Arpaia

Citadel: north

We don't know when the core of the current Arpaia was founded: some sources attribute it to the Langobards around the 7th century; others instead think that it was built only in the 13th century by the Angevins. A fortified town just at the entrance of the Valle Caudina, anyway, had an evident military relevance, and could ensure a relevant income as a place of customs.
The citadel of Arpaia is trapezoid-shaped: its eastern side is roughly 115 m, the other ones are each about 140 m long; the settlement was planned according to a grid, closely imitating the French planned settlements called bastides. The main street of the citadel used to part it in two equal parts, west to east, and the town gates were located at its ends (probably this street was originally a segment of the Appian Way, but later on the route of the latter was deviated north of the town, just out of its walls).
Two parallel streets were located on the two opposite sides of the main one; houses and alleys connecting these streets were then arranged according to a regular subdivision via transverse parallel lines. Backyards were shared among the population of the citadel for a small-scale agricultural usage. The town included a market place: a big open space between the central street and the northern one, with the church facing it. Original plan of the citadel [Comune di Arpaia]

Image recostructing the original plan of the citadel with its walls, compared with the current configuration.

Bastide [Wikipedia]

History and structure of bastides in France.

Church of San Michele Arcangelo

Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

San Michele is the parish church of Arpaia. It is unknown when it was built for the first time: the structures of the current church date back to the 16th century, but the worship of the archangel Michael is usually closely related to the Langobards. Residual architectural elements in its interior suggest that it was founded in the 6th century; originally it was named, more shortly, Sant'Angelo.
San Michele has been a Collegiate church since 1530, the first one in the Diocese of Sant'Agata de' Goti, to which Arpaia belongs; and it has been always regarded as the second important church in this territory, after the Cathedral.
Nevertheless, the known facts about the church sum up to a sequence of periods of negligence followed by ineffective restorations. This happened partly because the church included several chapels and altars which used to be under patronage of the wealthiest local families; and the latter did not always care about keeping them in good condition. But neither did the priests, even though the church was granted a fixed annual income from the universitas (i.e. the town administration).
During the 16th century the church included several paintings and frescoes but, in the second half of that century, it was in horrible condition. Some partial restorations took place during the 17th century, but at the beginning of the 18th San Michele was again crumbling. A better refurbishment took place gradually between 1715 and 1824, but it was far from being definitive, because further signs of decay became evident soon.
Between 1897 and 1901 the municipality of Arpaia proceeded to the demolition and rebuilding of almost all the front half of the church. In particular, the barrel vaults that used to roof the church were replaced with a regular ceiling. Chiesa di San Michele [Pro Loco Arpaia]

A detailed but messy account of the vicissitudes of the church, and the controversies that accompanied them.

