"Before you visit Larino attempt to come to some terms with its place in history.  In a sense, the story of Larino is the story of the entire western world.  Our very language derives from these windswept hills.  The Sannite civilization, which for many years rivalled that of Rome, is ancient.  Beneath the streets of the new town, Piano San Leonardo, are the remnants of the classical city.  Fundamentally, therefore, come here with respect and don't attempt to force your preconceptions on a culture which is far more sophisticated than our own.  I prepared all of this material to place your visit in context.  The cathedral was built when Dante was alive and when the Scots under Robert the Bruce struggled against the English dominion.  The municipal building was likely once a Norman castle and the remnants of classical buildings can be seen as part of the bell tower of the cathedral.  History is everywhere and it seems strangely present."

The foundation of Larino predates the existence of Rome. In about 900 BC Etruscan families chose to build a community on a high point looking out towards the Adriatic sea about twenty kilometers from the coast. (*The Etruscan migration is not entirely confirmed.  The greatest evidence is the number of Etruscan artefacts, but this could have been the result of trade.)


In 500 BC the Sannite confederation extends modern Abruzzo, through Molise and inclues the cities of Boiano, Venafro, Isernia, Trivento, Benevento, Venosa, and Lacedonia. It is a huge area of control. In 470 BC the Sannite population starts to move towards Campania.

In 389 BC Rome is sacked by the Gauls. Only the Captol remains impregnable. Finally the invaders are bought off by a heavy ransom and they retreat unexpectedly.


354 BC marks the first actual contact between the Samnite and the Romans.

In 343 BC, Rome declares war against the Samnite hill tribes (sometimes spelled Sannite). This is the First Samnite War. The series of battles ends in a treaty whereby the Samnite leave the plains and return to their highland strongholds.

In 327 BC the Second Samnite War is declared. The Frentani (the tribe centred around Larino) at first sides with the Samnite. The Frentani and the Romans actually engage in battle in 319 BC. Eventually, though, the Frentani declare their neutrality.

At the Caudine Forks, in the year 321 BC, the Romans face a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Samnite and they are forced to sign a dishonourable treaty of peace.

A mosaic found on the grounds of Villa Zappone near the amphitheatre

Frenter (the district of Larino) is occupied by victorious Romans in 318 BC. The community is known in Oscan, the language of the people, as Ladinod (in Oscan "d" is sounded like an "r").

In 311 BC the Samnite forge an alliance with the Etruscans, the Celts, and the free tribes of Umbria to challenge Rome..

In 308 BC the Frentani enter into a formal alliance with Rome.

In 304 BC the Second Samnite War comes to an end with the re-establishment of an ancient treaty with Rome. After this time the Masi, Paeligni, Vestini, Marrucini, and Frentani are enrolled among the allies of Rome. Finally the Samnite power is exhausted, but the Romans have such respect for them that they become (in 290 BC) allies of Rome on equal terms without any sacrifice of independence.

300 BC Altilia is founded.

In 281 BC the Frentani joined with the Romans to fight against Phyrrus of Epirus. It was Phyrrus, with his series of damaging triumphs against the Romans, who gave us the term "Phyrric Victory". In joining Rome the Frentani were allied against their neighbours, the famous Sannite warriors.

The Frentani again assist the Romans against Hannibal and his brother Asdrubale. Asdrubale is beheaded in Larinum and the severed head is thrown into the nearby city of Gerione. Hannibale subsequently destroys Gerione and massacres the inhabitants. 216 BC. Hannibale moves south and totally defeats the Romans at the battle of Cannae.

The famous Roman orator, Cicero, defends a prominent citizen of Larino, Cluenzio, against charges of murder. The year is 69 B.C. Caesar mentions Larinum frequently in his writings.  See, in particular, Caesar's Civil War. Pompey camps nearby the city when he decides to challenge Caesar’s power and influence.

Cicero writes of serfs who are associated with the Temple of Mars (the God of War) in Larinum.

Julius Caesar is assassinated on March 15, 44 BC.

Cicero is murdered on December 7, 43 BC.  His head is severed and, as an added idignity, a Roman matron inserts needles in his tongue as vengence for his comments in a trial against her.


Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD), Caesar's nephew and successor, also knew of Larinum. It was one of the main Italian cities in his sprawling empire.

Tiberius is Augustus' successor as the Emperor of Rome. He rules from 14 AD to 37 AD.

A bronze tablet was found near Larino.  It is referred to as the Senatus Consultum from Larinum and it was created in 19 AD.  It bears an inscription which embodies measures against public performance on stage on in the arena by members of the upper classes.  It is now a world-famous historical artefact which sheds light on the lives of  the ancient inhabitants of Larinum. 

A toppled column was recently unearthed in the vicinity of the amphitheatre

Gaius (Caligula) rules from 37 AD to 41 AD.

A series of remarkable mosaics have been discovered at the Villa Zappone

Claudius rules from 41 AD to 54 AD.

The entrance to Larino's famous cathedral

Nero rules from 54 AD to 68 AD.

Vespasian rules from 69 AD to 79 AD.

In 72 AD Vesuvius, the volcano near Neapolis (modern Naples), erupts. Pompeii is covered in ashes. The population at Herculaneum is more fortunate, but the community is buried under seas of lava which harden into a porous rock called Tuffa.

Titus is emperor from 79 - 81.

A prominent citizen of Larino, having made his fortune in Rome builds

an arena that can accommodate  12 thousand spectators.


Domitian is emperor from 81 - 96.

Nerva is emperor from 96 - 98.

Trajan is emperor from 98 - 117.

Hadrian is emperor from 117 - 138.

In the third century AD, San Pardo, the patron saint of Larino, is a Bishop in Greece. He is sent to Italy to win souls to the new faith. Constantine, the founder of Constantinople, is emperor from 305 - 337.

May of 305 A.D., three young noblemen from Larino, Primiano, Firmiano, and Casto are martyred in the arena of Larino. The Emperor of Rome is Diocletian (284 305).

Statue of San Primiano in the Cathedral at Larino

410. The city of Rome is captured and sacked by the Visigoths under Alaric.

The Empire of the West falls in the year 475 A.D. The Goths invade Italy. Odacer, the Goth, in 476 succeeds Romulus Augustulus. Barbarians are settled on one third of Roman Landowners’ land. Odacer is accepted as a "partrician" by Zeno, Emperor of the East.

Just outside of Larino there are the remains of what might be mistaken for a stone farmhouse. If you look closer you will realize that it is actually the ruins of a tower. It is very ancient. It could be from the period just after the fall of Rome when the barbarian Kings swept southward over Italy. It was likely an outpost for sentries. However, it was carefully built and may have formed part of a network of fortifications.

In 488 Zeno send the Ostrogoths under their king, Theodoric, to attack Odacer. Odacer is killed. Theodoric rules over the Roman population as imperial viceroy.

Between 492 and 496 Pope S. Gelasio I sends two letters to the Bishop of Larino, Giusto.

Balisarius is sent by Justinian (the Emperor of the East) to conquer Italy. In 555 Italy comes under Byzantine government.

 One of the entrances to the amphitheatre

562. The last Gothic garrisons in Italy surrender.

In 568 the Longobardi, under their leader Alboin, sweep across Italy. Gregory the Great is Pope from 590 to 604.

The Emperor Costanzo invades from the east in 642 and destroys a number of cities, including Larino.

In 668, after plagues and invasions, the diocese of Larino is placed under the jurisdiction of Benevento by the order of Pope Vitaliano.

In the Italy of the year 700, Larino is part of the Duchy of Benevento. To the north is the Duchy of Spoleto. To the south are the Byzantine Territories.

In the middle of the seventh century Romualdo I, the Duke of Benevento, brings Bulgarian mercenaries to the area to fight the Byzantines.

In 753 Pope Stephen crosses the Alps to appeal for help to the Frankish ruler, Pippin the Short. Pippin invades Italy in 754 and 756. He gives the conquered territories to the Pope.

The French under Carlo Magno (Charlemagne) establish power in Italy in 774.

In 801 Pipino, the son of Carlo Magno, places Larino (and his other territories) under the control of a consul.

