Gesualdo, Campania

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This article is about the Italian town. For the composer, see Carlo Gesualdo.
Gesualdo (AV).jpg
Gesualdo is located in Italy
Location of Gesualdo in Italy
Coordinates: 41°00′N 15°04′E / 41.000°N 15.067°E / 41.000; 15.067Coordinates: 41°00′N 15°04′E / 41.000°N 15.067°E / 41.000; 15.067
Country Italy
Region Campania
Province / Metropolitan city Avellino (AV)
 • Mayor Domenico Forgione (since May the 27th, 2013)
 • Total 27 km2 (10 sq mi)
Elevation 640 m (2,100 ft)
Population (December 31, 2004)
 • Total 3,828
 • Density 140/km2 (370/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Gesualdini
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 83040
Dialing code 0825
Patron saint St. Nicholas
Saint day December 6th
Website Official website

Gesualdo is an Italian town in the region of Campania, province of Avellino, with about 3,800 inhabitants. It is called "The City of Prince of Musicians," in honour of Carlo Gesualdo. It has many buildings, fountains, great belvederes, a beautiful medieval old town, which has been partially restored since the Irpinia earthquake in 1980.

The town is located in the middle of Irpinia, between the valleys of the rivers Fredane and Ufita. It is about 90 kilometres (56 mi) from Naples and 290 kilometres (180 mi) from Rome. Surrounding municipalities are Fontanarosa, Frigento, Grottaminarda, Paternopoli, Villamaina.

How to reach it: The town is 9 kilometres (6 mi) from A16 (Autostrada Napoli - Bari), exit "Grottaminarda".


The Southern exposure on the right side of the valley of river Fredane, a tributary of river Calore Irpino, made Gesualdo inhabited since the prehistoric times.

In Roman times villas were located in the areas of San Barbato, Paolino, Volpito and Pastene.

The foundation of the current town, which became the capital of an important wide fief, coincides with the erection of a fortress around which houses and houses have been added during the centuries. The fortress was owned in AD 660 by Gesualdo, a Lombard knight who sacrificed himself to defend Romualdo, Duke of Benevento, during the war against the Byzantines.

Gesualdo's descendants were lords of the area for four hundred years and depended on the Duke of Benevento until the Norman conquest (eleventh century).

The Norman dynasty began with Guglielmo, King Roger the Norman's illegitimate child. On his death, his son Elia became Second Lord of Gesualdo. Elia's reign was the period of greatest expansion for the Fief of Gesualdo, which extended its domain to over thirty sites. Ruggero, Elia's son became Third Lord of Gesualdo, and his brother, Roberto, was the first to assume the surname Gesualdo, in honour of the Lombard founder of the manor. After Ruggero, German lords owned Gesualdo, but soon Elia Gesualdo the 2nd, Roberto's son, took possession of the manor again and became Fourth Lord of Gesualdo. On Elia the 2nd's death, his son Nicolò the 1st became Fifth Lord of Gesualdo. He participated in the war that King Charles the 2nd of Anjou made to obtain Sicily and he also was named Captain of the City of Naples. He had no sons. That's why the manor passed to one of his daughters and her offspring. During this period the Celestine monastery was founded in Gesualdo. It currently houses the Town Hall. The fief came back to the Gesualdos with Mattia Gesualdo the 2nd, Sixth Lord of Gesualdo, who was the grandson of Nicolò the 1st's brother. In the second half of the fifteenth century, Gesualdo and his castle were often the object of warlike actions. In the sixteenth century, by hereditary right, several noblemen became lords of Gesualdo: Lionetto, Sansonetto, Luigi the 2nd (who obtained the title of Count of Conza), Nicolò the 4th, Luigi the 3rd, Fabrizio the 1st, Luigi the 4th (who even obtained the title of Prince of Venosa), Fabrizio the 2nd, and finally Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613), who was Fifteenth Lord of Gesualdo, Sixth Count of Conza and Third Prince of Venosa. He was the last and most famous lord of the family. Prince Carlo gave luster to the town. He transformed the castle from a rude fortress into a refined palace, which was able to accommodate a sumptuous court: writers and poets, like Torquato Tasso, were regulars at the castle, where Carlo composed a great number of his madrigals. He also built three churches and two monasteries, one for the Dominicans and one for the Capuchins.

On his death, Nicolò Ludovisi the 1st became Lord of Gesualdo with his marriage to Isabella. She was the daughter of Emanuele, Carlo's first-born, who died of a ruinous fall from a horse a few days before his father's death. Nicolò Ludovisi was undoubtedly a key figure for the urban and social growth of the town. He strove for the completion of the works undertaken by Carlo Gesualdo and enriched the urban heritage of roads, fountains, squares and numerous other civil works, in order to give the site the aspects of a real baroque town. In particular, he was responsible for the erection and extension of several religious buildings, the decoration of the castle with paintings of exquisite workmanship, the construction of the ice house and a new majestic gateway to the town. Nicolò was succeeded in 1658 by his son Giovanni Battista, who sold the fief in 1682 to Isabella della Marra, who was the wife of Girolamo Gesualdo, Marquis of Santo Stefano.

