The History

The Origins Not far from the Tyrrenian coasts of northern Calabria you encounter San Marco Argentano, ancient town guardian of a large cultural and historical heritage. The present hamlet is of Norman establishment, but San Marco Argentano is regarded as the heir of the ancient Argentanum, the city of the Bruttii (IV century B.C.), mentioned by Titus Livius. Actually, its existence is already documented in the VIII century B.C. with the name Argyros, when it was a famous silver mining centre. Dominated by the Bruttii in the IV century B.C. under the name of Argyrano, the town became proud enemy of the Romans, to whom it had to succumb in the next century. The Lucanians, in fact, joined the campaign of conquering the rich Magno-Greek city of Thurii (282 B.C.), which though asked for the help of Rome, which already had expansionist goals in the south of Italy. At the outbreak of the Punic Wars Argentanum, like other southern towns, did not have any doubts on the side it had to support and, during the Second Punic War, it supported the Carthaginian general Hannibal, sharing his history. The Christian era is marked by the transition of apostle Mark and the martyr of Senatore, Viatore, Cassiodoro and their mother Dominata, according to tradition and to an account of a Byzantine Passio of the X century. The church of the Loco Santo and the relics enshrined in the Cathedral perpetuate their faith.  From Argentanum the escape to San Marco After the Greek-Gothic War (535-553), it became Byzantine and later Lombard (VII century). It underwent a period of decadence aggravated by the continuous Saracens’ incursions (IX century), pushing the inhabitants to take shelter in a higher place so founding San Marco (969), in honour of the apostle. The Guiscard and his buildings When Robert Guiscard conquered it in 1048, he made ​​it into a strategic fortress in the conquest of Calabria. He decided to enlarge the castle which was already built on the ruins of a Roman fortress, erected the defensive walls and the Cathedral (XI cent.). Access to the town was possible until the nineteenth century only by Pie’ la Silica which climbed from the Fullone valley to the area where the Duomo stands. Only after the construction of the so-called military road, which connected Castrovillari with San Fili, the city opened to commercial trading with the neighboring towns, changing its urban structure that evolved along the new roads. The presence of various monuments, churches, palaces and noble coats of arms is at the origin of the names that still characterize this ancient city, still called “Norman” or “of the nobles”. San Marco, Norman town par excellence And San Marco may well claim the title of Norman town, not only because it was repopulated, fortified and practically made ​into a small “capital” in the north of Calabria by Robert Guiscard in 1050, but his later vassals were all Normans, from the eleventh to the seventeenth century, except perhaps for a break in the Swabian period. The Norman dynasty ends, as it is well known, in the late twelfth century, when the Swedes took over. During the reign of the Swabian dynasty we know – from a document preserved in the monastic ordo florensis – that in 1218 the Count of San Marco was a certain Raynaldo de Guasto, accompanied by the Countess Agnese, his wife, and Pietro, his son. Raynaldo was also Captain and Executioner of Calabria and Val di Crati, and he too was probably of Norman origin. We move on to 1298, when Ruggero di Sangineto became Lord of San Marco; the Lordship of San Marco by the Sangineto dynasty ends in 1342, when the last heir of this branch of the family, Bionda Sangineto, married another nobleman of Norman blood, Roberto Sanseverino, Count of Terlizzi. Around 1400 we find that San Marco was elevated to the rank of Duchy and his first duke was Ruggero Sanseverino, from whom then would descend the mighty princes of Bisignano, who though never abandoned the Duchy of San Marco. The Sanseverinos of Bisignano were of Norman descent and held the duchy of San Marco until 1606, the year of death of Nicolò Bernardino. After him, the vast feudal state of the princes of Bisignano was broken up and divided among several heirs. The contemporary age Today the historical town centre shows the original feudal structure, along the ridge path that unites the Duomo and the Norman tower. The western part, older and more populated, is hidden from view, while the other is more exposed and closer to the tower coincided with the old Jewish quarter of Giudeca. After the unification of the Kingdom of Italy (1861) the town acquired its present name of San Marco Argentano (1862).

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