820. Muslims from North Africa conquer Sicily.


The Saracens from North Africa begin to devastate the coastal areas of the Adriatic coast in the year 842.

In 947 the Hungarians attacked Larino. In their rampage they entered the church of SS Madre di Dio and began to steal relics and sacred treasures. D.Pasquale Ricci in his Fogli Abbandonati (Abandoned Pages) recounts this story: In the midst of this sacrilege when the Hungarian soldiers, carrying away treasures, tried to leave the church it was as though they were faced by an impenetrable wall. A strong a mysterious voice range out: "Leave those things which belong to Pardo and the doors will be opened". The Hungarians were terrified. The immediately dropped all that they had stolen and suddenly the church was suffused with light and the soldiers fled in disorder.

962. Otto I, king of Germany, invades Italy and is crowned Emperor in Rome.

982. Otto II is defeated by the Arabs when he attempts to conquer southern Italy.

In 983 Ottone II fights against the Greeks (the Byzantines) and the Saracen pirates.

In 1017 Norman mercenaries participate in a revolt against the Byzantines.

In 1045 Tesselgardo is the Count of Larino. At roughly the same time the Normans are in Larino. They build a castle at the site of what is now the Palazzo Ducale. (The first notice we have of the castle is in the writing of Pope Innocent III, who held the papal throne from 1198 to 1216). Apparently many bandits were held in the fortress.

In 1053 the Count Ugo forms a base in Molise which last for two centuries.

In 1059 Pope Nicholas II invested the Norman adventurer, Robert Guiscard, with all conquests in Apulgia, Calabria, and Sicily.


In 1066 the Normans, under William the Conqueror, attack Great Britain and subject the Saxon inhabitants to their rule. It sometimes surprises travellers from the United Kingdom that the Normans were also in Italy. They came here to fight in the Crusades. Normally they left from the Gargano (the spur on the east coast of Italy) for the Holy Land. They were the younger sons on large families and they were seeking their fortune. Rival factions in Italy invited them to fight as mercenaries. As soon as they realized that they could win kingdoms by mere force of arms they began to dominate the entire south of the country right into Sicily. One family, named Hauteville in French (high town) went through a name transformation (to Altavilla) and established a dynasty.


1071. Bari, the last Byzantine stronghold in Apulia, falls to the Normans.

Buttress of old castle once topped by square turrets


1072. The Norman lords of southern Italy capture Palermo in Sicily.

In the following image you can still see part of the buttresses that formed a defensive for the Palazzo Ducale. Now the Municipio (Town Hall) it once was a Norman castle. In the late part of the nineteenth century part of the Palazzo was transformed into the Albergo Moderno, now completely deserted. The rooms, however, still remain.


At the foot of the buttress fruit and cheese vendors sell their wares almost every morning. Recently the province began restoring some of the huge cavern-like rooms. The structure of the earliest parts of the ancient castle can be seen clearly. The rooms, themselves, are enormous and are completely constructed with stone and immense stone arches.

An inverted piece of classical stone forms part of a doorway on the fourteenth century cathedral

In 1128 Ugo II reasserts the independence of the "contea" of Molise.

1130. On Christmas Day King Roger, a Norman, is crowned the king of Sicily, Calabria, and Apulia in Permo cathedral.

in 1140 Count Ugo II of Molise accepts the leadership of Roberto di Capua and the King of the Normans (Ruggero II) to establish a vast feudal domain which experiences a period of peace. The son of King Ruggero II conquers the county of the Mrsi, the last large feudal state controlled by the Longobardi.

A terramoto (an earthquake) devastates the area in 1112. In 1120 another quake lasts for fifteen days.

In 1158 the facade of the cathedral in Termoli is completed.

In 1181 Raone de Viense is the Signore di Larino.

One of the few remaining Round towers in Larino

The Ricci Tower, a true round fortification, is part of the citiy’s defenses. Today It is part of a private home and is beautifully decorated in antiques.

The Signora of Larino is Anna Gentile, the widow of Ruggiero Dragone.