In 1688 the Gesualdos resumed the Lordship of the town with the advent of Domenico Gesualdo, who belonged to a collateral branch of Carlo's family. By permission of Philip the 5th, he transformed his title from Lord into Prince of Gesualdo. Thus his heirs Nicola, Fabrizio and Dorizio di Sangro were Princes of Gesualdo too. In 1772 Dorizio di Sangro gave the fief to Giuseppe Caracciolo from Torella dei Lombardi. The Caracciolos ruled until the abolition of feudal rights.

With the unification of Italy, Gesualdo became part of the province of Avellino. In the years after the national unification, Gesualdo became the scene of episodes related to the phenomenon of banditry. The poverty and misery of the post-unification decades led numerous people to emigrate, especially to the Americas. After the Second World War, emigration went on to Germany, Switzerland, and Northern Italy.

Until the middle of the last century, the economy of the town was mainly based on trade, in particular of livestock and agricultural products. The Fairs, whose tradition dates back to 1588, were very famous and attracted buyers from all over the Irpinia and the nearby Puglia. A strong support to economy was also represented by handicraft and agriculture, with large-scale production of vegetables, including celeries.

The catastrophic 1980 earthquake which devastated Irpinia caused in Gesualdo enormous damage to buildings and the death of seven people, who were victims of collapses. The historic centre, which was the most densely populated area of the town, was severely damaged and was completely abandoned for many years. The slow post-earthquake reconstruction, which has lasted for decades, is not currently fully completed. Nowadays Gesualdo holds its economy mostly on professional and clerical works.

In recent times, institutions and local associations have taken strong action to re-evaluation and re-launching of the important historical and cultural heritage of the town in order to stimulate a possible tourist development.

Main monuments[edit]

It was founded by Lombards in the 7th century, enlarged in the 15th, transformed by Carlo Gesualdo in the 16th and by the Cacceses in the 19th.

  • Chiesa Madre di San Nicola (Saint Nicholas Mother Church)

It was founded in the 12th century, enlarged in the 17th, and rebuilt in the 18th in the baroque forms in which it currently appears. In addition to the 17th-century painting of the "Miracle of Our Lady of the Snows", commissioned by Prince Carlo Gesualdo, it contains the relic of the arm of St. Andrew, several polychrome marble altars, and magnificent 18th-century wooden statues, including that of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the town.

  • Chiesa del Santissimo Sacramento (Blessed Sacrament Church)

It is a unique architectural structure dating back to the 18th century. It is commonly referred to as the Cappellone (Great Chapel).

  • Chiesa del Santissimo Rosario (Most Holy Rosary Church)

The 17th-century church is the backdrop of the secular tradition of the so-called Volo dell'Angelo (Flight of the Angel) in honour of St. Vincent Ferrer.

  • Chiesa di Maria Santissima Addolorata (Our Lady of Sorrows Church)

Built in the 17th century and enlarged in the 19th, the church contains an 18th-century pipe organ on the balcony over the front door, and a series of paintings by the contemporary French painter Kathy Toma, which have decorated the aspe since 2002.

  • Convento Cappuccino di Santa Maria delle Grazie (Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary)

Founded in the 16th century and enlarged in the 17th, the convent preserves the valuable painting of "The Pardon" by Giovanni Balducci, commissioned by Carlo Gesualdo. In 1909 it hosted the young saint Padre Pio as a student of theology.


Each year many events attract thousands of visitors:

  • Saperi e sapori (Knowledge and flavours), food and wine festival in the old town; August;
  • Gesualdo Folk Event, folk music festival at the foot of the Castle; August;
  • Volo dell'Angelo (Flight of the Angel), the secular tradition that sees a child, dressed as an angel, tied to a rope, acrossing a square at a height of more than 20 metres (66 ft); last Sunday of August;
  • Vambalèrie (Bonfires), the celebration in honour of St. Andrew which consists in the lighting of bonfires along the city streets and rural areas. This tradition began in the nineteenth century when the tree which had been placed in the main square was cut down and its wood was partly burned and partly used for the construction of the statue of the saint, which is still preserved in the chapel of the Mother Church of St. Nicholas; 30 November;
  • Presepe Vivente (Living Nativity) in the old town; Christmas time.

Last special visitors[edit]

Composer Igor Stravinski, fully fledged with the impressive music of Prince Carlo Gesualdo, paid a visit to the town in 1956.

In the 1990s, German director Werner Herzog made a short feature in the village (Death for Five Voices), while guest starring the popular singer Milva.

Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci planned to shoot a movie about the dramatic Carlo Gesualdo's life and music but the plan was never carried out.

External links[edit]