You may wish to see an introductory page to this section first.
The Castle of Carsoli seen from the Roma-L'Aquila highway
Tuesday, May 17 1791. Quitting Avezzano, (..) I slowly descended to the small village of Colle, near which I noticed some fine remains of the Via Valeria, composed of massive stones, as well as the marks of tools in the rock, which was cut away to give passage to the road. From hence I continued descending, by the side of the river, to Carsoli, an inconsiderable town, built on the declivity of a hill, overhanging the river, and surmounted by a ruined castle.
Richard Colt Hoare - A Classical Tour Through Italy and Sicily - 1819
(above) Collalto and Poggio Cinolfo seen from Piana del Cavaliere; (below) Collalto with a huge Castle in the former Papal State and Poggio Cinolfo in the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
A short boundary question ensued on reaching the Neapolitan frontier at Piana del Cavaliere, which is so surrounded by towns perched on their hills, that, whichever way you turn, there is an interesting object, Valinfreddo, Poggio Cinolfo, Pereto, Collalto, Camerata, Oricoli, Rocca di Botte, &c. We were scarcely detained by some very civil officials, so on we cantered, fording a stream below Poggio Cinolfo, and soon
arriving at Carsoli, hidden from the plain in a little nook of its own. A
ruined bridge below, and a shattered castle above, give a more picturesque than
comfortable air to the modern town, which is successor to, though not on the same site as, the ancient
Edward Lear - Illustrated Excursions in Italy - 1846
Carsoli (5527 Inhab.; small
Inn), with a ruined castle, which preserves the name of Carseoli, a station on
the Via Valeria, the site of which may
be traced in the vineyards about 2 m.
below, in the
wood or Macchia di Sessara. (..) Great part of its walls,
built of massive blocks, portions of
towers, an aqueduct, &c., are still
visible. Carseoli was for a short
time the prison of Bitis, the son of
a king of Thrace. Ovid, who passed
by it on his way to Sulmona, tells us
that it was a cold place (Fast. IV. 683):
Frigida Carseoli, nec olivis apta ferendis,
Terra, sed ad segetes ingeniosus ager.
Hac ego Pelignos, natalia rura, petebam;
Parva, sed assiduis uvida semper aquis.
The land round Carseoli's cold, not suited for growing Olives, but the soil there's appropriate for corn. I passed it on the way to my native Pelignian country, A small region, yet always supplied by constant streams.
(transl. by A. S. Kline)
Reliefs from Roman Carsulae at the base of the bell tower of S. Maria in Cellis outside Carsoli
By the aid of modern commentators and travellers I shall now endeavour to ascertain the different stations mentioned by Antonine and the Tabulae Peutingerianae the latter of which is the fullest and most specific. (..) We next come to the Carseolos of Antonine, and the Carsulis of the Tabulae. (..) We are not, however, to seek for this station on the point occupied by the modern town of Carsoli, but, according to Holstenins and Chaupy, in the plain, abont a mile beyond the Osteria del Cavaliere. (..) I noticed a part of the walls, built of huge blocks of stone; and a portion of the Roman Way, the pavement of which still retains the traces of carriage wheels. I saw also some fragments of aqueducts, and the relics of a coarse tessellated pavement. I regretted the injury done to a fine pedestal, in one of the vineyards. It was ornamented with a basso relievo, representing a sacrifice, consisting of three figures, and a victim before the altar. On the reverse was an olive branch; and on the two other sides were a patera and a vase, or beaker, with a swine sculptured beneath. It had borne an inscription, the letters of which were finely engraven, but now reduced to SACR; so that no indication remains to what deity this altar was originally dedicated. Colt Hoare
The pavement of the Via Valeria still bears marks of chariot-wheels. Several inscriptions, have been found in the plain and along the line of the Valeria, - one at Avezzano, recording the Collegium Dendrophorum, or corporation of woodcutters, who must have been of importance in a country so wooded as the Abruzzi. Murray
Piazza Corradino (Conradin of Swabia) and S. Vittoria
After Carsoli, commanded by a picturesque ruined castle, the railway now ascends the narrow valley to Colli di Monte Bove, beyond which we reach the tunnel of Monte Bove, the longest on the railway (more than 3 M.). We then descend to Tagliacozzo, a small town at the mouth of a deep ravine.
