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Cosenza – The city of the seven hills
The ancient city of Cosenza is gently stretched out over the seven hills surrounding it, it is reported that when Emperor Frederick II arrived in Cosenza, in 1222, the city and the surrounding countries were endowed with insignia and emblems that represented them. The inhabitants of Cosenza chose as a symbol of their city, the seven hills that surround the place, where for thousands of years the ‘village’ has arisen.
Certainly the choice was influenced by the call to the most famous Seven Hills, of Rome, a city with which he always liked to make similarities. The seven hills of Cosenza are arranged, to the left and right, as following: Crati, Pancrazio, Torrevetere, Guarassano, Triglio, Venneri, Gramazio and Mussano, and formed the site of the ancient city, before they began to develop in the northern plains.
Lets go to know our Calabria?
Cosenza is a beautiful city of Calabria and is located in a territory inhabited by the ancient ennoble people and frequented by the Romans, its origins go back to the period in which almost bretti decided to found their capital at the foot of the Silano plateau. In 410 AD, it is said that the king of the Visigoths, Alaric, died there from malaria and is still being sought today by researchers around the world. From that time on, there were a series of historical and dramatic events that occurred by the earthquakes that repeatedly destroyed the various dominations that followed: the Lombards, in 589 AD, the Saracens, in 863 AD, again destroyed, in AD 957, back to the Byzantines. In 1059 arrived the Normans leaving their traces in the castle. The return of the Suevi, with the emperor Frederick II who resided there until 1270, rebuilt the castle on the ruins, the Norman, and built in 1150, the great Cathedral of Cosenza. In 1283 the very long Spanish domination began with the Aragonese and ended with the Bourbons, in 1734.
In particular, the Piedmontese, not behaving differently from other settlers, displaced industrial and artisanal places to work steel, silk and tannin: flourishing industries, in the northern regions, left an unaltered balance of landowners. In other words, they removed those who could (artisans) and who were no longer (the Bourbons) to leave to the powerful (the barons) according to the ‘best’ political tradition that requires people to consider the good, to have exchange favors. Under such conditions, the poor and yet submissive Calabrian people developed the assistance of culture which, unfortunately, we know well. Afterwards, Cosenza developed itself over Pancrazio hill, and has found, during the fascist period of twenty years (1922-1944), the natural passage for its growth no longer dictated by safety standards that forced it to entrench it on the hill.
It passed under various dominations; suffered the horrors of the inquisition; gave birth to great men like Tommaso Campanella and, in 1820, was the first city to hoist the tricolor flag. It was home to countless rebellions and acts of violence, such as the firing of the Bandeira brothers in the Rovito Valley.
Of the various historical passages that Cosenza had, it reminds us in traces of the monumental works that we can still admire today. Among all the tops, from the top of the Pancrazio hill, almost witnessing the presence of history in the centuries, there are the Norman Suevo Castle, from 1100 – 1200.
Four Steps in the center of Cosenza will lead us to taste the water of the thirteen-channel Fountain from the Zumpo aqueduct in Sila, light and refreshing, to continue along the Corso Telesio, home of the House of Cultures, the Cathedral of 1100, while in one of the seven hills (Pancrazio) stands the figure of the Suevo Castle, an imposing fortress, also ancient, which was a shelter of Frederick II of Swabia, the ‘Stupor Mundi’, emperor-tycoon who was deeply in love with the city of Cosenza.
Arising as a fortress at the top on Mount Pancrazio, it was built by the Saracens on the remains of the ancient fortress bruzia; it was revised by Ruggero II, in 1130, but only 54 years after the earthquake of 1184, made it totally unusable. It was a mission to the workers of Frederick II of Swabia (also known as Stupor Mundi) restoring it by adding the octagonal tower, in 1239. In 1443 was completely decorated for the party and to be used as royal residence to accommodate the newlyweds Luigi III d ‘Anjou and Margherita di Savoia. The architecture was very much conditioned both in defining it from then on, castle of Swabia, presents, in fact, a rectangular plan with a central patio and an angular tower rest in octagonal, typical form of the sueva construction.
Another great historical vein of Cosenza is found in its churches.
The churches that show the course of the history are diverse; of them the most important come as the Cathedral of Cosenza, the Cloister of St. Francis of Assisi, the church of St. Domenico, with its beautiful internal area (1500).