The façade and the churchyard The façade of the church and its main entrance were realized in 1824. The upper portion has a simple neoclassical decoration, whereas the portal comes from the disappeared Church of Sant'Agostino, which dated back to the end of the 16th century. A small square in front of the church separates it from other buildings, and connects the alleys of Via Municipio with the crossroad between Via Sant'Angelo and Via Forche Caudine. Statue within one of the side chapels
View of the interior The current appearance of the church of San Michele has been determined with the refurbishment operated in the early 19th century and, more importantly, the radical ones that took place between the 19th and the 20th century. The church is currently divided into 3 naves, with the side ones each subdivided into 3 small chapels, each with its altar or distinctive element. The ceiling was previously barrel-vaulted but it has been removed, and replaced with a plain one. The entire environment shows a neoclassical inspired architecture, and is decorated with stuccoes. A stained glass
The baptismal font (16th century) under a picture of the Baptism of Christ The baptismal font was originally located close to the current entrance. Now instead it's placed within a chapel on the left. View of the apse The apse of the church was one of the few parts of it that survived the refurbishment of 1897-1901. The main altar, a notable artwork in polychrome marble, was installed in 1814. The statue of Saint Michael in front of an old column The statue of Saint Michael was sculpted a few years before its first mention in 1684. The column and the ionic capital appearing on the left of the picture were discovered under the plaster during restorations in the 19th century. They are a small surviving part of the oldest church structures, which date back from the 6th century.
The northern half of the citadel of Arpaia has been heavily modified during the 16th century, due to a significant growth of the population. The square next to the church was obstructed with new housing; consequently, the two longitudinal street on its sides (the middle and the northern ones) ended up merging into a much smaller open space, and proceeding eastward as an unique road, that did not lead straight to the eastern town gate (now disappeared) any more. The southern street with its modified route is named Via Sant'Angelo, and the remaining part of the middle street, connecting the church with the eastern gate, is Via delle Forche Caudine.
What remains of the central square of the citadel The churchyard of San Michele is nothing more than an alley between Via Municipio and the former citadel's square, today just the junction between Via delle Forche Caudine (at the bottom) with Via Sant'Angelo. The 'square' with the bell tower of San Michele The bell tower of San Michele, once dominating the main square, is still the point where ideally Via delle Forche Caudine flows into Via Sant'Angelo. It has been saved during the massive refurbishment intervention that was operated on the church of San Michele at the end of the 19th century, except for its top, that previously was pear-shaped.
The picture has been taken along Via Sant'Angelo, whose housing can be seen at the bottom.
A stone portal along Via delle Forche Caudine A very common plan for housing in the historical centres of the region consists of a big stone portal on the main road, leading to a courtyard surrounded by the windows and the doors of the single flats into which the building is divided. The most important portals, like this one, featured the coat of arms of the family at their top.
Houses along Via Sant'Angelo Another view of Via Sant'Angelo
The original plan of the citadel included walks all along the walls. Part of these still remain: they are Via Municipio (where the wall disappeared), Via Corte dei Cavalieri (see the page about the southern half of the citadel), and Vico Principe della Riccia (named after the noble title of Giovan Battista di Capua, feudatory in the early 18th century), that stretches from the western town gate to the north-western corner of the walls.

Town walls: west side

Mura della cittą: lato ovest

Only a small part of the west town wall is preserved. Originally this side of the walls featured 4 towers, only one of them is still standing in the southwestern corner (see the page about the southern part of the citadel), plus the town gate in the middle, that introduces from Via delle Grazie to Via delle Forche Caudine. Later on, parts of the wall got replaced with housing; another portion was torn down at the end of 19th century to build a tuff stone arch which connected Via Sant'Angelo with Via delle Grazie, outside the wall (the arch has also been removed, after the 1980 earthquake). The remaining segments of the wall are descriptive enough. Unfortunately, they are visible only from inside the citadel, as a row of houses has been built along their exterior throughout the centuries.
The wall consists of approximate rows of limestones, glued with mortar: according to local sources it dates back from Langobard, or even Roman, ages; others believe it to be some centuries younger. Some portions, probably fallen down with the earthquakes, have been repaired with tuff stones. Embrasures are placed at regular intervals; they are topped by segmental arches and their interior is wide enough to operate a bow or a crossbow.
The gateway at the southern extreme of this surviving portion of walls is the only one remaining, but it's almost sure that another gate esisted at the eastern extreme of the main street of the citadel. The name of this gateway maybe was Porta Romana, but I am not sure. It consists of a rectangular-shaped tower, much bigger than the others. The entrance is marked with a round arch of lime stones, enclosed in bigger arch in tuff. Access was regulated with two heavy shutters that were closed at night; they got lost during the 19th century.
A vault over the entrance holds the upper storey of the tower, employed for monitoring and attacking. As the walls were surrounded by a moat (now entirely disappeared), access to the gate was granted with a drawbridge.
View of the town gate from outside the citadel During the last centuries, buildings have been built on both sides of the gate. A rectangle above the shape appears marked, probably because there was a stone reporting the coat of arms of the contributors to its construction. The windows probably was used for watching outside the gate. Behind the gateway is the beginning of Via Forche Caudine. Southward view of the wall
View of the gate from inside the walls The internal view of the gateway helps recognizing the actual dimensions of the arch.
The right wall of the gate includes a votive niche. Behind the door is Via delle Grazie, with the column which indicates the road to the Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie.
Northward view of the wall Via Municipio with San Michele at the bottom The current appearance of Via Municipio is, unfortunately, far from its original one. Its left side was once delimited by the northern portion of the town walls, that nowadays has been completely absorbed by buildings facing the Appian Way.
Copyright 2014 Antonio De Capua