Pope Innocent II is on the papal throne in 1137. The Roman Emperor is Lotario III. They wage war against Roger, King of Naples.

in 1194 the Hohenstaufen oust the Normans. Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen family succeeds to the South Italian throne at the age of 3. Although he was German his mother was a South Italian Norman.

 Frederick II, called by Dante, "The Wonder of the World".  Some say it was he who destroyed the classical city of Larino when the citizens rebelled against his rule.

In 1198 to 1216 Innocent III is the Pope.

In 1223 there is peace between Frederico II and his rebellious follower, Tommaso da Delano. The Emperor Frederico guarantees his rival possession of the County of Molise.

In 1265 Dante is born in Florence.  He sees Frederick II as a type of "saviour" for Italy.

In 1270 Roberto di Causenzia was the signore of Larino.

On May 10, 1271 King Carlo d’Angio was in Larino on his way to Campobasso and Termoli.  It was the French Angevins who brought French Gothic architecture to Italy. 

Charles of Anjou was prompted by Pope Clement V to conquer southern italy.  The world was astounded when his troops massacred citizens at Benevento

1274. Death of St. Thomas Aquinus.

The castle with its various facades looks benign now, but once it was a mighty and feared castle and prison.

In 1281 Roberto di Causenzia imprisons many Larinesi citizens. For this crime he is arrested on the orders of Carlo D'Angio, the King of Naples.

Dante chooses the year 1300 as the time for his masterpiece, The Divina Commedia.

Robert II, King of Naples, rules from 1309 until 1343. H e was crowned by Pope
Clement V at Avignon. King Robert befriended Petrarch. Dante called him the "word king".

1313. Giovanni Boccaccio is born (1313-1375).

The Pope (Clement V) and the King, in 1313, give their consent to built the Monastery of St. Francesco along with a new church. Groups of artisans pass from community to community carrying out their craft in this time of incredible development. (That same Clement V permits the clergy of Scotland to recognize, Robert "The Bruce", as King of Scotland in 1309. When the cathedral was built, The Bruce was busy fighting the English to secure his new Kingdom. Bruce, himself, was a direct descendent of a Norman baron who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066).

In 1312 the "Square Tower" is built as the campanile of the newly established convent. Later it also becomes the bell tower of one of the first universities in the western world. The exterior of the tower was recently sandblasted and restored to its original appearance by the present owners.  It is now known as "The Galuppi Tower".


In 1316 Larino is designated the capital of the region.

The Cattedrale is completed in 1319 and in 1320 the body of San Pardo is placed under the major altar. The city begins a period of remarkable growth. In 1350 the population has reached twenty-five thousand.

Dante Dies in Ravenna in 1321.

1337. Death of Giotto.


One of the remaining frescos in the Cathedral.  It shows St. Michael weighing the souls of sinners and saints.

1347. The Black Death ravages Italy.

1451. Christopher Columbus is born. He lives until 1506.

1456. Leonardo da Vinci is born. Dies in 1519. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). Michaelangeo (1475-1564).


In the night of December 5, 1456, a terrible earthquake almost completely destroys the city. The death toll is over thirteen hundred.

In the year 1463 Albanians follow Giorgio Castriota to the enviorns of Larino when the Turks overrun their country. They are welcomed into a depopulated land ravaged by earthquakes. They settle in Ururi (a corruption of the name "Aurora" or dawn).

1469. Niccolo Machiavelli is born. (1469-1527).

1475. Michelangelo is born. (1475-1564).

1527. The Sack of Rome.

In 1556 the Council of Trent establishes a Seminary in Larino.


In 1556 the military and naval forces of Pialy Pascia (Pasha) attack and sack Chieti, Ortona, and Vasto.

In 1575 Larino is sold by the Regia Corte to Agostino de Mari for 111,000 ducati.

In 1656 a plague reduces the population to 313 Well over 9,000 people die in a matter of 120 days.

The Duke D. Franceso Carafa is murdered on the first day of May, 1679. His body is placed in the Chiesa di San Francesco.

In 1713 the last Count of Larino (Antonio) inherits his title. He is the son of Marianna di Sangro and Lucio di Sangro.

In 1764 a terrible famine makes itself felt in Larino. The price of food is excessive.

