new generations. But in the past, the "vallatesi" conquered fame as able archers to their original  and characteristic use of the " saiettale" arcy. It wold seem, in our children, to have a propensity thay to play in bands of armed and rudimental archers, hitting targets like... birds. This thendency seems to be congenital among the "vallatesi", but then who hansn't in the part as in the present tried to build some sport of arch and arrow? Something like and arrow? Something that looked like a forking branch holding tightly on both ends an elastic, which when pulled back to mit, would thorw a small stone on the target near or far depending on the ability of the marksman? That is why the "vallatesi" loat of arms has besides the three flowers (symbolizing the beauty of their women-according to mr. Pavese, who might be referring to " ambone" saying:<<Vallata, montibus circumdata, pulcris molieribus ornata>>. I would add furtmer:<<the kindness of its people especially towards foreigners>>), two wheat corns (symbolizing the once prevailing rural activities of the town) and two arrows recalling this sport that gave Vallata a great popularity.

B)In the sud Porta del Tiglio (dialect: teglia) or porta nova, beside the castle: the lime tree goes back to centuries ago and can be found on the side of the square where in 1961 a monument, in honour of the "Immaculate", nas erected. Chapter XXI of the clerical statute, speaking about the processions, mentions the two city doors so forth:<<St. Bartholomew`s day comes out from the "Teglia" city door and into east of, "torello"...St. Antonio`s and St. Michele`s day and "del Rosario" round and round the earth: from where`s the exit, there`s also the entrnce (in and out the same way),>>. "Tiglio Square" was the teenagers amusement (tradition carries on!) and probably there also toor place sport activities and competitions, as it is described in a 1712  register:<< Die XXVI decembris 1712...Angelo Iannuzzi, 3 year old, while playing whith other kids, was casually wounded at the head by a mallet and oled a few hours lather. Take notice that the book says " while playing with others" which possibly means there was some sort of competition going on: certainly a game that had a certain amount of danfer, better played in winter when the mallet could be found. 

C) In the fast "Porta di Mezzo"="De Moeza", (dialect: ri`mizz)so called because it stood between the city walls that united the other two city doors. The former led to "annunziata" square. This wold explain the second name given to this city door: "Porta del Piano" because from the flat "levante" road it went to "piano Annunziata" with its namesake chapel, here  the dead brought about by the earth quakes or pestilence were buried, as the parish files aknowledge. Hence i disagree with Saponara who states the existence of a fourth (door) city wall, called "del piano" because the aren`t any documents speaking of such, and also, because logical thinking evidences that this supposed city-wall would have been standing on the other side. Then again, if it were true, how could it have been accessible if that side of the wall stood on deep ravines, whereas un accessible? Surely even "porta di mezzo" wasn`t very busy but it had its own strategic importance, giving its people a great deal of defence, making itdifficult for any enemy attack since the ground  below, even not as steep as in "via ponente" was very rocky. I gather that this city wall, allow me the confront, had the same use of "porta delle pecore" (sheep`s door) in Jerusalem and it also stood in the exalt place of the above: an efficient use  for people devoted to their agriculture and shepherdness as for any on coming emergency in case  of siege.
        But Vallata had its own tren ches for defence, as we can guess by the names of its streets outside the city-walls:"via fossato di levante" (now via XX settembre)," via fossato di ponente"(now via Umberto I) "via di mezzogiorno"(now via mastroprospero) and "rivellino" keeping the some name up to today. The castle`s where abouts is recalled by the so-called square "largo castello" where in 1650, several houses were built, among which Medoro Schiavina`s, as is reported in the kindly family Netta`s memorirs  on top of the castle`s ruins, as the memoris say, were also built D. Generoso Cataldo`s and D. Domenico`s his uncle, houses (today Laurelli e Tullio Cataldo`s heirlooms). "There`s no doubt, as far as Saponara recalls, that many of castle`s chambers still in good state were repaired by the Cataldo Lords, as for erample, the living room and the artoining level, in which knights and dames left their cloaks. Such rooms had walls of 1 metre 20 width. In the so-called "giardino, of the tower. The garden is adjacent to "via sotto corte. Here the "curtis longobarda" authority, under management of a chaplain or legal attorney, administrated justice..." In this ist supposition the name "Vallata" given to the town, wold be explained by the fact that the central part of the town occupied by people, was the lowest part of the hill in comparison to "S.Stefano" and "Serra Longa" mountains and also the "formicoso" plateau-a highly strategical point becaused placed on both sides of the wide valley "Calaggio" and "uffita". Ambone, mentioning M. Albo, from which flow two streams; "La Bufola" and "Calaggio", the latter springs down from "Formicoso"(or Famoso) territory. As a matter of fact it points out: << Vallata, montibus circumdata>>.  