Karl Baedeker - Italy; handbook for travellers - 1900
In 1888 the railway line Rome - Sulmona via Carsoli, Tagliacozzo and Avezzano was inaugurated.
Si entra nel borgo antico, traversato dalla rettilinea via Valeria, che raggiunge la piazza Corradino, nella quale, a sin., il bel palazzetto Orsini, del '300, con 4 eleganti bifore ogivali e 2 finestre guelfe poster.; di fronte, 2 case del '400 e la parrocch., con portali romanici agli ingressi laterali della facciata. (We enter the old town which is crossed by Via Valeria and we reach Piazza Corradino where on the left stands Palazzetto Orsini (XIVth century) with four Gothic windows and two crossed ones; opposite Palazzetto Orsini 2 XVth century buildings and the parish church with Romanesque side portals (from S. Maria in Cellis).
Guida d'Italia del Touring Club Italiano - 1926.
In 1944 Piazza Corradino was destroyed by Allied bombings aimed at damaging the railway line in order to prevent supplies being shipped to German troops at Monte Cassino.
The old houses were replaced by modern buildings and S. Vittoria, the parish church was entirely rebuilt.
S. Vittoria: (above and below-left) details of the portals from S. Maria in Cellis (another detail of the portal is shown in the image used as background for this page); (below-right) interior
Wednesday, May 18. The first object which attracted my attention, on leaving Carsoli, was an old milliary, near the church of the Carmine. It was copied by Fabretti, when in a more perfect state ; but at present I could only discover a single letter and two ciphers. It commemorated the reparation of the Via Valeria by the Emperor Nerva, and was numbered XXXXI. Colt Hoare
The miliary is now inside S. Vitttoria, but a better column of Emperor Nerva can be seen in the Town Hall of Tagliacozzo. The relief on the lintel from S. Maria in Cellis shows in addition to the Lamb of God and the symbols of the Evangelists, the Archangel Michael (far left) and the Devil (far right).
Small palace at the entrance to the old town
Within the town, dirty narrow streets, only redeemed here and there by a bit of
Gothic door or window, raise no favourable idea of the present condition of this
once respectable abode of the Equi, where they sacrificed foxes to Ceres, and
where the Romans imprisoned Bitis, king of Thrace (learn more about him). Lear
Si prende, a d. del Pal. Orsini, la via che sale al Castello sul poggio; subito prima del portale ogivale di esso, a d., una casa con tre finestrelle polilobate e una bifora architravata: la stessa ha, dal lato int. delle mura del Cast. un'altra finestrella polilobata ed un semplice grazioso portale. (We take the street to the right of Palazzetto Orsini which goes to the castle on the hill; immediately before the gate of the castle, a house has three polyfoil windows and one with a lintel; the same building has inside the castle another polyfoil window and a fine portal). TCI
(left) Renaissance house; (right) street leading to the castle
Nella stessa via, ai NN. 18-20, semplice ed elegante casa del '400, conservata anche dal lato esterno. (On the same street the house at NN. 18-20 retains its XVth century aspect). TCI
After the 1944 bombings almost all the houses surrounding the castle were abandoned, but in recent years the finest of them have been restored.
