Posted by: piccolamela | June 6, 2009


The Maritime Republic of Amalfi

Amalfi was originally a Roman colony, which gained more and more importance over the centuries, and after the fall of the empire it became a diocese (596 AD).
Later, the whole coastline, along with Amalfi, became property of the Duchy of Naples, until 839, when the city declared its independence and became an autonomous republic. The Maritime Republic of Amalfi was soon to become an important maritime commercial centre, trading with the whole of the Italian peninsula, North Africa, the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire. The Republic bought spices, precious stones, carpets and fabrics from the Arabs, and sold them throughout Italy. The Maritime Republic of Amalfi was founded in 840, making it the oldest Italian maritime Republic. The Republic enjoyed its greatest prosperity in the second half of the nine hundreds and the ten hundreds. The Amalfi Maritime Tables, the world’s first maritime code, controlled shipping in much of the Mediterranean, and there were colonies of Amalfians conducting trade in many port cities. Soon, Amalfi’s wealth not only attracted the attention of pirates, who were promptly driven back by the city’s army, it also became the target of neighbouring states. In 1131, after a long succession of attacks, Amalfi was annexed to the Kingdom of Sicily, although still retaining a certain degree of autonomy in the management of maritime commercial affairs. Gradually, commercial relations with the East began to dwindle, checked by the policies of the Normans and Pisans, who landed on the coast in 1135, to plunder and destroy whatever they found there. The opulence of the Maritime Republic was by now but a memory, and maritime trade was limited to rare contacts with Southern Italy. A brief scientific and cultural revival occurred around the 1200s, the century in which Giovanni Gioia of Amalfi invented the compass. Over the following centuries, Amalfi’s population dropped considerably, mainly due to the continuing attacks on the zone by pirates. But the greatest disaster hit the region in 1643, when the plague took the lives of a third of the coastal population. One of the results of this tragedy was the progressive impoverishment of the area, aggravated by the interruption in maritime trade. The economy began to converge on the cultivation of olives, vines, and citrus fruits and on the crafts industry. Around the second half of the 19th century the Amalfi coast began its revival thanks to tourism, and artists such as Ibsen and Wagner drew inspiration from the region for some of their famous works, further fanning the curiosity of travellers to the coast.

The Cathedral in Amalfi dominates the principal square and it is the pride of the town.
It was dedicated to Vergine Assunta, patron saint of the town.
The Cathedral was built in a strategic position for the centrality and to defend, in fact it was built on a plane raised of 20metres above sea-level.


In origin the basilicas were two and both with three aisles: the first corresponds to the old Cathedral erected around the year 1000, the second erected in the IX century is more spacious. The two places of cult were used at the same time. The basilica was changed in the XIII century and the two places of cult were united in an only one with five aisles.

The outside
The present facade was built in the XIX century after the collapse of the original . On 24 December 1861 for a gust of wind, a strappado of the façade fell down.
Then there is the bell tower, that was restored in the XVIII century.

The largest portal presents a lunette, that contains a fresco of Domenico Morelli and Paolo Vetri, and a bronze door, coming from Costantinopoli.
The interior, readapted with baroque forms, has a basilican plan with transept and apse; the all
interior is covered with marbles and antique columns .The chapels preserve important works of art.


The Valley of the Mills constitutes the terminal part of the course of the Stream Reed before the same crosses the inhabited centre of Amalfi. The name of this portion of Valley derives from the installations of the mills for the industry of the alimentary pastas that later had to surrender to the competition of the industries of Torre del Greco, Torre Annunziata and Gragnano. Between the XII° and the XIII° century some mills were replaced by the paper mills, where started the production of a paper drawn by the maceration of the cotton rags, flax and hemp, with a native technique of China, imported from the Arabic countries and introduced in West and improved by the Amalfitanis.
The paper produced in Amalfi, called bambagina paper, was very appreciated especially the filigrees with coats of arms, symbols and sketches and spread in such a way that Federico II, in 1220, forbade the use for the public actions. During the ‘700 this activity reached its apex, but at the end of the 800 the missed mechanization of the productive trials caused a rapid decadence of all the paper mills. Of the sixteen paper mills that operated in the Valley only two are still active, while the other ones are deserted and damaged along the course of the Reed. At the beginning of the Valley of the Mills there is the Museum of the Paper, that picks up the machineries and the products of the workmanship of the paper.


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