 The courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale.  The entire complex is being restored by the provincial government.
In 1778, according to Alessandro Dumas in his Un Regno Insanguinato (The Blood Reign), a beautiful young woman from Larino, Luisa Angiolina Ferri, was shot and killed in the Bishop's place (beside the Cathedral). Her distraught husband delivered their child as the mother succumbed to the bullet in her chest.

In 1783 the people of Larino hear of violent antifeudal revolts due to famine.

The people suffer terribly under the Chancellor Tanucci, in the service of Carlo III. There are twenty-three separate taxes to support the Crown, the Feudal system, and the University.
In the Italy of 1797, Larino is part of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. That territory reaches all the way to Teramo in the north east, and north of Caserta in the west.

In 1798 the ordinary citizenry mount a fierce resistance to a French invasion.


The Centro Storico, seen from the air, has the shape of a wing.  Today the greatest honour a citizen can receive is "The Silver Wing". 

In 1799 a troop of eight hundred French troops pass Larino on March 13. Under French rule the Monasteries are suppressed In 1809 the convent of Saint Francesco becomes a place where the police are housed . The bells are removed from the campanile of the convent by Napoleonic troops.
1805. Napoleon is proclaimed the King of Italy in Milano (May 26).

In 1806 the feudal system is abolished and the citizens are free from service to the nobility. Joseph Bonaparte becomes king of Naples.


The interior of the cathedral before it was "restored" in the late twentieth century. 

In 1815, after the fall of Napleon, the Bourbon (Borbonici) are restored. Larino is relatively calm, but the townspeople are not ignorant of the efforts of the Carbonari, a revolutionary group.

1820. Revolution in Naples begins at Nola.

In 1836-37 the cholera struck Larino and three hundred souls died.

In 1847 Ferdinando II and the Queen, Maria Teresa, came to Larino in a carriage. They were to be lodged in the Bishop's palace but as soon as the Queen entered she was overcome with the odor of the fresh paint. In great haste suitable rooms were prepared in the Palazzo Comunale. The next day they left for Campobasso.

In the Revolution of 1848 a number of Larinesi men volunteered for the campaigns in Venezia and Roma under Garibaldi. When the revolution failed many citizens of the community were imprisoned or exiled..

In October of 1855, King Ferdinand II, orders that a school be established in Larino in the convent. Nothing comes of that demand.

May, 1860. Garibaldi lands in Marsala, Sicily.

September, 1860. Garibaldi enters Naples.

1874. Transfer of capital of Italy to Rome.

The festival of San Pardo, from a very early time, continues to dominate the lives and the imaginations of the Larinesi. Male children, by the scores, are named in his honour, and a serene silver effigy becomes the center piece of annual springtime celebrations.

1878. Death of Victor Emanuel II and succession of Umberto I.

In 1893 another cholera epidemic in Larino causes thirty deaths in forty-eight hours.

1900. King Umberto is assassinated. Victor Emanuel III is King.

1896. First performance of Puccini's La Boheme in Turino.

An epidemic in 1918 takes a toll on the young women of the community.

1924. First regular radio broadcasts are initiated.

In 1927, just in front of the Municipio building, a monument is raised to the dead of the Great War. No one realized at the time that worst suffering lay ahead as the boys of the town were called upon to fight in Ethiopia, the Balkans, North Africa, and the Russian front. Larino was occupied by the Germans and the Allies. Miraculously Larino escapes major damage.

In this image by Pilone a British armoured carrier moves into Larino town square.  To the left is the corner of the Palazzo Ducale.  This physical setting is identical today. 

In the Second World War Monte Cassino is totally destroyed in an Allied bombardment. The Germans had used the monastery as a command post. Campobasso, a thirty-five minute drive from Larino, is named Maple Leaf city by the allies because of the presence of so many Canadian troops.


Return HOME, visit the Church of Santa Maria, Visit the Cathedral, the Church of San Francesco.  Find out about THE CHILD OF DEATH, CLUENZIO, PRIMIANO, the PROVERBS of Larino.  See the work of a gifted ARTIST.  Contemplate LAST THOUGHTS.

For comments on this page contact Dr. Robert Gardner at