Amalfi

According to the legend , Amalfi was founded by Ercole who chose to bury his beloved nymph Amalfi, on the beach. In reality Amalfi was founded by the inhabitants of nearby Scala in the VI century.

Amalfi was an independent state from 839 to 1131 and covered a wide territory from Lettere to Capri and Cetara with Amalfi as the main see of the doge and the archbishop. In less than two centuries the Dukedom of Amalfi became the main commercial and military power of the Tirreno. At the time, commercial activity was based on wood which was in abundance in the forests along the coast.

The inhabitants of Amalfi founded colonies and representative centres in Alessandria in Egypt, in Tunisia, Byzantium and India. They founded a monastery on Mount Athos in Greece and a grand hospital in Jerusalem with 1000 beds run by the monks of San Giovanni (frati ospedelieri di San Giovanni) which then became the Maltese Order of knights Gold and bronze coins called Tari were used and all the laws of navigation were put together in what was called the “Tabulae Amalphitanae”. They were also the first in the Mediterranean to use the Chinese compass and the Egyptian astrolabe.

The Republic of Amalfi lost its independence when it was conquered by the Normans in 1131.

Places to visit

Gli Arsenali: Amalfi, as a marine republic, owned not only a merchant fleet but also warships which were very avant-garde for their time. The vessels were safe and fast, the warships were called “sagene” and consisted of two masts, numerous sails and between 108 and 120 oars. The inhabitants of Amalfi built the ships in the town itself. The warships were built in what is now called the “Porta Marina” and the merchant ships were built on the beach. The latter were named “teridi”, “buctio”and “cocca”. “Gli Arsenali” is now home to the museum of the compass and the marine dukedom of Amalfi.

Il Duomo: The cathedral was built in the IX century and has undergone various repairs to the building itself and the façade. In 1206 it was rebuilt in Norman Arabic style and in 1700 it was renovated again. The bell tower, with its arches and turrets, dates back to 1180 and 1276. The bronze double doors at the main entrance were made in Constantinople in 1066. Parts of the interior of the Cathedral are in baroque style which date back to 1700. In the presbytery there are two mosaic ambos and candelabras dating back to the XII century. At the beginning of the XIII century the cardinal Pietro Capuano had the crypt built which is where the sacred relics of Saint Andrew the Apostle (the patron saint of Amalfi) are kept. In the cathedral there is a two and a half metre high statue of Saint Andrew weighing 800 kilos. This was made by Michelangelo Naccherino and given as a gift by Filippo II of Spain. Two other statues are of Santo Stefano and San Lorenzo and are works of Pietro Bernini.

The Cloister of Paradise: The archbishop Filippo Augustariccio had the “Cloister of paradise” built in 1266 as a cemetery for the distinguished citizens of Amalfi and is situated next to the “Basilica di Assunta”. In the cloister there were six chapels with frescos dating back to the XIV century. The cloister is connected to the archbishops building. It is square in shape and is made up of cross vaults, arches and columns in Moorish style. Today the cloister contains a well kept garden surrounded by arabesque columns which support high arches. The sarcophaguses that were situated in the cemetery contained the remains of the distinguished people of the town . Now there are only 5 remaining of relative importance.

The paper museum: The museum is divided into different sections. The ticket and sales area, the canal and towers , the XIII century paper mill, the “Sala dei magistri in arte cartarum”, the library “Nicola Milano”(the 3500 texts are divided into sections and subsections :painting and architecture, history of the church, history of the south of Italy, history of Amalfi, technical history of the paper industry and foreign texts on the technical history of the paper industry. It is possible to watch handmade paper being made and to see the ancient water mills at work with water from the Canneto river.

The Civic museum: Banners, historic relics, vestments and various works by Domenico Morelli are displayed in the Civic Museum. Of particular interest are the texts called the “Tabula Amalphitana” from the 400’s. the maritime code dating back to the origins of the famous Marine Republic. Other exhibits in the museum include nautical instruments and medieval marine objects found on the seabed, a celestial sphere from the XVII century, historical costumes worn for the regatta and works of art by local artists.

Events and festivals:

  • Good Friday: procession of the repentants
  • 25-26-27 of June and 30 November: celebrations of the Patron Saint (Saint Andrew’s day)
  • June/July: every four years Amalfi hosts the Regatta of the ancient marine republics (Amalfi, Genova, Pisa and Venice) with an historic procession
  • Christmas festivities: on the 24th of December and the 6th of January a star is lit on Mount Tabor.
  • New Year: parade of folkloristic bands and firework display