Santa Severina, a treasure trove of Italian medieval history
by Bruno Cortese
A few years ago, an Italian middle-school geography book (“Il Nuovo Geoviaggi”, vol. I: “Europa-Italia: paesaggi, popolazioni, economia”, by Luisa Morelli and Stefano Beccastrini; published by Mursia Scuola) suggested ten itineraries around places in Italy that have preserved a particularly strong local identity.
The authors’ selection ranged from Alta Valsesia (“alpine houses”) to Venice (“cities on the water”), from Genoa (“ports on the Mediterranean”) to the Po delta (“fluvial ecosystems”), from the Tuscan Archipelago (“marine ecosystems”) to Deruta ceramics, from Mount Vesuvio to the Nuragic civilization, to Catania’s fish market… and spotlighted Santa Severina as the perfect example of Italian medieval village.
Truth be told, there are many other medieval villages in Italy, and most of those in Umbria and Tuscany are better preserved and more famous. But the authors had good reason to showcase Santa Severina instead.
As illustrated in fine detail by the schoolbook, with images and captions that add historical and cultural information about the village, Santa Severina offers many interesting and unique sights. There are the Baptistery, the Cathedral, the Church of Saint Philomena, the city gate, the main square, the castle with its bastions and cylindrical towers, the Diocesan Museum and the art treasures it contains, the city center with its narrow streets, and – giving the village its nickname of “Stone Ship” – a breathtaking bluff all around.
The number and relevance of Santa Severina’s monuments place the village among the most important places in Italy for Byzantine art and history – reaching its apex when Santa Severina was elevated to Metropolis.
Furthermore, countless villages and towns in Italy were founded on hilltops to keep the surrounding valleys under control and defend the population from enemy attacks. But Santa Severina is the most perfect prototype of all, clung to its rock, halfway between the Temple of Hera Lacinia and the Sila plateau.
Thus, that middle-school book taught students that a place exists in their country where all the symbols and features of Italian Middle Ages are summed up, and where history enthusiasts and numerous visitors can lose themselves in an atmosphere that is disconnected from our daily perception of time and space.
A historical place that belongs to the heritage of mankind, and that Calabria has a duty to promote.
Santa Severina is part of Parco Letterario© Pitagora (Crotone).