The Cathedral of Cosenza is located in the old tonw, built around 1140, and was rebuilt after the violent earthquake of 1184. It houses inside, the tomb of Queen Isabel of Aragon. The frontage is in Gothic style; the interior is a Latin cross and three naves, which are divided by large rectangular pillars of Romanesque style in pink stone of Mendicino, placed on top by geometric or natural friezes of Byzantine style. In the nave on the left, there are two chapels in Baroque style, with the floor increased in relation to those of the other naves. In the first chapel remains the Byzantine icon representing the Madonna Del Pilerio, matron of the city, since it saved the inhabitants of Cosenza from the terrible plague of the sixteenth century. In the left arm of the transept is the sepulcher of Isabella of Aragon, perhaps the work of French workers from 1200. In the right nave is another sarcophagus, probable tomb of the rebellious son of Frederick II, Enrico VII, called the Coxo.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi
The church of St. Francis of Assisi was built next to the convent and represents one of the oldest religious buildings in the city. The convent is located in the upper part of the old town, on the Pancrazio hill. It was built on the ruins of a Benedictine monastery. Destroyed by the earthquake of 1184, it was rebuilt by Frederick II and, later, delivered to Peter Cathin, companion and disciple of St. Francis, as residence of the Friars Minor. A few years later the Benedictines returned, then the conventual ones, and therefore the smaller observers who built the Chapel of the Immaculate. Next to the church is the cloister, probably the work of the observers, who settled the structure in 1436. In the admirable interior lies the largest altar, in gilded wood. The wooden pulpit of fine workmanship was carved in the first half of 1900.
Church of San Domenico
It shows on the Piazza Tommaso Campanella a true contour line between the oldest and the most modern part of the city of Cosenza. The religious building that is part of a monastery complex built by orders of Sanseverino, in the mid-fifteenth century, stands out over the square with its imposing baroque copper-clad cupola after World War II. Built on a previous cult building dedicated to St. Matthew and consecrated in 1468, it flanked the Dominican monastery built inside the palace donated by Sanseverino to the Dominicans. The original structure underwent through some changes during the eighteenth century, but the frontage preserves some original elements in Gothic style, among them the rosette and the frame of the gate.
To the left of the church is the old convent of the Dominicans, with a remarkable cloister that carries arches, pillars and portals in Catalan-Durazzo style; in the center, a well with coats of arms of the Ruffo family and Ferrari d’Epaminonda. Built in 1449 by the will of the prince of Bisignano, Antonio Sanseverino from 1525, it hosted a General Studio of the two provinces of Calabria, Citra and Ultra, where also was Tommaso Campanella. Suppressed in 1809, it became the seat of the Military District and, now, acquired by the Municipal Administration of Cosenza, it is used as home to cultural events.
To visit there is also the national library, the Arnone Triglio Palace on Mount Triglio, where the court and the prison; now restored to its former splendor was transformed into the headquarters of the National Gallery.
Another important place to visit is the diocesan museum where it is possible to admire the original icon of Madonna del Pilerio, matron of Cosenza and the Estauroteca, a precious reliquary donated by Frederick II to the city on the occasion of the restoration of the Cathedral (1222), as well as the works of several southern painters, among them are Peter Negroni, Mattia Preti and Luca Giordano.
The Estauroteca of Cosença is a work in gold, very valuable in fact, and ecorated with enamels and precious stones. Considered among the most valuable works of art that Calabria exhibits, the Stauroteca of Cosenza (from the Greek Stauròs, meaning Cross, and Heke, meaning collection); the cross reliquary contain a fragment of the true cross of Christ and is among the most beautiful and precious of the world.
This important relic arrived at Cosenza on January 30, 1222, as a gift from the Emperor Frederick II of Swabia to the city on the occasion of the consecration ceremony of the Cathedral after the devastating earthquake in 1184.
Cosenza is situated in a natural frame of hills in the Valley of the Crati at the confluence of the river Busento, which divides the modern part of the city from the old part, that appears on the slopes of the Pancrazio Mountains. There is no better time to visit the city, given its typically Mediterranean climate and the artistic, historical and cultural beauties that are present in there. Embracing the east of Sila, to the west by the mountain of the sea to the north by the Massif of Pollino and to the south of the hills of the Savuto, this valley is the ideal place to reach the diverse areas of the province.In less than one hour driving by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Sea and by the mountains of Sila and Pollino, the city of Bruzia, with its 2,500-year history, is an must see destination to relive the history of Alaric, the life of Frederick II of Swabia (Stupor Mundi), the Cathedral, the Suevo Castle and all its downtown.
It is not only the history, culture and art that makes this city attractive, but also the gastronomy, the traditions, the hospitality and the splendid scenery that will not let you forget this place. In any case today Cosenza, called Milan of the south, has a privileged position regarding to other capitals of Calabria for being, in spite of the many problems that invest it, the most habitable one.
A LITTLE MORE OF THE BEAUTIES OF CALABRIA
How to get there:
By car: highway A3: exit – north Cosenza – south Cosenza (520 km south of Rome)
By train: you can start directly from the station of Rome or Naples with the Intercity or Espresso of Cosenza, other option is the Intercity or Espresso of Rome-Napoli. Reggio Calabria, station Paola (35 km from Cosenza), then connection to Cosenza; from the train station, urban bus service to the old town from Reggio Calabria: direct, Espresso or Intercity to Cosenza, or train Reggio Calabria – Napoli, station Paola, connecting to Cosenza; from the train station, urban bus service to the old town.
By plane: the nearest airport is Lamezia Terme, at 75 km, connected to Cosenza by train, bus and taxi. Crotone Airport, connected by direct bus and train to Cosenza.
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