        The first colonizers wold have occupied the lowest part of the hill naturally protected from behind by itself and the front protected by the deep gorge "Bruciolillo" wereas the sides were protected by the "Serra longa col vallone dell'acqua del medico" slapes and by "stradella e montalbi" hillsides. 
        The west hill was naturally defended lap the steep gorge starting off from the "Festole" and "via Gallicchio" making it admost impossibble to get in. From east the hill wassheltered by a steep and rocky gorge all over, possible to over cross only for the best: there for a the first people living in the area could cover the distance right to the top and admire the envious view above. THe "Serra Longa" gorge stretched smoothly throughout the "Pizzillo" countryside up to the "Padula" area and was surey abound with underwood and winding paths, their memory still preserved today by a dialectal expression that inspires fright yust at the trought of it:<< RI Coupe ri Santu Paulou>>.
        It was, to first "irpini" people reaching in the area quite clear that the strategical position of the place  was of great advantage to them, since it was a well protected natural spot with good land and it invited  groups of people to settle down definitely.
        The first colonizers` history is a mistery yet undiscovered but possible with careful research on archaeological sites. 
        These obscure centuries will come to light with the coming of "Cristianism" thanks to a new era of cristian martyrs. 
        The strenght of preaching was especially due to the true evidence of Crist reported by the disciples and this gave way to an emonmous devotion towards the disciples and martyrs who were ready to die in Crist`s name. 
        This explosions why so many towns and country roods were dedicated to the disciples and the martyrs. In this second supposition, the first "Vallatesi" would have chosen St. Andrew (S.Andrea) as their. Patron Sait and they built a church in his name in the first inhabited town centre which was successivey entarged to occupy "S.Giorgio`s" groups of houses with a namesake church. According to a fanciful legend St.George,martyr in 303 by Diocleziano, was apparently chosen for his wanlike activities. A countryrood (contrada S.Pietro) was dedicated to St.Peter and a main rood that led into town was dedicated to St.Paul (S.Paolo) recalling his conversion on the way to Damasco, "Cupe di S.Paolo". with the consequent ricostruction of the oppidum, Vallata chose to change its Patron in honor of "S.Bartolomeo" whose flesh, according to tradition, was tor away from him while still alive.  
        Todays main church is dedicated to him and accross the centuries has been enlarged, in order to fulfill the needs of the growing population, and rebuilt because of several fighting events that had damaged it. 
        Up to the 1930 earthquake, on both sides of the high altar, stood two gigantic statues of the Saint Peter and Paul, in the opinion of the olders who still remember it clearly.
        The "Protomartire" first martyr St.Stephen (S.Stefano), was condemned and stned death arard 36 a.C. becoming the "vallatesi`s" deavest Saint and dedicating him a chapel an Mant "S.Stefano" its namesake. 
        Offices of the Roman arming, St. Sebastian died, under Diocleziano of Rome in 304, shot to death by arrows, according to traditional saying. This also explained the "vallatesi`s" soft spot for him, since they loved playing around with arches and arrows, hence they dedicated him a chapel, too, on "S.Maria" hill.
        The devotion towards "S.Vito martire" throughat the whole South of Italy can be explained by the fact that, persecuted by Diocleziano (this man loved persecuting?), he happened to pass by our town, whilst he was travelling on to Rome, arousing, wherever, intense religious rapture: hence a chapel dedicated to him "S.Vito" chapel stands surranded by houses  which at time, were mainly shallow caves: "Grotte di S.Vito".
        A few years ago, at the land-tax office, in Ariano Irpino, I found out that a rural chapel had standing in Vallata and dedicated to a martyr belongin to the first centuries of cristianism:"S.Alvino" countryroad (in dialct: Macchial-vino). 
        The chapel was located in the woods, exachy an a tiny small spot. This casual discovery is to me dear because noone else had any clue about the existence of this chapel.
        It would appear that the town development, as a consequent condition for a better defense system brought about many changes, as for examply the construction of a Castle, of proper city-walls and so on. This in order to inprove the "Longobarde"  dominion, to establish a better cour-up against any likely aggressions.
        At the same time, a church was built inside the "Oppidum", dedicated to the new Patro Sait,"Bartolomeo". Because of the increasing population and the new defence strategies undertaken by the town, there would have been new building sitee outside the city-walls, some of which were groups of houses such as:"Nuovo Casale S.Giorgio" and "Rione Incoronata" in place of "S.Angelo di Cava". New parts of the city were coming up all around out of the city-walls; "Via Montevergine", "Piazza Fontana", "Borgo S.Antonio"(Santantuono), and an the east side of the ditch "Via XX Settembre" with its respective lanes and alleys, all linking up to "Via Umberto I", whereas on the west side, as for the above, stood "Piazza Tiglio", "Via S.Maria", "Via Chianchione", "Via S.Rocco", "Via S.Vito" and "Via Mastroprospero". 
        Personally, I would opt for the second supposition, which looks to be the most reasonable, because of the following reason: 
A) the first colonizers, highlanders, would have settled down on the lowest part of the hill, because, as we`re already said, it was a natural protected zone, sheltered by mountains, by the impervious "Bruciolillo" and by gorges, steep valley, woods and winding paths.
B)They would easity have had water supply, since the ground below had plenty of sources, an important factor in case of siege.
C)Given the fact that there was plenty of water, they were able to clear-up the grounds in order to cultivate the fertile land. Another advantage, since the land was near the town centre, therefore an essential for survival.
D)for whom was familiar to the grounds, the hill tops were easily attainable and hence able to check, keep under control and 
dominate the whole suirroundings.
E)Finally, the name "Vallata" adopted by the town, could be reasonably explained by the geographical factors of the original area, occupied by the colonizers, and corresponding to todays "S.Andrea" and neighbouring.
        It seems abvious that the two suppositions or hypothesises, based more or less on true historical elements, are waiting to be confined more accurately by archaeoligical rudiments. Hence it is necessary to apply a more scrutinized research in order to provide  more issues supporting the former elements previously dealt, that sustain our thesis. This becomes possible with the help of private and public associations.