Towers of the Castle
Si sale agli avanzi del mastio, coperti in parte d'edera e consistenti in 3 torri mutile e 2 resti di cortine. (We reach the remains of the keep which consist of three towers and two curtains of walls) TCI
Bithys the son of Cotys, king of the Thracians was sent, together with the hostages, to Carseoli, to be interned there. The rest of the captives who had been led in the triumphal procession were to be shut up in prison. A few days later a deputation from Cotys arrived with a sum of money for the ransom of his son and the other hostages. They were admitted to an audience of the senate, and they especially urged that it was not of his own will that Cotys had assisted Perseus; he had been compelled to give hostages, and they implored the senate to allow them to be ransomed at such a figure as the senate should fix. The senate instructed the praetor to tell them in reply that the senate bore in mind the friendly relations which had existed between Rome and Cotys and the ancestors of Cotys and the Thracian nation. The giving of hostages was itself the offence, and could not be alleged as an excuse, for the Thracians had nothing to fear from Perseus, even had he kept the peace, much less when he was engaged in a war with Rome. However, though Cotys had preferred the favour of Perseus to the friendship of Rome, they would mete out their treatment of him by what was consistent with their own dignity more than by his deserts; they would send back his son and the hostages. The beneficent acts of the people of Rome were gratuitous; they preferred to leave the value of them in the hearts of those who received them rather than to exact a cash payment for them. Three commissioners were appointed -T. Quinctius Flamininus, C. Licinius Nerva and M. Caninius Rebilus- to conduct the hostages back to Thrace, and each of the Thracian envoys received a present of 2000 ases. Bithys was taken with the rest of the hostages from Carseoli and sent to his father.
Livy Book 45 - Transl. Rev. Canons
Views of towns surrounding Piana del Cavaliere: (above) Oricola in the Kingdom of Naples; (below-left) Pereto in the Kingdom of Naples; (below-right) Vallinfreda in the Papal State
The plain of Carsoli (see a view in the introductory page) is extensive, verdant, and well cultivated, and enlivened by numerous villages, scattered on the eminences with which it is surrounded. I diverged from the main road towards the right, in order to examine the ruins of the ancient Carsoli; the site of which is now overspread with vineyards. (..) Soon afterwards I reached Rio Freddo, a village, situate on an eminence, where the contracted mountains form a narrow pass, and the road winds along the declivity of a deep valley below. At this point, which is the boundary of the Neapolitan and Papal territories, a custom-house is erected; but I neither experienced the trouble nor cupidity which are usual in such establishments. Colt Hoare
1 m. beyond the ruins is Cavaliere the former Neapolitan frontier station. There is a tavern, where some refreshment may be obtained. Beyond this, following the Valeria for 3 m., we reach, in 1 hr Arsoli, the former Papal frontier station. The plain of Cavaliere is encircled by towns perched picturesquely on their hills. Murray
S. Maria in Cellis is the most interesting monument of Carsoli. Today it is the church of the local cemetery along the road leading westwards from the Railway Station. It was initially built in the Xth century and in 1132 it was redesigned and decorated with fine portals. It was the church of a Benedictine monastery and it had three naves; towards the end of the XVIth century it was reduced in size and it retained only one of its three portals, the other ones being relocated to S. Vittoria.
S. Maria in Cellis: (left) niche in the bell tower with an assumed portrait of Charles of Anjou; (right) detail of the portal with the symbols of the Four Evangelists and the Lamb of God
The bell tower was built in the XIIth century with stones taken from Roman funerary monuments along Via Valeria.
Museo di Arte Sacra della Marsica at Castello Piccolomini of Celano: carved door from S. Maria in Cellis
The two leaves have different sizes and they depict eight events of the New Testament inside an elaborate scrollwork. They are dated 1132 based on an inscription (ANO DNI MILESIMO CENESIMO TRICESIMO SCDO) in the larger leaf. You may wish to see the similar door of S. Pietro d'Albe.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale d'Abruzzo - Chieti: votive clay heads (ca IIIrd century BC) which were found near Carsoli in 1906 and 1951
Introductory page to this section
Atri - the Town
Atri - the Cathedral
Borgocollefegato and the Cicolano
Chieti - Roman memories
L'Aquila - the Vale
L'Aquila - Historical outline
L'Aquila - S. Maria di Collemaggio
L'Aquila - S. Bernardino
L'Aquila - Other churches
L'Aquila - Other monuments
Leonessa - The Town
Leonessa - The Churches
Luco and Trasacco
S. Benedetto dei Marsi and Pescina
XVIIIth century Sulmona
Sulmona: Easter Day Ceremony (La Madonna che scappa - The Fleeing Madonna)