Convent of San Martino.
It is not our custom to start with premises but it is no coincidence that we decided to begin our story from here, from the former convent of the Capuchin friars of San Martino, recently restored and victim of centuries to say the least nefarious. We hope it will also be a good omen for the other structures of our beloved city.
The convents represented a wealth for the territories and were the point of reference for scholastic and spiritual education.
In short, we were entrusted for life: from baptism to burial through marriage. Just observing one of these magnificent and enchanting structures produces that feeling of serenity and security, that feeling of home and of everyday life punctuated by the tolling of the bells to segment the passing time.
At a certain point in history, however, someone decreed their end by closing the convents with fewer than 12 religious inside. Mind you: it was really difficult to reach such units.
Several architects became protagonists of this havoc, such as the French during their "Decade" of domination in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in which they decided to subjugate the Church and in practice to destroy the structures as well, also instituting the "Imperial Catechism" where the younger generations were to learn the doctrines of the Church.
The monks immediately fell under the government's barbs, considering above all that the Bonapartes had also acquired, so to speak, the faculty of appointing bishops and cardinals obviously compliant to them. Therefore, they began to be accused of little attachment to their homeland and of being adverse to the "New Order" that was being established. All this happened - as well as for the Knights Templar - in order to mask the real and eager need to confiscate goods and money to support their huge needs; the fact is that from 1806 to 1808 the monasteries were also victims of man and not only more than time.
A similar fate, indeed perhaps even more insidious, occurred with the unification of Italy where the tranquillity, albeit brief post "French Decade", disappeared again when, following the laws on the forfeiture of ecclesial goods by the Italian State on 7 July 1866, there was a new suppression for the exact same reasons (the real ones, the unofficial ones, and not the French officers), with the aggravating circumstance, indeed with a final mockery we could easily say, by the Piedmontese to impoverish Southern Italy once the Bourbons had fallen.
A clear example was the emptying of the cash desks of the Banco di Napoli on special trains heading north. What is certain is that the story of the Capuchin convent, as previously mentioned, bodes well for monasteries to once again become "Center of the Village" in the spiritual, structural and social spheres.
The story. The convent of San Martino, built in 1575 by the PP. Cappuccini with the conspicuous help of our ancestors of the time, it was immediately conceived along the road "Ariana" which already from the name indicated an excellent salubrity of the air, an excellent sunshine and the suggestive panorama that still today allows you to sharpen the tip of Agropoli with your view.
An important role was played by the bishopric of Campagna, also contributing in an important way, not only materially but also spiritually, helping to pursue the directives of the counter-reform movement sanctioned in the Council of Trent which took place from 1542 to 1563.
Instances that were real guidelines in restoring the basic rules of monasteries such as the conservation and administration of the building, the enclosure of the prelates, but above all, poverty and prayer as the only and true leitmotif of the life of the monks.
For the economic part, on the other hand, the Lords of the place did it by force, who disbursed generous sums for the construction of the structure.
The story, as mentioned, develops at the beginning of the 16th century, which we defined as the "Golden Century" for Campagna. This can also be deduced from the continuous expansion of the territory and the convents were the protagonists who gave virtuous examples such as the strengthening of the Franciscan "family" with the establishment of three convents: that of the Osservanti della Concezione, this one of San Martino (both outside the then inhabited center) and that of San Filippo and San Giacomo.
These were added to the already present monasteries of Santo Spirito, della Maddalena, dei < a href="https://www.cittadicampagna.it/chiesa-san-bartolomeo/" target="_blank">Dominicans of San Bartolomeo, of the Reformed Franciscans of Santa Maria d'Avigliano, of the Augustinians of the Annunziata, of the Camaldolese in the then maintenance of Puglietta and of the Benedictines of Santa Maria la Nova.
Strongly desired by the citizens, since they noted the good that the Capuchin friars did in nearby Eboli, the events that led to the foundation of the convent formally came to life on March 30, 1573, when the Canon of Campaign Collegiate, don Giovanni Antonio Porcelli, bought all the territory in loc. San Martino with the aim of donating it to the friars and the aforementioned benevolent ones and to build a convent or a hospital there.
The property belonged to the local noblewoman Geronima Verticello, who however necessarily had to sell it in the public square with an auction base of 200 silver ducats. On 30 March precisely, the purchase operations were started and the citizens, who in the meantime had become aware of the good and noble intentions of Canon Porcelli, did not interfere in the operations, leaving the prelate free to carry out on his own project smoothly.
From this moment on the history of the monastery begins: the works began on 20 April 1575, the year of the Extraordinary Jubilee proclaimed in Rome by Pope Gregory XIII, with the blessing of the foundation stone by the bishop of the time, Mons. Girolamo Scarampi.
The construction was rapid, so much so that in 1582 the contract between the friars and the noblewoman Verticello was ratified while the construction of the church and convent had already been completed. The dedication of the church to San Martino was immediately unusual for the Capuchin tradition: it represents a sort of anomaly since it is a saint extraneous to the Seraphic Order. It is possible to find the explanation in a pre-existing chapel placed with this name and, to strengthen the thesis, we can also take up a text by De Nigris of 1691 who asserted that in the building areas of the convent via was a cenoby appealed precisely to San Martino and that in the nearby Carapiglia there was a homonymous parish.
The works, however, were completed in the spring of 1580 and the consecration of the church took place a few years later, precisely in 1594. A lot of history has passed between these walls with events of absolute value such as when - again according to De Nigris - in 1691 there a prodigy occurred: it is said that in a period of severe austerity experienced by the friars due to lack of food supplies, prayers were fervent until a young man with an angelic appearance knocked on the door of the convent laden with supplies of food and drink . Father Mariano, at the time regent of the convent, did not have time to take his eyes off such abundance that there was no trace of that young man, disappearing into thin air immediately afterwards.
Going forward over the years, we document the construction of the main altar (present today, in order to safeguard it, in the church of Monte dei Morti dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmelo in the historic center of Campagna) in 1763, where the statue of the Immaculate Conception was placed, in the meantime become protector of the Capuchins.
The convent was, and still is, on three levels and given the particular orography of the place we can safely say that it represents an interesting architectural work if we take into account the steepness where it was built.
The convent, therefore, consists of a garden, a church, the convent and the burial ground. The second has a plan and single nave with blinds on the left side and consists of six chapels, divided into three on the right side and another three on the left side.
To complete the environment there are some underground rooms once used as a burial ground in which, until the edict of Saint Cloud, the monks, part of the clergy and certainly men and women who belonged to the nobility of the place were buried.
Apparently poor and gaunt, the Sepolcreto can be appreciated from a series of arches placed in sequence that emphasize the perspective with an escape route at the end of the path. The convent, on the other hand, has a beautiful cloister with two wells inside, demonstrating that the monks were very keen on collecting water.
The cells present themselves as a narrow place, with the minimum necessary, such as to punish the physique and devote it entirely to the spirit, as the doctrine brilliantly described by Borromeo required.
Of notable workmanship, also on the floor of the convent, is the fresco dated from the end of the 17th century, of the last supper of Jesus present in the canteen hall, recently restored and still clearly visible today. Today the structure stands out as a center of social aggregation, available to host activities of an associative nature and both institutional and private events.
This text was produced by consulting the writings and works of the late Lucio Ganelli, we dedicate this page to him..
Text edited by Cristian Viglione.
Revisions: Francesco Pezzuti.