Benevento, legendary “city of the witches”, is the repository of ancient memories. The Samnite city of Maloentum was re-baptised by the Romans Beneventum in honour of the victory over the King of the Elpiro, Pirro.
The Longobards also passed by, as did the Angioines and the Papists. This land held tenaciously on to its character throughout; dating back to perhaps the ancient Samnite warriors, the only ones to resist the superpower of the Roman legions. Taken by the Goths in 490 AD, Benevento fell to the Longobards in 571, who then founded the duchy. After the year 1,000, it became a Papal city and remained part of the Papal State until the Unification of Italy. The symbol of the City is the Trajan Arch, erected at the start of the Trajan Road (via Traiana) on the Benevento-Brindisi tract.
It is 15 meters high and has miraculously survived intact, rich with its sculpted decorations, commemorating the glorious feats of the Emperor. Roman memories are also alive in the imposing Theatre (2nd century AD), that is the summer venue for concerts and shows. The Cathedral, founded in the Longobardian era (7th century) and later completely restructured, retains the façade and the belltower from the original structure.
The most evocative monument is the Santa Sofia Church, a masterpiece of the Middle Ages. Founded in the 8th century by the Longobards, it has an usual plan, accentuated by pillars and columns (of Roman origin) and characterised by the intricate design of the vault and arches. The cloister is magnificent and dates back to the 12th century. Since 2011 it’s Unesco world heritage site. The Provicial Museum of Sannio is found in the monastery of Santa Sofia, one of the most important in Campania. The archaeological section has prehistoric relics, Greek and Italic ceramics, Egyptian statues from a temple dedicated to Isis, and Hellenistic-Roman statues, as well as a coin collection that extends from Magna Grecia to the Duchy of Benevento.
The medieval section is also very rich, with jewelry, weapons, tools and sculptures, not to mention the paintings dating from the Baroque to the 1900’s. The history section recalls the events and traditions of Sannio, and is housed in the magnificent Rocca dei Rettori, a castle built in 1321. In the lower part of the Palazzo di Prefettura, in the heart of the city, is the Arcos Museum “Arte Contemporanea Sannio”; in the garden of the former convent of San Domenico is the Hortus Conclusus, an ensemble of sculptures by Mimmo Paladino that evokes mythical times. In the summer the city hosts a popular showcase that includes music events, prose, dance, exhibitions, conventions, and workshops organised in the historical venues of the city cent.